FIA keen to avoid ‘WWE’ style scenario with Formula 1 governance

Henry Valantine
President of the FIA Mohammed ben Sulayem.

President of the FIA Mohammed ben Sulayem.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has urged the governing body to ensure it stays on top of updating its rules, so it does not end up like professional wrestling.

Reflecting on his first year in office as president, Ben Sulayem has overseen motorsport’s governing body through a turbulent time – taking the job in the aftermath of the controversy surrounding the 2021 Formula 1 finale in Abu Dhabi.

He later revealed there was a $20million deficit the FIA had to deal with when he arrived, as well as legal proceedings surrounding a patent claim over the Halo design in Formula 1, a matter which has since been resolved.

The FIA has been criticised for its handling of its rules at times, most clearly in the drama of Abu Dhabi and more recently surrounding the confusion of Max Verstappen being awarded the 2022 title in Japan, with full points being issued after the race was restarted in wet conditions, despite completing less than half race distance – though Ben Sulayem defended the governing body’s handling of that particular moment.

The FIA’s president highlighted how well Formula 1 is performing globally at the moment, but warned against complacency as it moves into the future.

Speaking at the FIA’s Prize Giving Gala in Bologna, Ben Sulayem said: “Formula 1, it is the pinnacle. You say it, you repeat it, always you will find controversy in it. You will find the challenge, the teams are up to the limit there, they always want to find the way to go.

“So it is challenging; every hour is challenging them, and it’s healthy. It’s going so good.

“But you see us as the FIA, we should also be careful. There is the side of the money, but the governance has to be right also.

“You cannot just have it without the rules. You cannot have it without amending it, updating it. What would you end up by like the wrestling, you know, like WWF (sic), which has no governance – no, the governance has to be there.”

Now he has had a year in office after taking over the presidency from Jean Todt, Ben Sulayem has taken on the challenge of bringing the FIA up to date in the modern world of motorsport.

“I knew there must be a big challenge in the FIA, improving it, updating it to the new era now,” he said of his time in charge so far.

“It’s like a telephone, you know, if you don’t update your telephone, you will be behind, and definitely the teams, the technology is going ahead and ahead and we will have to be not just up to that, but ahead of them.

“And the regulations, the finance, and the FIA inherited some of the issues from before and you cannot take decisions without going, digging in, and getting all the facts and then going further. One year has been changed. I’m not talking about Formula 1, I’m talking as the FIA as a whole.”

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