Tension mounting between F1 and the FIA over ‘unacceptable’ attitude

Michelle Foster
FIA logo lit up at Mexican Grand Prix. Mexico City 2021

FIA logo lit up at Mexican Grand Prix. Mexico City 2021

Formula 1 bosses and the teams are reportedly “angry and frustrated” with the FIA after motorsport’s governing body broke tradition to release the 2023 calendar without the teams’ approval for a late-season triple-header.

The FIA put out a statement on Tuesday to announce the 2023 calendar, a 24-race season that begins in Bahrain in early March and ends in Abu Dhabi in the final week of November.

It includes three triple-headers, the last of which – USA, Mexico, Brazil – the teams had yet to give their approval.

But the FIA jumped the gun, unilaterally releasing the calendar that was scheduled to be revealed three days later on Friday.

Almost immediately there were whispers of grumbles amongst the team bosses and also Liberty Media.

‘Tradition has always seen Liberty Media and FIA send a joint press release, because if it is formally correct to consider the approval of the calendar as an area of FIA competence, it is also true that the drafting of the same is the result of a long work carried out and concluded by Liberty Media, which deals with negotiating and concluding the negotiations with the promoters of each single grand prix,’ reports the Italian edition of Motorsport.com.

‘The FIA on this occasion did not inform Liberty Media of the release of the calendar, and in the London offices the staff under the direction of Stefano Domenicali learned of it without any notice.’

Adding insult to injury, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem claimed credit for Formula 1’s longest-ever calendar.

In his statement he said the “addition of new venues and the retention of traditional events underlines the FIA’s sound stewardship of the sport”.

Although the FIA does have the final word through the World Motor Sport Council, that is more a case of rubber-stamping the calendar that Liberty Media had put together.

It is, the Italian publication claims, ‘a spite that has not gone unnoticed’.

FIA’s attitude branded “unacceptable”

According to The Guardian, one team member has branded the FIA’s attitude towards the teams and F1 as a whole as “unacceptable”.

The FIA have found themselves at loggerheads with the teams several times this season, from the controversial jewellery ban to skipping the F1 Commission as motorsport’s governing body pushed through TD39.

The teams have also blamed them for the confusion over the grid penalty system, F1 left waiting hours for the final grid at Spa and again at Monza, while the Italian Grand Prix’s Safety Car ending – while to the letter of the law – was derided.

Now it’s the calendar.

The inclusion of a triple-header fly-away requires the approval of all the teams and while that was expected, the teams having said yes in the past, they are reportedly frustrated with the FIA that they were not consulted.

Lewis Hamilton throws his support behind Ben Sulayem

But not everyone is frustrated with the FIA and its president, Lewis Hamilton recently giving him the thumbs up.

“It’s not an easy role for anyone,” said the Mercedes driver, “I think it takes time to get into a role and build all the relationships and also to implement change.

“But I think the most important thing for right now is the drivers. We are trying to build that connection with the drivers, all of us, the GPDA (Drivers’ Association), we are all united and we want to help make the racing better.

“We want to help the FIA, and Mohammed has been really open with that. So we are just going to continue to work on that communication. I’m in touch with him quite a lot. We actually speak quite a bit. And he’s very, very driven… he’s competitive.

“He used to race himself, so he has a competitor sort of mindset. And he’s also very keen on diversity and really pushing for future change.

“So he wants to collaborate with us all on that. So I’m quite happy with it.”

Read more: Five key takeaways from the announcement of the F1 2023 calendar