McLaren, Formula 1 Determine That Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Is Actually Not Political

Photo: Mark Thompson (Getty Images)
Photo: Mark Thompson (Getty Images)

Miami Grand Prix organizers may not have allowed presidential candidate Donald Trump to host a high-dollar fundraiser at its Formula 1 event, but that didn’t stop Trump from making a big appearance on race day. The former president apparently requested to visit McLaren Racing’s garage, The Race reports, and McLaren accepted that request. Big Don posed with CEO Zak Brown, chatted it up with soon-to-be race winner Lando Norris, and toured around with FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei. Apparently this does not count as “political”.

See, F1 is notorious for having banned “political, religious, and personal statements” by its drivers unless those drivers were given prior consent by the sport. This is the result of drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel donning t-shirts with allegedly political expressions, such as “arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” and “save the bees.” Restrictions are in place when drivers are at the track, including during pre- and post-race activities.

“McLaren is a non-political organization however we recognize and respect the office of President of the United States so when the request was made to visit our garage on race day we accepted alongside the president of the FIA and the CEO’s of Liberty Media and Formula 1,” McLaren said of Trump’s visit. “We were honored that McLaren Racing was chosen as the representative of F1 which gave us the opportunity to showcase the world class engineering that we bring to motorsport.”


Trump’s appearance, though, should raise a lot of questions about what Formula 1 deems to be “political.” Of course, a garage tour and a photo op don’t constitute an explicit endorsement of a political candidate — but at the same time, how else are viewers supposed to understand Trump’s presence in his campaign-sloganed “Make America Great Again” hat? How are we supposed to understand the circuit’s dedication to providing a VIP experience and several public relations-esque appearances for a man embarking on another run for office, who is warning of potential violence if he’s not re-elected, who is in the throes of a a hush-money trial, who hoarded boxes of classified documents after leaving office?

Motorsport is inherently political, and Formula 1 is especially so thanks to its broad international appeal and its acceptance of funding from government entities in countries like Saudi Arabia. All racing teams, too, indulge in political maneuverings as a way to further their sporting ambitions. That is an undeniable fact.

What is most concerning about Trump’s appearance at the Miami Grand Prix, though, is the repeated insistence that his presence doesn’t signal any political intent. It does. A politician arriving at an event is political, whether that event is a speech or a sporting event. A sporting entity providing a presidential candidate with a fantastic experience is a political act.

This is not the first instance of Formula 1 taking a deeply hypocritical stance regarding the expression of politics in and around its events, but it does raise deeper questions that F1 needs to address if it intends to restrict “political” speech from drivers. After all, it’s very difficult to understand how a t-shirt can be more political than a literal politician.

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