FIA president Ben Sulayem steps back from F1 operations
FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, head of motorsport’s governing body, has stepped down from day-to-day leadership of Formula 1.
Ben Sulayem was elected under a manifesto that included a restructuring of race control and FIA F1 operations in general.
FIA single-seater boss Nicolas Tombasis will take on that part of Ben Sulayem’s role, a decision communicated to the teams on Monday means the former Ferrari employee will be their main point of contact going forward.
The timing of the decision is curious, with Ben Sulayem increasingly at odds with F1 and its 10 teams since he took over 12 months ago.
The FIA insists the President’s decision has been in the works for some time, pointing to the appointment of Natalie Robin as her first CEO last year.
Ben Sulayem will continue to deal with the strategic issues of F1 and make decisions at the highest level.
There have been many conflicts between F1 and Ben Sulayem in the past year, including the FIA’s move to ban drivers from wearing jewelry while racing and their delay in confirming an expansion from three to six sprint races per season.
Tensions continued to escalate during the F1 off-season in December and January. F1 boss Stefano Domenicali this week tried to clarify the FIA’s recent crackdown on political protests announced by the governing body at the end of 2022, saying “F1 will never shut anyone up.” Drivers also expressed concern about the FIA’s decision.
Last month, F1 wrote a scathing letter to the president after he commented on the cost of F1 following a Bloomberg report on a $20 billion bid from the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF), which Ben Sulayem called “overpriced.”
Ben Sulayem and F1 also appeared to take issue with Andretti’s proposed entry into Cadillac, which was reported again in early January. Ben Sulayem tweeted that he was surprised by the “backlash” to the bid, as the vast majority of the 10 F1 teams were opposed to another stakeholder diluting F1’s current earnings.
Last week, the FIA was also forced to issue a statement in Ben Sulayem’s defense after sexist comments appeared on his old website two decades ago.
The Times report quoted him as saying that he dislikes “women who think they are smarter than men because they really aren’t”, which appeared on a website that can no longer be read online.
The FIA said in a statement: “Remarks on this archived website from 2001 do not reflect the President’s beliefs. He has a lot of experience in promoting women and equality in sports and is happy to be appreciated.”
“That was the centerpiece of his manifesto and the actions taken this year and the many years he has served as VP of Sports prove it.”