Lando Norris has urged the FIA to do a “U-turn” on political messaging, saying Formula One drivers should not be asked to speak about issues that are important to them because they “aren’t at school”.
Motorsport’s world governing body sparked criticism after it announced last December that it had updated its International Sporting Code to state that drivers would need prior written permission from the FIA to make “political, religious and personal statements”. do from the start of the 2023 season.
Despite backlash, including from human rights organisations, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem refused to back down, saying if drivers took their luck they would be punished. “If there is anything, you take the permission. If they don’t, if they make any other mistake, it’s like speeding in the pit lane. If you do it, it’s very clear what you get,” he said.
Formula One has since distanced itself from FIA rules, saying it would never seek to gag drivers.
Speaking at the launch of McLaren’s 2023 contender on Monday, British driver Norris said he felt there was now enough backlash for the FIA to reconsider.
“I feel that there is a lot of pressure, [enough] maybe do a little bit of a U-turn,” Norris said. But I think it’s clear at F1 what we should be able to do as drivers. And I think that’s what I stand for. “We should be able to say what we want and what we believe in.”
Asked if he would be willing to avoid the ban and risk a penalty, Norris joked: “I mean, I don’t know what the penalty is… if it’s five or something , I might be willing to break it. If it’s a bit more then maybe not. [But] at certain times I feel that there are certain things that I will want to say that they may not allow. But I might think that it would only be a positive thing.
“We’re not in school, you know. We shouldn’t have to question everything and say, ‘Can we do this? Can we do that?’ I think we are grown up enough to try to make smart decisions. Sometimes people make stupid decisions but that happens in life. I think a lot of drivers have said things now to push back a little bit.”
McLaren, who have a new team principal in Andrea Stella and a new driver in Oscar Piastri, say they are “realistic” about their goals this season. They intend to establish themselves as the fourth best team after Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.
Norris, meanwhile, said he welcomed the challenge of 21-year-old Australian Piastri, saying he hoped to push him to new heights after losing his former team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
“As a team, we need a driver who can push me a bit more,” he said, “and hopefully that will enable me to unlock more potential for myself. That’s something we’ve been missing for the last few seasons. “Hopefully Oscar can add to the table this season. To push me, and help me find another limit of myself. There is always something you can improve on.”
Norris added: “It’s nothing to worry about. I know what a good driver he is. So I wouldn’t expect it to take long to get up to date at all. I’m sure there will be times when he’s performing really well and he’s pushing me to the limit. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage as a team. I’m looking forward to those times and hopefully I’ll have some good battles with him.”