F1 teams have ‘issues’ with ‘personal style of leadership of Mohammed Ben Sulayem’

Sam Cooper
FIA President Mohammed ben Sulayem prior to first practice at the Italian Grand Prix, Monza, September 2022.

FIA President Mohammed ben Sulayem prior to first practice at the Italian Grand Prix, Monza, September 2022.

A number of different F1 teams reportedly have “issues” with the leadership style of FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

Ben Sulayem took to Twitter last month to openly question a reported Saudi Arabian backed takeover bid of the sport which was rumoured to be around the $20 billion mark.

The Emirati said “the FIA as custodians of motorsport” had concerns over the bid and also said the figure was “inflated”. It was the latter that drew the ire of Liberty Media, who reportedly sent a letter to the FIA in which they described the comments of Ben Sulayem as a “major overstep”.

There were even rumours that sport’s commercial arm was seeking to have the 61-year-old replaced despite only being a little over a year into his four-year term as president.

Sky Sports are reporting that the strained relationship has been patched up and said that “positive conversations” had taken place between the two parties but that a significant number of “high ranking individuals” at the teams still had issues with the president.

“No reply has come from the FIA to F1[‘s letter],” reporter Craig Slater said. “But I can also say that positive conversations continue between the two institutions. So they’re functioning normally as they need to do to keep the sport operating properly.

“But people [are] still telling me that they have issues with the kind of personal style of leadership that Mohammed Ben Sulayem has at the FIA and these are high ranking individuals from a number of different Formula 1 teams.”

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Had the “inflated” comment been the only offence committed by Ben Sulayem this year, then FOM and the teams may have been more willing to look past it but it came at the end of a growing list of transgressions which have irked the other side of the sport.

To start with, the FIA announced a ban on all political and religious statements from drivers at the end of 2022 with anyone wishing to promote a message such as against climate change, the battle for equal rights and supporting the LGBTQ+ community, now needing the permission of the FIA to do so. A move the usually quiet Valtteri Bottas described as controlling.

Next was their public backing of the Andretti-Cadillac bid with Ben Sulayem taking to Twitter to call out F1 for its supposed “adverse reaction” to the announcement. Then came the “inflated” value comment, very much representing strike three for the FIA president.

Additionally, a sexist comment was found to have been published on an archived version of Ben Sulayem’s personal website in which it was stated “he doesn’t like women who think they’re smarter than men.”

As the calendar ticks into February and the focus switches back to the teams with their car unveilings, it would be in Ben Sulayem’s interest to lay low for a little while.