F1: Lando Norris expects FIA U-turn on F1 drivers speaking out
WOKING, England—McLaren’s Lando Norris expects Formula One’s governing body to perform a U-turn on a rule change that requires drivers to get written permission before speaking out on “political” and personal issues at races.
Speaking to reporters at the launch of the team’s 2023 car at their Woking headquarters on Monday, Norris said drivers should be able to say what they wanted and to speak out on issues they believed in.
“I feel like there has been quite a bit of pressure and enough said to maybe make a little bit of a U-turn,” said the 23-year-old Briton, who has spoken out in the past about mental health issues.
“We are not in a school, we shouldn’t have to ask about everything and say ‘can we do this, can we do that?’. I think we are grown up enough to try and make smart decisions.
“Maybe sometimes people make silly decisions but that happens in life.
“I think enough drivers have said things now to push back a little bit,” he added, saying he would be prepared also to pay a token fine.
Driver free speech has been a big topic of conversation in the pre-season period, with a stream of drivers speaking out against any clampdown as their teams launch new cars and liveries.
Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali assured drivers this month that the commercial rights holder will never seek to gag anyone.
The FIA updated its International Sporting Code last December with a clause requiring prior written permission for drivers to make or display “political, religious and personal statements or comments” at races.
Since then, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has told team bosses he will step back from the day-to-day running of the sport and leave it in the hands of professional managers.
Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s head of single seater racing, has become the main point man with Steve Nielsen, who has decades of experience at various teams, joining from the commercial rights holder as sporting director.
The move comes after rising tensions between the Paris-based governing body and Liberty Media-owned Formula One management but McLaren boss Zak Brown said he expected the situation to calm down.
“Obviously a bit exciting over the winter but things seem to have course corrected,” he said.
“We have our first FIA Commission meeting in a little less than 10 days time. Nikolas is someone we’ve been working with for quite some time, he does a very good job and we’re very comfortable with him.
“So I think the FIA and Formula One relationship seems to be in a good working place.”
The season starts in Bahrain on March 5.