Helmut Marko rejects “clearly wrong” FIA stance on ‘political’ statements

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 26: Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko looks on in the garage during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 26, 2022 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202203260445 // Usage for editorial use only //

Helmut Marko has explained why the FIA’s decision to ban drivers from making political and personal statements during an F1 race weekend is “clearly wrong”.

The FIA ​​faces mounting pressure over recent changes to the sporting code, which outline that drivers will need permission to express “political, religious and personal statements”. 

Making statements of this nature and going against “the general principle of neutrality promoted by the FIA” is now punishable – unless prior approval is received.

Unsurprisingly, this decision was met with backlash and uproar when it was first announced, and it seems inevitable this issue will continue to be discussed.

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA – JULY 12: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP and Pierre Gasly of France and Scuderia AlphaTauri take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Styria at Red Bull Ring on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202007120067 // Usage for editorial use only //

Valtteri Bottas has already spoken out against this change to the sporting code, questioning why the FIA ​​”wants to control” the drivers and how they use their voices.

Ironically, the decisions taken by Formula 1 to race at venues such as Saudi Arabia have encouraged drivers to become more proactive with their platforms in recent years.

It was in 2020 that F1 began its “We Race As One” initiative, which many observers have used to highlight the hypocrisy and insincerity shown by the FIA’s most recent changes.

After it was announced in early 2022 that F1 would no longer set aside time for drivers to take a knee pre-race, Stefano Domenicali insisted that the focus should be on taking action:

“I think the gesture has been an important gesture – because we need to respect everyone as always. But now is the time to move on and take some other action”, explained Domenicali.

All these factors and inconsistencies have contributed to the generally hostile and adverse reaction to the FIA’s stance.

Helmut Marko – unfiltered as ever – explained his opinion on this issue in an interview with RTL:

“That is clearly wrong. They [the drivers] are responsible citizens who are in the public eye, and who know how and what they have to say. 

“In general, we are in a democratic society, and everyone can express their opinion.”

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – OCTOBER 28: Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko walks in the Paddock prior to practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 28, 2022 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images ) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202210280981 // Usage for editorial use only //

The FIA ​​has already faced several controversies this year, with President Ben Sulayem publicly opposing Liberty Media’s resistance to Andretti and their bid to enter F1.

Needless to say, the relationship between the Governing body and F1 is under strain.

With the beginning of the 2023 season fast approaching, it remains to be seen how the FIA ​​will handle the inevitable scrutiny and debate on this issue.