Formula 1 chairman Stefano Domenicali has said the sport will “never gag anyone” amid the ongoing free speech controversy.
The FIA’s governing body is facing a backlash over a new rule that prohibits “personal, religious and political statements” without written consent.
“Everyone wants to talk,” said former Ferrari team boss Domenicali.
“So having the platform to say what they want in the right way, the better.”
His comments contrast with the position of FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
The two authorities share the management of the sport. F1, part of US-based Liberty Media, owns the commercial rights, handling all financial matters, including negotiating television and racing contracts. The FIA manages the legislative side and is bound by a legal agreement with the European Commission to stay out of commercial matters.
Williams’ Alex Albon revealed this week that F1 drivers are “all concerned” about the FIA’s apparent desire to restrict their freedom to speak out on social and political issues.
He said the new rule was “confusing” and called on the FIA to clarify “what it is trying to tell us”.
Albon believes it is the drivers’ “responsibility” to “raise awareness” of the issues, and said the impression was that the FIA was moving away from the We Race As One pro-diversity campaign that F1 in as sport promotes since 2020.
Domenicali, speaking to the Guardian, added: “We have a huge opportunity because of the position of our sport, which is increasingly global, multicultural and multi-value.
“We are talking about 20 drivers, 10 teams and many sponsors, they have different ideas, different points of view.
“I can’t say we’re right, we’re wrong, but it’s fair, if necessary, to give them a platform to discuss their opinions openly.
“We will not change this approach as a sport.
“Athletes can be very emotional and passionate about certain things and they need to discuss them constructively with people they trust.”
Domenicali said he expected the FIA to clarify its position in the near future, “in terms of respecting certain places where you can’t do it.”
“I’m sure the FIA will share the same view as F1, but they are part of an Olympic federation so there are protocols they have to adhere to.
However, a number of high profile sources have said they believe F1 and Ben Sulayem have different positions on allowing drivers to speak.
The past three years in F1 have been marked by increasingly vocal drivers on diversity, racial and environmental issues, led by seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and now-retired four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
All have taken part in F1’s We Race As One initiative, and many have already condemned the FIA’s new decision.
Last week world champion Max Verstappen said it was unnecessary, and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas said he “didn’t understand why they wanted to control us”.
And at the Alfa Romeo team launch on Tuesday, Bottas’ team-mate Zhou Guanyu of China said of the FIA’s approach: “I don’t think it’s the right way to go.
“We’re human so we can say whatever we want but we’re not against anyone. We’re just telling the truth or trying to be the real person inside and out so I think we should have the right to say what we want.”
Many drivers have yet to be asked about the issue as F1 is on winter break.
But with a series of launches over the next 10 days – including that of Hamilton’s Mercedes team next Wednesday – the chorus of condemnation is expected to grow louder.