FIA president ‘did not ask for more money, but if I had…’

Michelle Foster
Start of the sprint qualifying race. Imola April 2022

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc at the start of the sprint qualifying race. Imola April 2022

FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem has denied greed was behind the FIA’s decision to say no to doubling the number of sprint races in 2023.

Last season, Formula 1 introduced a new format dubbed sprint qualifying and trialled it at three races.

It was met with mixed reviews but by and large it was declared successful, leading to talks of increasing the number to six for this season.

That plan failed when the teams said no, but it was back on the table at last month’s F1 Commission meeting with the suggestion being to hold six sprint events in 2023.

This time, the FIA said no with Sky Sports’ Craig Slater saying he had been informed “unjustifiable financial requests” are behind the FIA’s opposition.

“The word ‘greed’ was actually used to me,” he added.

“And a couple of teams said in their view, the FIA do not incur significant extra costs by replacing a practice session with a sprint event. They are shocked the FIA have taken this position.”

Ben Sulayem has responded to that, telling the Daily Mail at no point did he “ask for more money”.

“But,” he then added, “if I had, I would have wanted to use it in the right way – to invest in the proper regulation of the sport.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem speaks at the Dakar Rally. Saudi Arabia, January 2022.

“We say Formula 1 is the pinnacle and it is, so we at the FIA need the resources to govern the technical and financial side of a billion-dollar sport in a manner that respects that. We need the capability to observe those standards.

“So, specifically with regard to the sprints, I have to see whether my team on the ground can absorb the extra workload the races would entail.

“After Abu Dhabi (where Lewis Hamilton controversially lost the title to Max Verstappen) people said we should change this or that.

“So I don’t understand why we would suddenly ask the FIA team to do more. An incident happens in the future, such as one involving a Safety Car, and then what?

“We need to look into all this and make a sensible decision. Let us run our operation. We are going to fix it.”


The FIA president, who last year replaced Jean Todt in the role, insisted he had not yet decided whether or not to support additional sprint race weekends.

He added: “I support the races if it is the right thing to do. I’m not saying it is the wrong thing. I am saying there is time to decide. This is for 2023, not this season. Our house isn’t on fire.

“We have what is called a democracy – Formula One (Group) have a vote, the teams have a vote, I have a vote. If you then say I can’t abstain or take time to study the proposals then you are not allowing me the freedom of democracy.”


Would six sprints in a season be too many?

Sprint race weekends still divide opinions and with the notion of more being added next season, would six be too many?