Jean Todt, Mohamed Bin Sulayem

Mohammed Ben Sulayem elected to succeed Jean Todt as FIA president

2021 F1 season

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FIA members have voted Mohammed Ben Sulayem as the new FIA president following today’s election at the general assembly.

Ben Sulayem defeated opponent Graham Stoker to become the FIA’s first non-European president in the organisation’s 117-year history.

Ben Sulayem’s campaign secured 62% of the vote, his team confirmed in a statement, meaning he has won the right to replace outgoing FIA president Jean Todt, who stepped down today after completing three full terms in the role.

After a campaign run under the slogan of ‘FIA for members’, Ben Sulayem has been seen as the candidate offering a greater departure from the governance of Todt, whom his opponent, Stoker, served as deputy president for sport under throughout the Frenchman’s tenure.

“I am truly honoured to be elected president of the FIA,” Ben Sulayem said in a post on social media. “Thank you all so much. I am humbled by the trust you’ve placed in me and the team and we pledge to govern in the interests of all members.

“I’d also like to pay tribute to Jean Todt for his leadership over the past 12 years, and commend Graham Stoker on his campaign. We look forward to working with all who seek the betterment of this Federation we all love.”

Feature: Who is new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem?
A former rally driver, UAE citizen Ben Sulayem won the Middle East Rally Championship 14 times between 1986 and 2002 and entered a number of World Rally Championship events in the early nineties, taking multiple class wins in the Group N category.

Outside of his racing career, Ben Sulayem had previously served on the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council and completed a term as FIA’s vice-president for sport, before serving as vice-president for mobility and tourism from 2013-17.

Todt’s 12-year tenure as president was largely viewed as being one of progress for the governing body. He proved a less controversial leader than his predecessor Max Mosley and delivered progress particularly in the areas of safety and promoting more sustainable motorsport.

However the governing body’s most prominent series, Formula 1, was rocked by the controversial end to its championship on Sunday. That led Todt to persuade the FIA to deliver a “detailed analysis and clarification exercise” on the events of the Abu Dhabi finale, which will now be among Ben Sulayem’s first priorities.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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41 comments on “Mohammed Ben Sulayem elected to succeed Jean Todt as FIA president”

  1. Coventry Climax
    17th December 2021, 13:16

    I’ll give him the benefit of huge doubt, for the moment. But that would have been the exact same had they elected mr. Stoker.

    1. As things stand at the moment, with everyone closing ranks, I am unwilling to give anyone in the FIA the benefit of the doubt until or unless I see some movement in the right direction. I am willing to eat my words and apologise, though, if things do change for the better, and sincerely hope that I have to do that.

    2. Please stop with the racism.

      You see an Arab and immediately think stoning, something which does not happen in the Emirates.

      1. Aggred. This how it is going.

      2. Racist comment or not by the other user, stoning does indeed happen in the Emirates as an official legal punishment.

        1. I checked the Wikipedia (not a 100% accurate source but usually good enough) and -to my surprise- you are right (for adulteryt and sodomy). And it was done as recently as 2014.
          There are plenty of references which I did not bother to check but look legit

      3. I’m assuming the poster is white as well as MBS. How is this racism?

        1. Race and culture are usually mixed-up.
          Racism has no basis in reality whatsoever, because the differences between “human races” are ficticious. Well, you are probably safe to say that high-melanin individuals are more at risk of vitamin D deficiency that low-melanin ones in high-latitude countries, but that is about as far as you can go.
          On the other hand, there are real differences between cultures, so “culturism” is a tougher nut to crack than racism. But Islamophobia is a matter of “culturism”, not racism.

      4. I just kind of assume that anyone in a position of power or entitlement in any of these gulf states is a terrible human being. The way they treat women like slaves or property and religious minorities like enemies tells it all. If the people in power were not terrible these things would change. That doesn’t mean Mohammed can’t do a good job running the FIA.

    3. Emailed Liberty Chief Greg Maffei after the race as a fan. I am not a journalist or have ulterior motives just an ordinary guy. I explained I felt the result was engineered….genuine reply which to be fair is impartial but it’s real. Had no plans to display until new chief wants to punish Lewis for rule infringments….irony!

      Email from Greg Maffei:
      Sorry to hear of your disappointment.
      As you note, we are not in control of many elements of the race and that’s not hiding. I am not sure I would have made every race decision the same way, but the stewards and FIA know way more than I do – and likely you – and that is their job.
      Liberty and F1 are working to create great competitive racing on the grid – full stop. We think that’s best for the sport and aligned with our long-term economic interests.

  2. It will be interesting to see how he deals with Liberty’s push to Americanise F1. As over the next two decades the shift in economic power will be shifting away from the US.

    1. Coventry Climax
      17th December 2021, 13:29

      Your first sentence I agree with, but for the second: Can I borrow your looking glass? There’s too many ifs to say that with such certainty.

      1. This is one source but it’s been on the cards for over 70 yrs, the economic growth of Asia is inevitable.

      2. @Coventry Climax I have trouble posting links please go to the World Economic Forum they have several articles on the subject. They’re not alone in predicting the eventual rise of Asia even with the current Covid crisis, it has only delayed their rise.
        Countries like Australia despite strong economic growth will be pushed out of the G20 because of negative population growth . The US and Europe are facing similar issues of negative population growth.
        Of course this does not take into account any type of military conflict with China.

        1. Economic power or not, US market is still a lucrative one especially F1’s which tend to lean younger in the fans they’ve managed to get in that region.

