Former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard believes that the sporting arena is not the appropriate place to raise political issues or make a stand.
While he clarified that he was a firm believer in everyone’s right to their freedom of speech, the 13-time Grand Prix winner advocated for athletes to not “hijack” sporting events to force their political views on others.
On being asked about F1 drivers and athletes from other sports having political opinions, Couthard said: “I go to watch a football match or a Grand Prix or Wimbledon to see the sport. I don’t want to go there to be hijacked into having to listen to one individual’s position on any subject. Everyone of us has something that is important to us. Everyone has different backgrounds, religions, beliefs! We’re all entitled to that. But for me, the sporting arena is not the place that we should be (raising political issues).
“Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen or Charles Leclerc have the power to call a press conference on a Monday – away from the sport – and talk about things that are important to them. Why not do it on a Monday? Let’s keep racing for the race days,” added Coulthard, who is in Mumbai for the Red Bull Showrun on Sunday where he will drive the RB7 car, which Sebastian Vettel drove to the F1 title, on Bandra’s Bandstand.
In December last year, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), which is the governing body of Formula 1, introduced new regulations which prohibited drivers and teams from making or displaying “political, religious and personal statements or comments that violate the general principle of neutrality” unless previously approved in writing by the FIA.
After criticism from drivers, the FIA then clarified that it would allow drivers to “express their views on any political, religious or personal matter before, during and after” the race “in their own space, and outside the scope of the international competition.”
Besides copping flak from human rights groups, those regulations had also evoked a strong response from former world champion Lewis Hamilton.
“Nothing will stop me from speaking on the things I am passionate about. The sport has a responsibility to speak out,” Hamilton had told journalists at the launch of Mercedes car before the ongoing season started.
As F1’s only black driver, Hamilton has been outspoken about social causes. He wore a T-shirt demanding justice for Breonna Taylor at the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix and has raced in the Middle East wearing a helmet that had a rainbow to show solidarity with LGBTQIA people in Qatar, where homosexuality is a crime.