Motor racing-F1 drivers must be allowed to speak out freely, says Perez

Drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner of Red Bull F-1 Racing Team attend the unveil of the RB19 car in a partnership with Ford during a launch event in New York City, U.S., February 3, 2023. REUTERS/Christine Kiernan

(Reuters) - Formula One drivers are unhappy with a rule change barring them from making unauthorised 'political statements' at races and will discuss it as a group, Red Bull's Sergio Perez said on Friday.

The governing FIA updated the International Sporting Code last December with a clause requiring prior written permission for drivers to make or display "political, religious and personal statements or comments".

Mexican Perez told reporters at his world champion team's livery launch in New York that drivers needed to be able to speak freely.

"We haven't discussed (it) with the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers' Association) but it's something that we don't feel comfortable with because we want to be ourselves and we want to be able to express ourselves in any way that we want," he said.

"We all have different views, different beliefs in religion ... I get the political side but we all should be free to express ourselves the way we want.

"I just struggle to think that they will be able to control what you are able to say or not to say. That to me is not correct. But we will discuss that."

Several drivers, notably Mercedes' seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton, have used their profile and platform to address issues.

In Hamilton's case, the Briton has spoken out about racial injustice and reported human rights abuses in some of the countries Formula One visits.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told reporters separately that he felt "sport should never be used as a political tool.

"Sport in many ways is there to entertain but also to have an element of escapism within it," he added.

Horner said Red Bull had always allowed their drivers freedom to speak out but it was a question of finding a balance.

"In the world that we live in today, everybody has a voice and that shouldn't be suppressed, but of course it does have to be done responsibly," he said.

"We don't want a load of robots without opinions going racing."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris)

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