Drama continues to build in Formula 1 ahead of the 2023 season, and Toto Wolff is taking pre-emptive action in a bid to ensure Lewis Hamilton sees as much time on track as possible. Mercedes’ team principal has said he’d like to arrange a sit-down between Lewis Hamilton and the FIA out of concern that new laws on ‘political statements’ could see the seven-time world champion suspended.
The FIA attracted plenty of criticism in December when it was announced drivers would face penalties and suspensions if they made any ‘political, religious or personal statements’ without its approval. Drivers like Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have in the past used their appearances on the grid to raise awareness around LGBTQ+ rights, climate change and the Black Lives Matter movement, to name a few subjects.
Hamilton, 38, is coming off the back of his worst F1 season to date having finished sixth in 2022, but there’s hope an improved Mercedes design could land him an elusive, record-breaking eighth F1 title this term. That crusade would be stunted were he to miss race time due to protesting, however, an outcome the Silver Arrows’ chief is hoping to avoid.
“We need to see how this really pans out. We understand that sport is not here to mix with politics but on the contrary and to unite,” said Wolff, per The Sun. “I have no doubt [FIA president] Mohammed [Ben Sulayem] and the FIA mean well and want to achieve the right things.
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“Regardless of what the outcome would be in terms of if you have people unhappy, just knowing that things needed to be said, needed to be done because there are so many people struggling,” he told the New York Times (via Formula1News) in January. “I would rather not race again and have done that and spoken out for people than continue to do what I was doing.”
The 2023 F1 campaign is set to get underway in Bahrain on March 5, by which time Wolff will hope to have greater clarity on what Hamilton can and cannot do or say on the grid. Critics have scrutinised the law change as an attempt to ‘cleanse’ F1 and rob drivers of their voices, with any punishments for self-expression likely to have a big impact on the final standings.