Lewis Hamilton says the ban on drivers’ free speech will not prevent him from speaking out on key issues.
Hamilton is the latest driver to voice concerns about a new rule prohibiting “personal, religious and political statements” without written consent.
Governing body the FIA says it will clarify the meaning of the new rule it introduced this year.
“Nothing will stop me from speaking on the things I am passionate about,” said Hamilton.
“The sport has a responsibility to speak out and create awareness on important topics, particularly as we are travelling to different places. So nothing changes.”
Team-mate George Russell, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, added: “We are not going to limit our thoughts because of some silly regulation. We are all going to share whatever views we have.
“I am not sure why the FIA has taken a stance like this. It is totally unnecessary in the sport and the world we live in.
“Naturally we are seeking clarification and I trust it will be resolved. I would like to think it has been some sort of misunderstanding.”
The new rule is one a series of controversies under the presidency of Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
The 61-year-old Emirati last week wrote to teams to say he would be stepping back from day-to-day involvement in F1. The move followed senior figures raising concerns about his behaviour.
Hamilton has been at the forefront of attempts by the whole of F1 to raise awareness of issues around diversity and human rights in recent years.
The rule leaves open the possibility that drivers can be penalised for speaking out, perhaps even risk a ban from racing.
The seven-time champion said he appreciated F1 president Stefano Domenicali’s recent comments that he would “never gag” drivers and that he and his colleagues were united on the topic.
Hamilton said: “It would be silly to say I would want to get penalty points for speaking out on things but I am still going to be speaking my mind.
“We still have this platform. The support of Stefano has been amazing and all the drivers have been very much aligned on freedom of speech.”
Hamilton on course to stay in F1
Hamilton said at the launch of Mercedes’ 2023 car on Tuesday that he expected to sign a new contract that would see his time at the team extend beyond the end of his current deal this season.
“I am planning to stay a little bit longer,” the 38-year-old said.
He added that his decision to stay would not depend on whether the new Mercedes car returned the team to title contention after a disappointing 2022 in which he failed to win a race during a season for the first time in his career.
“I don’t feel like I need [the team] to prove [anything] to me,” Hamilton said. “We have proved time and time again over the years that we have strength in depth. You don’t lose that ability.
“We are continuing to try and improve our processes, there is the best harmony in the team I have seen these years.
“We have a real fresh group of engineers in the team. It is an exciting time and I don’t plan on being anywhere else.”
Wolff said talks over a new deal were in their initial phases, adding that the fact Hamilton would likely be 40 years old during the course of any deal he signed was not relevant.
“His age, 38, plays no role for this next contract,” Wolff said. “If you look at how well top athletes have pushed the boundaries – I’m thinking about [NFL star] Tom Brady, still throwing the ball at age 44-45 – the age plays no role.
“In terms of the contractual situation, we have always found good solutions and for the other side Mercedes are the place he wants to be. These things have never been contentious. Nothing is dragging on. The alignment is there. This will be a journey that will continue.”
Prospects for the season
Hamilton was notably confident heading into last season, after the disappointment of losing out on the 2021 drivers’ title in controversial fashion, but is taking a different approach after the difficulties of 2022.
“I wouldn’t say I am bullish like last year,” he said. “I’m more cautious. I know we have the best team to deal with whatever we come across.
“Hopefully we hit the ground running but it is not always the case and I think we showed last year we can deal with whatever faces us.
“Last year, I was bullish because the team were bullish. It was a shock to all of us. This year everyone is a lot more grounded, more of the approach of ‘we perhaps won’t be the fastest out of the gate but we have the potential hopefully to be closer and then close the gap earlier in the season’.”
Russell said: “I’m confident we have done the most we possibly can with the information we learned from last year. I fully trust in my team.
“But as we learnt last year there are sometimes curve balls and in life you sometimes learn with these experiences. Are we going to get one thrown at us? We don’t know. We will only know once we have done the first test and probably not even then.
“The car is going be lighter and we have worked well and hard on reducing the drag and we believe we have achieved that. Those are guaranteed performance.
“But as soon as you brake for a corner, the downforce needs to start working and we don’t know how it will perform and how it will tally up compared to mainly Red Bull and Ferrari.”
Both drivers ran the car for the first time at Silverstone on Tuesday after the launch.
Last year, Mercedes had their first indications that their car would be difficult on shakedown day, although high wind meant conditions were very different from the still conditions this year.
Russell said: “It has been a smooth day but it is so difficult to tell. Last year we came away from the shakedown not with too many thoughts, we were so compromised by weather. We have to take the results of today with pinch of salt but there were no major scares.”
Source – BBC News
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