David Coulthard speaks out in support of FIA ban on drivers’ political statements

Toby Miles
David Coulthard on the grid during the Mexican Grand Prix. Mexico, November 2021.

David Coulthard holds his phone as he walks the grid during the Mexican Grand Prix. Mexico, November 2021.

The FIA have angered several paddock personalities with a ban on F1 driver political statements, but David Coulthard has offered a different view.

A season-on-season rise of Formula 1 drivers utilising their platform to broadcast personal views on social and political issues has been stopped dead by an FIA ruling announced in December.

Motorsport’s governing body has blocked “the making and display of political, religious and personal statements” that violate their “general principle of neutrality” from 2023.

Having become an outspoken advocate for Black Lives Matter and climate activism, Lewis Hamilton will be the driver most affected by the move. After winning the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix, the seven-time champion appeared on the podium wearing a T-shirt that referenced a fatal police shooting in the United States.

Sebastian Vettel also freely used his status as four-time F1 Champion to support causes close to his heart before retiring last year. Meanwhile, questions remain over how the FIA will restrict the likes of Pierre Gasly and Sergio Perez from expressing their religious faith.

While Mercedes principal Toto Wolff expects the FIA to take a relaxed approach to the restrictions, Valtteri Bottas blasted them for trying to “control us.”

Coulthard, a 13-time Grand Prix winner and former Red Bull driver, compared the issue to Hollywood celebrities grandstanding at award shows like the Oscars.

“Sport is watched by millions of people all over the world and therefore it can be used as a platform to do something good,” Couthlard told Expressen.

“But as an athlete, you are also very lucky to get paid to do things that others would do for nothing at all.

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“And it’s a bit like an acceptance speech at the Oscars. If everyone uses the opportunity to make a political statement, there is no issue that is not important to someone.

“So we either have to mention everything, or maybe it’s better not to say anything at all and concentrate on the sport.

“I understand that there are people who promote freedom of speech and all that, and that is absolutely an important thing to keep in mind, but I also think that we have to remember that it is the sporting rules that we are talking about, not some political regulation.”

Hamilton regularly challenges Formula 1 rule-makers over his right to express himself. The British driver battled with the governing body over jewellery last season, rocking up to the Miami Grand Prix wearing three flashy watches and a mass of necklaces just as the FIA attempted a crackdown.

The Mercedes driver’s response to the FIA’s latest restriction on expression with disappointment, telling the New York Times: “There are so many barriers still in place. Hopefully, it’s not going to be like this for much longer but it’s just sad to see we are still finding those things today.

“If I don’t have these conversations with people, if I don’t bring up these difficult conversations, they won’t necessarily get discussed or tackled, or energy from organisations won’t necessarily be put into creating more inclusivity.”

On his support for Black Lives Matter, Hamilton added: “I would rather not race again and have done that and spoken out for people than continue to do what I was doing.”