Mohammed Ben Sulayem breaks silence on FIA taking Liberty Media to court

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has addressed growing tensions between Formula 1 bosses and the FIA.

The FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, has underlined the ultimate authority of the FIA and FOM in deciding whether Andretti’s bid to join Formula 1 should be accepted, despite substantial resistance from F1 teams. 

The issue has sparked tensions in the FIA-F1 relationship, but Ben Sulayem remains unfazed, comparing their partnership to the Vatican and the Pope.

In the ongoing saga surrounding Andretti’s entry into F1, FIA president Ben Sulayem has made it clear that F1 teams do not possess the power to determine the American team’s inclusion. 

Many F1 teams have expressed concerns that accommodating another team would negatively impact their profits. 

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While they do not have a formal say in the matter, FOM aims to gain their support.

Currently, it appears as if there is a divide, with the FIA on one side and the F1 teams and FOM on the other, the latter less inclined to make room for Andretti. 

Ben Sulayem acknowledged that the situation could create tension but compared the relationship between the FIA and FOM to that of the Vatican and the Pope, emphasising the strength of their partnership.

He remarked, “This marriage [between FIA and FOM]? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I think the Pope of the Vatican can get married 100 times and get divorced. 

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“But we will not be divorced. Yes, the owners might change tomorrow, Liberty Media might sell. But the FIA with Liberty going to court? 

“We will not allow it even. It’s not even for discussion. To me, we pick up the phone, we handle things. 

“These small things that go are part of making the sport better.”

Ben Sulayem firmly believes that FOM owners Liberty Media would find it challenging to turn down a new team. 

He emphasised, “We can afford having another Hollywood team for God’s sake. 

“The contracts are very clear. 

“We are running now 11 teams for Hollywood. And when they are over, at that time, there will be space. 

“Most of the contracts are very, very clear. It is safe to be approved and have a place for 12. 

“It is written. It’s the responsibility of the promoter and the circuit; it’s not our responsibility. We don’t interfere, but that’s the rules. 

“The rules are not only implemented by us, the rules are implemented everywhere. By all parties.”

Ben Sulayem expressed his optimism regarding Andretti’s potential entry, citing Liberty Media’s American origins and the positive impact on their share price. 

He also highlighted the challenge of rejecting an American Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) as an impediment to business.

Despite understanding the concerns of F1 teams, Ben Sulayem reiterated the fact that they do not have a formal say in the decision. 

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He said, “I don’t think we are that cheap to have that. I don’t think refusing a team should be: ‘We will not give you a pass.’ 

“How childish we can be. We are in the pinnacle of the sport of F1. We should be serving big teams with OEMs, to bring them in, to sustain motorsport. 

“But I understand the teams. They have no power over it [the decision to allow Andretti’s entry], but we listen to them because their point is also the money. It is about the money.”