It was difficult to be envious of Mohammed Ben Sulayem in December of 2021, as the 61-year-old was appointed as the president of the FIA in the immediate aftermath of the Abu Dhabi controversy.
Ben Sulayem was forced to spearhead the investigation of the race director Michael Masi’s controversial safety car procedure that saw Max Verstappen snatch the title away from Lewis Hamilton.
The FIA president has now revealed that this was only the tip of the iceberg with regards to the problems in face in his first month in the job, explaining that he actually walked right into a legal battle that he was previously unaware of.
“Imagine yourself being elected in the role after all these years of trying, everybody having a party on the night of the 17th, then you go to the office on the 18th and 10 o’clock in the morning, the first thing you meet is your legal people and they say you have a big court case with the halo,” explained the 61-year-old.
“It was a big burden on my shoulders, because as president, it would have affected us in a very legal, financial way. Now it’s behind us, and the halo is patented to the FIA, so that’s good.”
Ben Sulayem has recently spoken about his first year in charge of the FIA, claiming that he is happy with the progress that has been made, comparing the report of Abu Dhabi in 2021, with the report surrounding the Suzuka controversy a couple of months ago and explaining how the process had more clarity than before.
The FIA were also in a financial deficit when the new president was appointed and he has now revealed, but has reassured fans that this debt has been cleared over the course of his first year in charge.
“There was a financial issue that we didn’t know about,” claimed Ben Sulayem.
“We had a deficit, even before the pandemic, but I’m pleased to have cleared that.
“We all know and I’ll be very honest with you, we had an issue with the finance. We had a deficit this year, which was over $20 million.
“I’m very happy to know that even with it, we never stopped any of the support of the grants or the efficiency of the FIA towards any ASN [Autorite Sportive Nationale] or any club. And we’re still saving.”
Formula 1 appears to have cleared the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic, as teams begin to financially thrive under the new regulations as part of one of the most competitive grids in recent years.