Christian Horner believes the primary purpose of sport should be to “entertain”, but wants the FIA’s new rules surrounding drivers’ free speech to stop short of those on the grid becoming “robots”.
The new regulations brought in by the FIA halt “the general making and display of political, religious and personal statements or comments notably in violation of the general principle of neutrality promoted by the FIA under its statutes, unless previously approved in writing by the FIA”.
This means the T-shirts worn by the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel on the grid in recent seasons, highlighting racial inequality, LGBTQ+ rights and climate change problems, would not be allowed without the governing body’s say-so.
The FIA have already been criticised by the now-retired Vettel for the move, which he descried as being “a bit of a nonsense”, while Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas has also voiced his disapproval at the governing body for forcing drivers to seek their approval before standing up to causes important to them on the global stage.
Red Bull team principal Horner, meanwhile, said “sport should never be used as a political tool” because “you have that element of escapism within it”, but he has not and will not stop his drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez from speaking out on what is important to them.
He also urged caution surrounding the new rules, urging the FIA to find a “balance” which still allows drivers to show their personalities and speak about causes which garner their attention.
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“We certainly at Red Bull have never constrained our drivers of their freedom of speech, or the ability to speak their minds because they do have a voice,” Horner told reporters at Red Bull’s RB19 launch in New York, per the BBC.
“I think it’s a matter of finding a balance. In the world that we live in today, everybody has a voice and that shouldn’t be suppressed.
“But of course, it does have to be done responsibly. So, we don’t want a load of robots that are without a opinion going racing.
“Like with all things, it just has to be a sensible balance.”