Formula 1 drivers will need prior written permission from the sport’s governing body to make “political statements” from next season following an update of the International Sporting Code.

The 2023 version of the code, which applies to all series sanctioned by the International Automobile Federation (FIA), was published on the governing body’s website with changes highlighted.

The FIA added a new clause regarding “the general making and display of political, religious and personal statements or comments notably in violation of the general principle of neutrality promoted by the FIA under its statutes”.

Drivers who make such statements will now be in breach of the rules unless the FIA, whose president is Mohammed Ben Sulayem of the United Arab Emirates, has granted previous approval in writing.

Sebastian Vettel wears a rainbow outfit and mask
Sebastian Vettel wore a rainbow coloured t-shirt and face mask before the Hungarian Grand Prix.(Getty Images:  Dan Istitene/Formula 1)

The sport did not previously have such specific restrictions.

Article 1.2 of the FIA statutes vows to promote the protection of human rights and to “refrain from manifesting discrimination” on a range of issues including ‘political opinion’.

The F1 2023 season starts in Bahrain on March 5.

Hamilton, Vettel regular campaigners

Mercedes’ seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, and now-retired four-times champion Sebastian Vettel, have been among those making political statements at races in recent seasons.

Hamilton, who has been an outspoken campaigner for human rights and diversity, wore a black T-shirt at the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix with the words “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” on the front.

Lewis Hamilton wears a t-shirt saying Arrest the cops who killed breonna taylor
Lewis Hamilton has frequently protested on social rights issues over the course of his career.(Getty Images: Bryn Lennon)

The shirt also had a photograph of the Black medical worker, who was shot dead in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment by police officers, with “Say her name”.

The FIA set out new pre- and post-race rules for driver attire after that incident.

Hamilton has also called for more change in Saudi Arabia, saying this year that he was shocked to hear of mass executions, and has raced in the Middle East with a rainbow helmet supporting the rights of those with diverse sexualities and gender identities.

Vettel used his platform to highlight issues from sexuality and gender diverse peoples’ rights to climate change. This year he wore a shirt proclaiming ‘Stop Mining Tar Sands’ and ‘Canada’s Climate Crime’ at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel's helmet has canadas climate crime written on it
Sebastian Vettel has also campaigned on climate issues.(Getty Images: Mario Renzi/Formula 1)

In 2021 he wore a rainbow-coloured T-shirt in Hungary with the message “same love” to protest anti-LGBT legislation.

An FIA spokesman said the update was “in alignment with the political neutrality of sport” as enshrined in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) code of ethics.

The FIA was awarded full recognition status by the IOC in 2013.

Global Athlete director-general Rob Koehler said on Twitter it was “blatantly hypocritical” of the FIA to tell athletes to stick to sport and stay out of politics.

He referred to article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholding the right to freedom of opinion and expression and to hold opinions without interference.

“Sport rules should not have the ability to limit that right,” he said.

Global Athlete describes itself as an international athlete-led movement that is leading positive change in world sport.