Norris hopes for U-turn on 'free speech' restrictions for F1 drivers

By Sports Desk February 14, 2023

Lando Norris hopes there will be a U-turn on plans for Formula One drivers to be prohibited from making personal, religious and political statements without consent from the FIA.

The FIA has been widely criticised following the governing body's decision to introduce new legislation underpinning the ban, which it says will be clarified through the issuing of new guidelines.

F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali had an adverse reaction to the proposals, saying the sport will not "gag" drivers who wish to speak out on issues they believe in.

McLaren's Norris has become the latest in a string of drivers to hit out at the FIA's ban, saying: "We should be able to say what we want and what we believe in.

"I feel there has been quite a bit of pressure and enough said to make a little bit of a U-turn.

"The penalty [for speaking out] is not clear, but we are not in a school. We should not have to ask about everything and say, 'Can we do this, can we do that?'

"We are grown up enough to try and make smart decisions. Maybe sometimes people make silly decisions, but that happens in life. I hope and believe that enough drivers have said things now to push back a little bit."

Norris said he supports F1's existing approach, adding: "F1 has made things clear, what they think is acceptable and what we should be able to do as drivers, and that is what I stand by. 

"We need it. We are only trying to help people in the world and give advice and there is no reason why we shouldn't be able to do that."

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem recently announced he would take a step back from the day-to-day running of F1 after being involved in several controversies and conflicts.

McLaren Racing chief executive Zak Brown welcomed that decision, saying: "It has been a bit exciting over the winter, but things seem to have course-corrected."

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    Russell is currently seventh in the drivers' championship standings with Hamilton in eighth, with neither driver managing a podium finish so far this year.

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    Having equalled Ayrton Senna's record of eight successive pole positions on Saturday, the three-time world champion initially looked set for a comfortable victory.

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    Charles Leclerc captured third for Ferrari in front of an enthusiastic Italian crowd, with Oscar Piastri finishing fourth after his grid penalty meant he started the race fifth instead of second.

    Carlos Sainz was fifth ahead of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, with Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez only managing eighth, meaning he now trails Leclerc in the standings.

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    On Saturday, Verstappen became the first driver with back-to-back poles at Imola since Michael Schumacher in 2002 and 2003. One day later, he became just the second driver to win on three successive visits to the track, after the German achieved that feat between 2002 and 2004.

    Verstappen is also into the top six in the all-time F1 charts for podium finishes, his 104th here moving him ahead of Kimi Raikkonen outright in the rankings.

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