Join DRAKE at STAKE F1 PARTNER
President of the FIA Mohammed bin Sulayem seen during the WRC launch at the Hangar 7 in Salzburg, Austria on January 15, 2022. // Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202201150131 // Usage for editorial use only //

Ben Sulayem constant meddling in F1, what is his end game?

President of the FIA Mohammed bin Sulayem seen during the WRC launch at the Hangar 7 in Salzburg, Austria on January 15, 2022. // Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202201150131 // Usage for editorial use only //

President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Formula 1’s governing body, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, is facing accusations that he had sought to prevent circuit approval for last year’s showcase Las Vegas Grand Prix.

This is on top of allegations that Ben Sulayem manipulated the 2023 Saudi Grand Prix and this past weekend during the Bahrain Grand Prix was allegedly seen advising Max Verstappen to back Christian Horner in the wake of the Red Bull scandal that has rocked the F1 world.

With regards to the 2023 Las Vegas GP, the BBC said the claim, made by a whistleblower, appeared in a report it had seen and which was submitted by the FIA’s compliance officer to an ethics committee.

A spokesperson for the governing body said the circuit approval had followed FIA protocol, from a sporting and safety perspective, regarding inspection and certification.

The FIA later confirmed that the compliance officer had received a report “detailing potential allegations involving certain members of its governing bodies” and was assessing them to ensure due process was followed.

“It is unfortunate and a source of concern that the matter has been disclosed to the media without any prior authorization and that certain elements of the report were inaccurately reported,” the spokesperson added.

The night-time Las Vegas race last November was a pillar of Liberty Media-owned Formula One’s efforts to promote the sport in a key U.S. market where it has enjoyed rapid growth.

Ben Sulayem: If I had said no, it would have been disastrous

drain f1 las vegas covere sainz ferrari hit

The BBC said the whistleblower referred to a manager acting “on behest of the FIA president” and seeking “some concerns to prevent the FIA from certifying the circuit before the weekend of the race”.

It said the whistleblower claimed “issues on the circuit were meant to be artificially identified regardless of their actual existence, with the ultimate goal of withholding the licence.”

Officials were unable to find any concerns, however, and the circuit was certified.

The allegations contrast with Ben Sulayem’s comments at last year’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where he said he had supported approval of the track despite it not being ready in time for inspection.

“As soon as my team said it was safe… I did it. It was a big thing. If I had said no, it would have been disastrous. But it would have been legal,” he told GP Racing magazine then.

“But I’m careful because I love the sport. At the end of the day, we’re in the same boat. We may have different missions, but we’re in the same boat. We cannot let the sport sink,” declared Ben Sulayem.

FIA: The matter is being discussed internally

fia wmsc ben sulayem

The Vegas allegation came a day after the BBC reported Ben Sulayem, who was elected at the end of 2021, was being investigated for allegedly interfering in the outcome of last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. The FIA spokesperson said on Monday that “the matter is being discussed internally”.

Ben Sulayem’s presidency has been marked by clashes with Formula One in what has been portrayed as a power struggle between the two with money a key element.

Formula One Management holds the 100-year commercial rights to the championship, starting from 2001, while the FIA is the sanctioning body responsible for rules and safety as well as technical staff.

F1’s top lawyer sent a letter to the FIA a year ago accusing Ben Sulayem of interfering in the commercial rights “in an unacceptable manner” after he questioned a reported $20 billion valuation of the sport.

The two sides have also been at loggerheads over a potential 11th team, with Ben Sulayem supportive of a U.S.-based Andretti-Cadillac entry and Formula 1 ruling it out until at least 2028.

Another flashpoint was a compliance enquiry into Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and his wife Susie, which was quickly shelved amid a general uproar. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Additional Reporting GrandPrix247)

Editor’s Note: GrandPrix247 contacted the FIA for comment regarding the allegations surrounding its president, and the governing body responded: “The FIA confirms that the Compliance Officer has received a report detailing potential allegations involving certain members of its governing bodies. The Compliance Department is assessing these concerns, as is common practice in these matters, to ensure that due process is meticulously followed.”

Big Question: What is Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s end game with F1?