Who is Mohammed Ben Sulayem? Everything you need to know about the FIA president

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.

The FIA president is becoming increasingly visible in the sport but who is Mohammed Ben Sulayem and how did he get the presidency?

Despite only being in the post for a little over a year, it is clear Mohammed Ben Sulayem does not intend to follow the blueprint left by his FIA president predecessor Jean Todt.

The Emirati has proved himself willing to use social media to his advantage and is not afraid to say how he feels, even if it may rub some of his colleagues up the wrong way.

But who is the man in charge of Formula 1’s governing body? Here’s everything you need to know about Ben Sulayem.

Who is Mohammed Ben Sulayem?

Mohamed Ben Sulayem is the president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile or FIA and is in charge of overseeing the governance of not just F1 but a wide range of motorsport activity.

He took over from long-time president Jean Todt in December 2021 shortly after the conclusion of the F1 season and became the organisation’s 12th president in its history.

FIA presidents are given a term of four years before another election and Ben Sulayem is just the third president this century with Todt and Max Mosley both serving lengthy tenures before him.

Where was Mohammed Ben Sulayem born?

Ben Sulayem was born on 12 November 1961 in Dubai in what was then known as the Trucial States, but is now part of the United Arab Emirates.

He was born into a wealthy family and his brother Sultan Ahmed is chairman of Dubai Port World and a real estate developer.

Ben Sulayem studied business at the American University in Washington D.C and at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. He was granted an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the latter in July 2012 in recognition of his services to sport, civic leadership and charity.

The 61-year-old is the first non-European elected to be FIA president.

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What did Mohammed Ben Sulayem do before becoming FIA president?

Ben Sulayem has a long history with motorsport and is a 14-time Middle East rally champion, winning 61 events between 1983 and 2002.

After he retired from racing, he became president of the Automobile and Touring Club of the EAQ in 2005 and in 2008, he became the first Arab named as vice president of the FIA and the first to be elected to the FIA World Motor Sport Council.

In the role, he was crucial to the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which has been on the F1 calendar ever since.

Having long had eyes on the top job, he ran against the incumbent Jean Todt in 2013 but withdrew, allowing the former Ferrari man to secure a second term.

As a reward for not running, he was appointed the role of vice-president for mobility and tourism in 2013 and the Emirati held that role until 2017.

He declined to run in 2017 but upon Todt ending his third term, the maximum a president can serve, Ben Sulayem once again threw his hat into the ring, going up against the FIA’s deputy president for sport Graham Stoker.

In a vote of the FIA Member Clubs, he won 61.62% of the votes to Stoker’s 36.62% with 1.76% abstentions.

Why is Mohammed Ben Sulayem in the F1 news?

Having got his feet under the desk, Ben Sulayem is becoming an increasingly visible figure in the world of Formula 1.

Not following the example of his predecessor, the rally champion is happy to use social media to his advantage and in the past has called out F1 for not greeting the Andretti bid with a warmer reception. In recent news, he has raised concerns about the business of Formula 1.

The Emirati was concerned with a failed takeover bid from Saudi Arabia and said that the FIA was “cautious about alleged inflated price tags of $20 billion being put on F1.”

Considering Ben Sulayem and the FIA play no role in the commercial organisation of the sport, his comments were said to have drawn the ire of some within the paddock.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s car collection

It should come as no surprise that the man at the head of the world’s motoring governing body has an extensive car collection and there are some beauties amongst them.

He has two Ferraris, an Enzo and an F50, and has the same number of Porsches both of which are 911s, the GT2 RS Clubsport 25 991 and the GT1 Strassenversion 996.

The Porsches are not the only German cars in his garage with the FIA president also owning a Mercedes-Benz CLK.

Ben Sulayem also has a Jaguar XJ220, Koenigsegg Regera and Agera RS, a McLaren Senna, Bugatti EB110 SS and Veyron, Lamborghini Countach, Lexus LFA and Pagani Huayra.