FIA president fires warning: ‘That’s the minute we’ll start losing’

Mohammed Ben Sulayem took over as FIA president towards the end of 2021, leaving him to clean up the mess of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem has had a baptism of fire in his role as president of the FIA, having been appointed to the role in December of 2021.

The 61-year-old’s first responsibility was to clear up the mess of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where a controversial safety car procedure handed Max Verstappen his first title at the expense of Lewis Hamilton’s eighth.

Ben Sulayem has also revealed that he walked into a heap of financial and legal issues in the FIA, with the governing body in the middle of a legal debate over the invention of the halo.

The FIA’s prize-giving gala was full of interesting and awkward moments, with Ben Sulayem going on a strange rant to Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, telling him that the teams make the rules following a controversial Japanese Grand Prix which saw full points awarded for an incomplete race.

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The 61-year-old also reflected on his first year in charge of the FIA, suggesting that it can be a lonely role at times with a lot of responsibility falling on his shoulders.

“I think people thing that ‘OK, you are the president. You have the red carpet’,” he began.

“I mean, there is that part of course, but then you really have to handle the issues. You cannot just run away and say ‘OK, someone else’.

“You cannot just be dependent on others and, meanwhile, you cannot micromanage. The more you dig in, the more you can improve it. I think the minute we say ‘OK, we are there’, [that’s] the minute we’ll start losing and we’ll start not delivering what we have to do.”

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Ben Sulayem continued on to suggest that his role is so complex because of the detailed rulebook of Formula 1, claiming that motorsport is much more complicated to manage and regulate than the likes of football.

The 2022 season has not been without its controversy however, with the FIA coming under fire in Japan not only for the way points were awarded to the driver, but also because a tractor was deployed on track in extreme wet conditions while the cars were still out on track.

In credit to Ben Sulayem, the investigation into this incident was quickly concluded and very transparent, with the findings available for viewing on the FIA website prior to the next Grand Prix, showing that the FIA is improving under the 61-year-old’s guidance.