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Interview: FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem

6 months ago

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Writer:

Edd Straw | Journalist

Date:

30 August 2023

Mohammed Ben Sulayem is a very different FIA president to his predecessors. That matters because it has a significant impact on his dealings with Formula 1. For three decades before him, the position was filled first by Max Mosley then Jean Todt, both steeped in F1 and with long histories in the paddock. Unlike Ben Sulayem they were outsiders in FIA terms when they became president, but had well-established relationships, and agendas in F1 that shaped the political landscape.

Ben Sulayem has a long motorsport history, as proven by his 14 Middle East Rally Championship titles, but he is also an FIA man through and through, albeit one who had few dealings with F1 prior to being elected FIA president in December 2021. So it’s no surprise his dealings with Formula 1 so far have been turbulent.

There have been mis-steps too, notably incurring the ire of F1 commercial rights holder Liberty Media for publicly questioning the notional value of the sport at $20 billion. The response was tantamount to being told to stay out of commercial matters and contributed to Ben Sulayem indicating he was stepping back from direct F1 involvement. However, it also gave him a cause, for if the FIA can be called out for wading into commercial matters, then why should Liberty Media do the equivalent when it comes to sporting and regulatory matters?

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