Mohammed Ben Sulayem: FIA president’s controversial reign — so far

“Niki Lauda and Alain Prost were all about driving,” said Ben Sulayem. “Now, [Sebastian] Vettel rides a rainbow bike, Lewis is passionate about human rights and [Lando] Norris deals with mental health.

“Everyone has the right to think. For me, it’s about deciding whether we should constantly impose our beliefs on the sport. I come from an Arabic culture. I am international and muslim. I do not force my beliefs on others. No way! Never.”

The drivers were unimpressed, and concern grew within Formula 1. Ben Sulayem later posted a clarifying tweet.

“As a driver, I have always believed in sport as a catalyst for societal progress,” he wrote. “That is why promoting sustainability, diversity and inclusion is one of the top priorities of my mandate. I also appreciate the commitment of all drivers and champions to a better future.”

FIA and F1 continue to clash

Aug 2022

The controversies kept coming. Ben Sulayem intervened on the porpoise issue on new cars, much to the dismay of Red Bull who felt they were doing so at the behest of Mercedes.

Ben Sulayem then released the 2023 calendar ahead of schedule without informing F1 President Stefano Domenicali or the teams – although it is F1 that is creating the calendar.

Haggling about the upper cost limit

October 2022

Mohammed Ben Sulayem laughs with Christian Horner

The negotiations about Red Bull’s penalty for the cost cap caused raised eyebrows in the paddock

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

As the 2022 F1 season drew to a close, the controversy only increased.

Ben Sulayem first haggled with Red Bull team boss Christian Horner over punishment for violating the cost cap in 2021 – not a good sight, some said, for an organization that claims to champion transparency and good governance.

Drivers are not allowed to comment

December 2022

A clause was added to the Sporting Code this winter, banning drivers from making “political, religious and personal statements or comments” without the written authorization of the FIA, on the grounds that it appears he is trying to muzzle them.

There has been no public explanation as to what exactly that means or why it was done, and several drivers have spoken out against the move.

The day before Ben Sulayem resigned from his direct involvement in Formula One, Domenicali questioned the clause and said he expected clarification from the FIA. “F1 will not put a gag on anyone,” he said The guard. “We’re talking about 20 drivers, 10 teams and a lot of sponsors, they have different ideas, different views. I can’t say anyone is right or wrong, but it is right to give them a platform to openly discuss their opinions when needed.”

race control

All year 2022

Rain falls on F1 cars in the pit lane at the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix

Monaco’s delay in starting was publicly embarrassing

Pascal Le Segretain/WireImage

Throughout the year there was also resentment at the operations of race officials: from the refusal to erect a barrier at a corner where two drivers collided in Miami, to the botched start procedure in Monaco, to the subsequent failure of the restart of the race A safety car at the Italian Grand Prix and, worst of all, having a recovery vehicle deployed at Suzuka with almost zero visibility – this brings back memories of Jules Bianchi’s fatal accident there eight years ago.

Ben Sulayem supports Andretti’s offer

January 2023

Disagreement between Ben Sulayem and F1 was evident over Andretti’s offer to be included on the Formula 1 grid. Ben Sulayem has offered public support for the Michael Andretti-led team to become an 11th constructor, while F1 has been noticeably lukewarm, reflecting almost unanimous objections from teams.

Ben Sulayem questions the F1 value

January 2023

The new year brought up an issue that enraged F1 more than anyone else when Ben Sulayem released a series of tweets in response to a news report claiming that the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund had tried and failed to to buy F1 for $20 billion.

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