        2. The WEF? The ones who say that you will own nothing and will be happy?

          More than “predicting” is they’re trying to make it happen.

          We shall see.

        3. Pretty sure Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are among lowest birth rates on the planet.

  3. I look forward to F1 becoming even more of a plaything for the Middle East’s hyper rich over the coming decade.

    Races in Qatar, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, maybe Dubai Autodrome will also get a round, let’s see if Kuwait tries to muscle in on the sport too.

    1. Coventry Climax
      17th December 2021, 13:31

      And Bernie’s sprinkler idea coming to life again!

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      17th December 2021, 15:28

      FIA have nothing to do with where Liberty decide to arrange races. Liberty sign the deals – FIA look at the tracks to ensure they are safe enough for F1 cars to race on.

      1. @petebaldwin as has been commented in the past, whilst it is supposed to be the case that the FIA and the commercial rights holders are separate, there have repeatedly been questions over whether there really is as much independence between the two bodies as there is supposed to be.

        When there was talk of Abu Dhabi being added to the calendar in 2007, Sulayem was one of those lobbying both the FIA and the commercial rights holder for the race to take place, with that pressure then intensifying when he was elected as Vice President of the FIA in 2008. Sulayem’s actions in the past are suggested to have blurred those lines by using his position of influence and power within the sport to lobby both the FIA and the commercial rights holders, so it’s not necessarily quite so clear cut.

  4. Well that’s another nail in the coffin of claimed British bias in the sport.

    1. I was not aware that J Todt was British !!!

      1. He was probably referring to Mr. Stoker.

    2. Presidents are not dictators.

      British privilege always been, is and will be manifest in this sport no matter who’s FIA president.

      1. That ‘privilege’ might come from the small fact that most teams are based in the UK with most of the staff being British. The cream always rises to the top, as they say.

  5. This is so racist. Just because he wears traditional clothing doesn’t he should be targeted.
    If you actually look at his pedigree (and read the article) rather than make ignorant, offensive assumptions based on his appearance you will find that he has a long career in Motorsport racing and management, and has been part of the FIA for a long time.
    You are disgusting.

    1. Did he ever speak against public stoning, beheading, state of female rights etc., etc.? Racism is when you single someone out based on his race (and we have three of them, with some sub-division perhaps). Speaking of public executions in someone’s society is not racism. I’m amazed at people not speaking about it. Some things are simply too much to ignore. We had a race at a venue that cost people lives just to be built in time (no word about that). We watched a race held not far from a place where they publicly behead people and/or stone them to death. Just try being a woman there. Or even “better”, try being Jewish there. Huh imagine being a Jewish female visiting this gentleman’s country. This has nothing to do with his clothing, but other aspects of his culture; something ordinary people in his country have to live with while he takes FIA for his next plaything. Oh, we didn’t even touch slavery in his country, but come on, this would go on forever.

      1. “Racism is when you single someone out based on his race”

        That is exactly what you are doing.

        You take no notice of his nationality, but expect him as an Emirati to speak out against what other countries are doing, simply based on what you think his race might be. You lump all Arabs together. This is like calling out a British guy for not speaking up about executions in the US, simply because he is white and speaks English too.

      2. Did you hold the same things against Todt – for not speaking out against France’s brutal not-too-distant treatment of the Algerians, their tacit support for the Rwandan genocide, their illegal nuclear tests? And against Stoker, for Britain’s illegal invasion of Iraq that brought so much misery to millions? No? Then don’t apply double standards. What goes on in someone’s country doesn’t define them as competitors person. Anyway, he’s been elected to a motorsport position. This isn’t the UN.

        1. I don’t know how ‘competitors’ got into my comment. Replace that with ‘a’. Ah, close enough…

  6. Well, nothing like a new head of motorsports to be able to maybe fix some of the left-over issues with their headline sport, you’d hope.

    Not holding my breath, but it does give some face-saving potential to get going. I hope the perception of more diversity also turns out to be true, so far a lot of it has been words with only a limited amount of substance behind them, but who knows, there definitely are passionate motorsports people who are also for that. More transparency definitely sounds good to, esp. if it would be mated with visible accountability.

  7. excuse me, WHAT

  8. Very happy with that decision. The FIA desperately needed a reformer after the stale incompetence of Jean Todt led to everything wrong with current motorsport. I don’t know whether Ben Sulayem can fulfill his goals or even whether those goals are a good thing, but after Todt’s regime of misery merely having someone who actually cares about motorsport at the helm is already the best news of the day.

    1. Broadsword to Danny Boy
      17th December 2021, 16:38

      Hmmmm, if you think Todt was bad then presumably you’re too young to remember Mosley?

      1. @Danny Boy: Mosley was also an improvement over Balestre. If this is a trend then Sulayem is expected to be marginally better…

  9. Congrats to the new President, the old President left a bit of a mess that could use a tidying up. Good luck, I look forward to seeing your plans in action.

  10. He proved a less controversial leader than his predecessor Max Mosley


  11. It is quite disingenuous of us to distil the entirety of Jean Todt’s tenure to the actions of Masi this year.

    1. It’s natural, if a massive controversy takes place, for that to colour the views of past actions. Fort instance, if you have a quiet friend who always had been so, who you then find out has been succeeding from depression or is being abused by their partner, you will look back on previous events and re-evaluate them. If you have a company which has been relatively successful, but then it comes to light that they’ve been ignoring regulations or bribing people to get contracts, their previous success will not be viewed in such a positive light.

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