Mohammed Ben Sulayem reveals $20m FIA deficit and court case

Sam Cooper
Christian Horner talking to FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem. Silverstone July 2022.

Christian Horner talking to FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem. Silverstone July 2022.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has revealed F1’s governing body had a $20 million deficit that needed solving when he joined.

Ben Sulayem became president of the FIA in December 2021 and did so at a controversial time with the governing body under fire following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The end of the 2022 season has been a little easier for the 61-year-old and the FIA but he has now revealed that one of his first task’s was to fill a $20m deficit as well as an ongoing court case.

The court case was in regards to the halo which was fitted to all F1 cars from the 2018 season but a suit was filed in the United States over a potential patent infringement by the FIA brought about by its inventor Jens H. S. Nygaard.

With the expenses used to cover that as well as a need to recover from the COVID pandemic, Ben Sulayem said there was a $20 million hole that needed filling and explained that is why the FIA took on its first CEO.

“There was a financial issue that we didn’t know about,” he said, as reported by “We had a deficit, even before the pandemic, but I’m pleased to have cleared that.

“We never had a CEO for 118 years and if we want to deal with the challenges that’s going on, I cannot go and micromanage.

“When you go to the CEO, you’re talking about policies, you’re talking about managing the structure, you’re talking about day-to-day running of the FIA, and you’re talking about the finance.

“We all know and I’ll be very honest with you, we had an issue with the finance. We had a deficit this year, which was over $20 million.

“I’m very happy to know that even with it, we never stopped any of the support of the grants or the efficiency of the FIA towards any ASN (Autorite Sportive Nationale/National Sporting Authority) or any club. And we’re still saving.”

On the court case, the Emirati said it was a bad start to a job he had been pursing for years.

“Imagine yourself being elected in the role after all these years of trying, everybody having a party on the night of the 17th (December),” the 61-year-old said. “Then you go to the office on the 18th and 10 o’clock in the morning, the first thing you meet is your legal people and they say you have a big court case with the halo.

“We cannot talk much about it, but the feeling I had was not good. But you go on, it’s huge but I’m very happy that a month ago that was cleared.

“It was a big burden on my shoulders, because as president, it would have affected us in a very legal, financial way. Now it’s behind us, and the halo is patented to the FIA, so that’s good.”

While the FIA were navigating the deficit, F1 itself was enjoying one its most profitable periods ever. Liberty Media chief executive Greg Maffei said in June that the finance of the sport had “never been healthier.”

Read more: Is Ferrari’s next F1 team boss right under their noses after Mattia Binotto exit?