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FIA and Formula 1 set to resolve differences for benefit of the sport

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Liberty Media-owned Formula 1 and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the sport’s governing body, moved to reset their fractious relationship with the announcement of a joint strategic plan to grow the sport worldwide, aka Make Peace!

Both parties issued a statement ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the first round of the European season, declaring the F1 world championship, now a record 24 races, had never been stronger.

The FIA website accompanied it with a file picture of the body’s president Mohammed Ben Sulayem and F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali in a friendly exchange on the grand prix grid: “The FIA and Formula 1 are committed to delivering the best outcomes for the whole sport.

“To that end, both parties are developing a new strategic plan that will allow us to seize the opportunities and further enhance the potential for F1 in the years ahead,” the statement added, but insiders said things were moving in the right direction with a mutual focus on the big issues.

Formula One Management (FOM) 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.

Knives have been out for the FIA under Ben Sulayem’s tenure as President

Ben Sulayem Wins Top Job at formula 1 FIA International Automobile Federation

They have been at odds recently over a potential 11th team, with Emirati Ben Sulayem supportive of a U.S.-based Andretti-Cadillac entry and Formula 1 ruling it out until at least 2028.

Ben Sulayem was appointed at the end of 2021, succeeding Frenchman Jean Todt, and has been caught in controversy as well as what some have depicted as a turf war with the commercial rights holder.

In January last year, Formula 1 accused Ben Sulayem of interfering with its commercial rights by publicly questioning a reported $20-billion valuation of the sport.

The FIA also faces legal action brought by Susie Wolff, the director of the all-female F1 Academy support series and wife of Mercedes team boss Toto, after a conflict of interest enquiry last year.

Ben Sulayem was accused by a whistleblower of seeking to prevent circuit approval ahead of last year’s showcase Las Vegas Grand Prix and allegedly interfering in the outcome of the Saudi Arabian race in Jeddah.

The FIA’s ethics committee cleared him unanimously after an independent investigation that took 30 days.

In the background there is also legal action by Brazilian former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa against Formula 1, former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA over the outcome of the 2008 F1 world championship. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)