A rich former driver who shakes the world of Formula 1


FIA President Mohamed Ben Sulayem speaks to drivers George Russell (Mercedes) and Alexander Albon (Williams) during the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort on September 4.Formula 1 image via Getty Images

The ban on jewels and the dismissal of race director Massey and his racing calendar. Everything changed during the reign of Bin Sulayem. Almost immediately after taking office, the president became involved in matters from which his predecessor, Jean Todt, had kept aloof.

At the beginning of this year, he suddenly decided to strictly enforce the ban on wearing jewelry in cars, which was hidden in the rulebook. He upset seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who was forced to have his holeshot removed. Not much has been done by Ben Selim. He held his ground and eventually Hamilton gave up. The riots were in line with the manner in which the Dubai-born bin Sulayem presented himself in office. As someone who is not on the FIA ​​throne to quietly hold on to the most luxurious.

How different is his predecessor Jean Todt who paid tribute to his background work. Todt mainly ran the FIA ​​from offices in Paris, where he dealt with typical FIA issues such as safety and regulatory matters. He presented himself as the calm moderator and then gave Formula 1 some cool.

Middle East Rally Champion 14 times

One of the few times Todt made the news in his 12 years as FIA president was the day after the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, which killed more than 130 people. He emphasized in a televised interview that there were already thirty times more road deaths each day and therefore wanted only limited adjustments to be made to the already planned minute of silence for all road deaths at the approaching Brazilian Grand Prix. The unworldly remarks prompted a firestorm of criticism from the FIA.

Bin Sulayem, 60, was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, into a wealthy and influential family. For example, his father was an advisor to the ruling Al Maktoum family. His brother Sultan Ahmed is a prominent businessman.

Like his brother, Bin Sulayem studied in the United States. But early on he was drawn to racing, especially rallying. He became one of the most successful Arab drivers of all time. Between 1986 and 2002 he became the rally champion in the Middle East fourteen times.

After his active career, he threw himself into the administrative side of racing. Then he steadily made his way up the motorsport hierarchy. He became president of the UAE Motor Sports Federation, then held senior positions within the FIA, and last December he was the first non-European to be elected president of the FIA.

Less viscous and dusty regulation

He immediately got a headache on his page: dealing with the previous season, where a questionable decision by race director Michael Massi in the last race in Abu Dhabi led to Max Verstappen’s world title.

Bin Sulayem showed decisiveness. Within two months Massy was fired. “I don’t run away from responsibility,” he said in an interview with the racing website in June. smallpox 247. Then he appointed a CEO for the first time in the history of the FIA ​​to make the organization less sticky and dusty. In the races he liked to show himself among the drivers on the podiums.

His decisiveness also leads to resentment. In September, the FIA ​​published the race calendar for 2023 on its own, while that moment is usually closely coordinated with the teams and the FOM rights holder. In addition, Bin Sulayem said that, in his opinion, the good mix of circuits is due to “the proper management of the sport by the FIA”, when in fact the FOM is to blame.

With this, Bin Sulayem struck a delicate balance between the FIA, the FIA ​​and the top-flight teams. This complex relationship dates back to the 1970s, when shrewd businessman and team owner Bernie Ecclestone was the first to see the huge potential of Formula 1 as a televised sport.

Ecclestone rallied his racing stables against the then all-powerful, but ingenious, FIA. Numerous disagreements, threats and deliberations led to the Formula 1 “constitution”. The Concorde Agreement. In it, the three parties made agreements about how the sport would be run and the money divided.

Contract review

This is now a huge amount. Last year, Formula 1 recorded sales of more than 2 billion euros. The FIA ​​hardly shares in the profit; As an organizer, the federation only oversees the tournament, and as a non-profit organization, it is heading for a million deficit this year.

It is not clear if Ben Sulayem wants more recognition, and therefore more money, by emphatically describing his federation as a decisive pawn in F1. Obviously, Formula 1 has to get used to the omnipresent FIA president who doesn’t shy away from confrontations.

There is no doubt that Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali will sometimes yearn for the invisible Todd. At the same time, he knows he will be associated with the FIA ​​for almost a century. This relates to the huge deal struck in 2001 between Ecclestone and former FIA President Max Mosley. It was agreed that the FIA ​​would “lend” the commercial rights to the class to FOM until 2110.

Given the pace at which the relationship between the FIA ​​and the FOM has changed in just under a year, it cannot be ruled out that the first lawyers have now been called upon to enter into this massive contract once again. Who knows, there might be a way out of there somewhere that could come in handy if we ever need to set up our racing class.

Three times Muhammad bin Sulayem

Mohammed bin Sulayem is an avid car collector. The value of his unique collection of sports cars is close to 100 million euros and is filled with extremely rare Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren cars.

In 2008, Bin Sulayem became the first sports director from the Arab world to be given a seat on the World Motor Sport Council, the FIA’s influential regulatory body. He was also a driving force behind the F1 race in Abu Dhabi, which has been on the calendar since 2009.

In June, Ben Sulayem caused a stir with remarks he made about socially engaged drivers such as Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Lando Nuri. According to him, they have imposed their beliefs on others through sports. He later retracted those statements via Twitter.

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