FIA president being investigated for allegedly interfering with race result

Sam Cooper
Mohammed Ben Sulayem at the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix.

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem is reportedly under investigation.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is reportedly under investigation for allegedly interfering over a Formula 1 race result.

The BBC reports that a whistleblower has told the FIA that Ben Sulayem allegedly intervened to overturn a penalty given to Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem in hot water with race interference claim

The penalty in question was 10 seconds given to the Spaniard for his mechanics touching his car before a previous five second penalty had been served.

As Alonso came into the pits to serve his penalty for failing to line up in the box at the start line, the rear jack was put onto the car too early and Alonso therefore did not correctly serve the initial penalty, handing him a further 10 seconds.

The penalty initially pushed Alonso back to P4 behind George Russell but was later overturned and the Aston Martin driver returned to the podium.

At the time, the FIA explained that the decision was overturned due to a discussion between the F1 teams and the FIA on the subject of working on cars while serving a penalty in the pits. Aston Martin submitted a right to review after the race and were successful.

But now, it is claimed by the BBC that Ben Sulayem called the FIA’s vice-president for sport for the Middle East and North Africa region Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa who was in Saudi Arabia for the race in an official capacity and told him he thought Alonso’s penalty should be revoked.

A whistleblower has now alerted the FIA ethics committee and the BBC claims to have seen the report submitted by compliance officer Paolo Basarri.

Basarri said Ben Sulayem “pretended the stewards to overturn their decision to issue” the penalty to Alonso. In Italian, the word “pretendere” means to require or expect.

Neither Ben Sulayem or the FIA were willing to comment but the BBC claims several sources have confirmed the validity of the complaint and that the governing body is expected to take four to six weeks to issue its report.

If true, it is the latest in a long line of incidents for Ben Sulayem who has already faced calls to stand down from his presidency role.

This time last year he was forced to take a step away from F1 after suggesting a Saudi-backed bid for the commercial rights was “inflated.”

At a similar time, sexist quotes attributed to him on an archived version of his personal website resurfaced.