2024 calendar fia wec F1-001

Outside Line: What is Ben Sulayem’s FIA doing to motorsport?

2024 calendar fia wec F1-001

Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) did motorsport no favours by scheduling the opening rounds of the 2024 FIA Formula 1 World Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) on the same weekend, and less than 100km apart.

And there are more GP and WEC race date clashes on the FIA’s calendars, begging the question: What the hell are FIA doing with our motorsport?

Yes! That’s what the growing body of the sport’s two most important series has done. The F1 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix weekend starts on 29 February with FP1 on Friday. On the same day, WEC are in action for their opener: the Qatar 1812 KM race.

That is totally insane, and irresponsible as both F1 and WEC deserve their dates not to clash, no matter the excuses about logistics… etc.

Clashing dates, such as this harm the sport. Creates divisions and forces choices upon fans and media. As it stands F1 will drown out anything that comes out of Qatar. The WEC with a booming Hypercar and GT grid deserves better, its own stage as well as its own dates.

But it gets worse!

le mans wec

Round 2 of the WEC is on the same weekend as the Chinese Grand Prix, then the Lone Star Le Mans at Circuit of the Americas runs on the same weekend as the Italian Grand Prix, ditto the 6 Hours of Fuji clashes with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as does the 8 Hours of Bahrain with the Brazilian Grand Prix.

This is akin to hosting the Super Bowl and NBA finals on the same night. Or the Champions League football final at the same time as the Football World Cup final, Wimbledon and French Open on the same weekend etc. It’s indeed that ridiculous.

Motorsport’s mainstream media appears to be silent on this major ball drop by the FIA whose President Mohammed Ben Sulayem must shoulder the blame for countenancing such a blunder, that impacts the sport we love, I love. WEC is in a better place than it has ever been before, so why the clashes?

No idea, but I shall ask some uncomfortable questions which were forwarded to the FIA for response:

  1. How and why did the FIA allow this to happen?
  2. How are F1 and WEC dates clashing good for motorsport?
  3. Is this another salvo in the ongoing and increasingly obvious Formula One Management (Stefano Domenicali) and FIA (Mohammed Ben Sulayem) power struggle for control of F1?

I could get nasty and ask where will Ben Sulayem choose to hang out for motorsport’s massive opening weekend at the end of this month. Will he pop up photobombing the winners in Qatar? Or Bahrain? The venues are less than 100 kms by helicopter…

Is this a power struggle for the pinnacle of motorsport?

ben sulayem domenicali

But I could not ask it any other way. No matter how you look at it, and despite his decision earlier to step away from F1, the FIA boss loves the camera a tad too much for his own good. Those who know… know, that being the most famous man in the Middle East gives President MBS a big kick, titles are important to him, and always have been.

This brings me to the crux of this piece, namely the above Point 3: Are these F1 and WEC clashes of dates or indeed a strategy in an utterly mad FOM vs FIA war?

From the FIA I expect no reply to comment on this post or a ton of narcissistic excuses, smoke and mirrors etc citing logistics, religious holidays or whatever. None are acceptable as we sit almost two months wherein a round or two of WEC surely could’ve been run, instead, they are going to cram F1 and WEC in nine months.

Editor Jad Mallak weighed in on this debacle, he said: “If this move to clash the dates between WEC and F1 is some kind of tactic in the ongoing power struggle between FOM and F1 in wake of the recent Andretti Cadillac rejection, then it is bound to backfire.

“As an avid F1 fan who recently started watching WEC, if I have to choose what to watch on a certain weekend, F1 will be the definite choice, and I believe this applies to the majority of motorsport fans, as the ‘pinnacle of motorsport’ still holds a considerable leverage over endurance racing.

“The FIA would be shooting themselves in the foot by doing this, shooting WEC in the face,” he summed up.

This suggests that Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff’s concerns about the organisation currently led by Ben Sulayem are perhaps valid and worth taking seriously. Let’s see what the FIA has to say…

Big Question: What is Ben Sulayem’s FIA doing to motorsport? Good? Bad? Ugly?

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