Steve Nielsen hailed for ‘ticking all the boxes’ as he swaps F1 for the FIA

Sam Cooper
Steve Nielsen (left) with Nikolas Tombazis. Budapest, July 2022.

McLaren’s Zak Brown said Steve Nielsen “ticks all the boxes” after the F1 veteran moved to a senior role within the FIA.

The sport’s governing body announced a shake-up to their management structure on Wednesday with the aim of fixing the sport’s race-management problems seen over the past few seasons.

Previous head of single-seater matters Nikolas Tombazis was appointed as the FIA’s single-seater director while Nielsen left his role at F1 to become the FIA sporting director.

Both figures are well known to those within the paddock and as such, team principals and CEOs have been providing their opinion on the latest FIA shake-up.

Brown, who has been with McLaren since 2016 and became chief executive officer in 2018, said that Nielsen “ticks all the boxes” someone in that role should.

“Steve is immensely respected, very well known and has a relationship with everyone in the pit lane,” Brown said, as per the BBC.

“In roles like that, do they have the technical skillset? Yes. Do they have the credibility and relationships? Yes. So he ticks the boxes where I don’t think a single team will be questioning the decision and the rationale.”

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Brown was not the only one to support the move with Haas’ Guenther Steiner saying that the sport needs someone who has been around a long time as it is “very difficult to teach” the history of F1.

“It’s fantastic that F1 made him available because he has been in F1 so long, so he knows a lot of history of what happened in different situations,” the Haas team principal said.

“That is the biggest thing that some of the people who came in missed – the history of the last 20 years. It is very difficult to teach.

“The guys who are doing it are not bad people, but they just don’t have the experience. If you try to learn 30 years of history of rule-making, that takes a few years and we expect these guys to go in the seat and make the right decisions.

“They don’t know what they don’t know, while Steve knows a lot of stuff, what happened when. It’s better to have this not to create controversies.”

The FIA has been under increased scrutiny following the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in which then-race director Michael Masi came under fire for his handling of the conclusion of the World Championship, which subsequently saw him depart the governing body.

Indeed the sport’s governing body has never truly replaced the late Charlie Whiting who died suddenly in 2019. Tombazis’ new rule is similar to the one occupied by Whiting but with, in theory, more support for the 30-year F1 veteran to draw upon.