Eddie Jordan claims ‘there has always been a rift’ between Formula 1 and FIA

Jamie Woodhouse
Eddie Jordan in the Formula 1 paddock at the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix.

Eddie Jordan in the Formula 1 paddock.

Former team owner Eddie Jordan said that the FIA and F1 clashing is nothing new, so is surprised that FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem took a step back.

The off-season ahead of F1 2023 has been far from a quiet one, and a main reason for that has been apparent squabbles between Formula 1 and its governing body the FIA, with the topic of prospective new teams and the value of Formula 1 serving as main protagonists for these clashes.

And this was followed by confirmation that Sulayem, as foreshadowed in his manifesto for FIA presidency, would relinquish his day-to-day control of Formula 1, with Nikolas Tombazis now the point of contact for teams in his new single seater director role.

Jordan is not sure that Sulayem taking a step back is positive news, arguing that the relationship between F1 and the FIA has always needed a strong character calling the shots on both sides.

“I believe there’s always been a rift. I remember the era when Jean-Marie Balestre was against Bernie Ecclestone,” Jordan told Metro Sport via OLBG.

“I remember distinctly Ayrton Senna calling him unbelievable names in the middle of a meeting because for sure Senna felt that he was ostracised and put aside in favour of Alain Prost. On reflection he was probably right.

“The protagonists involved in the FIA have a history for confrontation with the powers of Formula 1.

“I’ve known Mohammed Ben Sulayem for 30 to 40 years when he was a rally driver and he had an Irish co-driver, Ronan Morgan. I find him an extremely nice person and an extremely nice person to work with.

“However, some of the stories coming out… he wants to be quite strong about them, and him stepping back I’m quite surprised by because I would have thought that the sport needs strength on both sides.

“You need very strong management on Formula 1 and you absolutely need a similar situation with the FIA.

“Mohammed is a very tough guy when he needs to be, and I think that is the way it should be. I don’t really want to get embroiled in that little argument because perhaps I don’t know enough about it and a little learning is a dangerous thing, so I’ll leave it there!”

FIA should not back down on issues like new teams

With Ben Sulayem no longer calling the shots with Formula 1 it seems, the FIA president having been absent from the latest F1 Commission meeting, it remains to be seen how this new structure will play out.

As well as Tombazis stepping up to the plate as FIA single seater director, former F1 sporting director Steve Nielsen recently made the switch to the FIA where he performs a similar role to that, this setup one which has drawn positive feedback from most team bosses so far.

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Of course, the FIA though cannot become a soft touch, especially on one of the main sticking points right now which is the possibility of an expansion to a 12-team grid.

This is something which the existing F1 teams are largely against, only McLaren and Alpine in favour of the prospective Andretti-Cadillac outfit joining the fray, Alpine having agreed to supply them with a Renault power unit.

But for the other eight, the issue boils down to money, the teams wanting F1’s owner Liberty Media to cover the shortfall in prize money should there be an extra slice of the pie to be cut for a new team.

Sulayem was mystified by the opposition to Andretti alongside General Motors-owned Cadillac, especially considering Formula 1’s popularity boom in the United States, and an expanded grid in general does sound like a promising prospect, considering some of the exciting young talent knocking on the door of F1 which cannot get an answer.

So, if this remains the wish of the FIA, then the governing body should not back down and set that precedent for the future.