Sebastian Vettel has branded new FIA regulations limiting drivers’ right to freedom of speech on the grid as “nonsense”, and he hopes to see his former colleagues show “courage” against the governing body.
Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in particular have been two of the key voices in speaking out for causes important to them in a public forum, with both calling for equality for the LGBTQ+ community when Formula 1 has visited countries where their rights are limited, sporting rainbow-coloured helmets in solidarity.
Vettel was also among the first to join Hamilton in ‘taking the knee’ before races in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, with the former Ferrari and Red Bull driver also wearing different shirts to point to climate change issues around the world.
But with the four-time World Champion having retired, he will not have the opportunity to rail against the new rule brought in by the governing body which prohibits drivers making statements of a political or religious nature on the grid, without prior approval from the FIA.
This has been met with criticism from some, claiming this is a curb on drivers’ freedom of speech, while the FIA and others like McLaren and Red Bull team bosses Zak Brown and Christian Horner believe it is part of the FIA’s role to ensure the sport remains politically neutral.
But as for the newly-retired German, he is taking a dimmer view.
“Yes, that’s a bit of a nonsense,” Vettel said of the new FIA clampdown to Auto Bild.
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“There might have been a bit of trouble then,” he added when asked if this move makes him happy to be away from Formula 1.
“Of course, it always depends on what question you’re asked and what the topic is. But I think it’s absolutely important to take a stand on some issues, and we’ve seen in recent years that more and more people are taking a stand. It doesn’t make much sense to go against that now.
The potential for hiccups in the new system from the FIA could well show when a driver asks to speak out on a subject per the new process, but the governing body refuses to allow them to do so.
This could lead to a difficult situation between the drivers and FIA itself, but Vettel wants to see those continuing on the grid to follow their beliefs and do what they feel is correct.
“I’m no longer involved, so of course I can say a lot now,” he said, “but of course, I hope that the guys in Formula 1 will continue to have the courage to stand up for their opinions and express them.”