Lando Norris expects U-turn on FIA free speech ban after driver backlash

Jamie Woodhouse
Lando Norris walks in the pit lane. Monaco May 2022.

McLaren driver Lando Norris walks through the pit lane ahead of qualifying. Monaco May 2022.

McLaren’s Lando Norris says drivers should not have their freedom of speech restricted, and feels enough have spoken out to force a U-turn.

Formula 1 is seemingly waiting on further clarification on the intentions of the FIA after the governing body introduced a new ruling, stating that any personnel at an event sanctioned by them must obtain their approval before making political or religious statements.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel in recent years led the charge in Formula 1 for drivers using their platform to speak out on such matters, while Formula 1 as a whole has promoted its ‘We Race As One’ message in support of inclusivity.

The likes of the now retired Vettel, plus Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez, Valtteri Bottas and Alex Albon had already spoken critically about the clampdown, with Norris now joining the list. F1 president Stefano Domenicali, meanwhile, said that the series would not silence anyone.

And Norris believes the list of objectors is now strong enough to trigger a re-think, urging that drivers should not be denied the chance to speak their mind.

Speaking to media, including PlanetF1.com, at the launch of McLaren’s 2023 challenger, the MCL60, Norris said: “I think there’s been a good amount of drivers who have come forward and already said their thoughts, and all of them are in line and I guess a little bit against what has been said and the fact that it shouldn’t be not allowed.

“But there shouldn’t be a rule on it, I think as drivers we should be able to say what we believe in and say what we think because we’re only ever doing that for what we believe is the right reason.

“And I don’t think any of us are silly enough to just start making up random stuff and taking like a wrong advantage of it. I think we take advantage of it because we have millions of fans who follow us and are influenced by us. We only ever say things or share things, because we believe it’s going to help everyone.

PlanetF1.com recommends

Christian Horner backs FIA ban on political statements: ‘F1 a form of escapism’
Zak Brown backs FIA clampdown against unapproved political statements
Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez latest F1 drivers to disagree with FIA’s political statement clampdown

“And of course, it’s better at times when we do things as unity, so us as a grid, as drivers or as teams or as Formula 1, it’s always best said in those regards.

“But as drivers we shouldn’t be made to say things or not to say things, I think then everyone just turns into robots and you lose personalities, and you lose people being different people in many regards.

“So yeah, I think there’s been enough things said, by all drivers, that it shouldn’t be allowed, and we should be able to be ourselves. And I think Formula 1, or what Formula 1 said and their approach to that and freedom of speech for drivers, is correct.”