Ben Sulayem branded ‘unprofessional’ by UK peer for ‘ignoring’ human rights concerns

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In the round-up: FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been branded “deeply discourteous and unprofessional” by a member of the UK House of Lords.

In brief

Ben Sulayem branded ‘unprofessional’ by UK peer for ‘ignoring’ human rights concerns

Mohammed Ben Sulayem has drawn the ire of Liberal Democrat MP Lord Scriven after the FIA president allegedly failed to respond to a letter raising human rights concerns over F1 racing in Gulf states.

Lord Scriven was one of 90 European politicians who wrote to the FIA president last year over concerns that the governing body was “facilitating sportswashing” in Gulf states such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates due to their human rights records. In a follow-up letter sent to Ben Sulayem, Lord Scriven accused him of being “deeply discourteous and unprofessional”.

“Why do you think you can ignore parliamentarians?,” Lord Scriven was reported by the Independent to have written. “Do you think that concerns raised over human rights and the policies of the FIA should be above scrutiny?

“We wrote to you in order to raise concerns that are in the public interest, and we expect openness and transparency from the FIA. For the sake of clarity, I still expect to receive a response to our letter.”

F1 extends TV deal with beIN Sports across Asia

F1 fans cross ten Asian territories will have to subscribe to beIN Sports to watch the next three seasons after F1 signed an exclusive deal with the Qatar broadcaster.

The deal sees beIN Sports hold exclusive rights to show all F1 sessions until 2025 across Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines.

O’Ward’s 2023 IndyCar revealed

Pato O'Ward, McLaren, 2023
Pato O’Ward, McLaren, 2023
McLaren have unveiled the livery of the car in which Pato O’Ward will compete in this year’s IndyCar season.

O’Ward will be one of three drivers races for at McLaren in the 2023 IndyCar Series, racing alongside 2022 team mate Felix Rosenqvist and joined by new recruit Alexander Rossi, whose livery for this season has already been unveiled.

O’Ward finished seventh in last year’s championship standings on 480 points, taking two victories at Barber and in the second Iowa race.

Forza Motorsport to feature 500 cars for 2023 release

Microsoft’s long-awaited next Forza Motorsport game will feature over 500 cars and 20 environments when it launches later this year, developers Turn 10 have announced.

The eighth mainline title in the long-running racing franchise was detailed in Microsoft’s developer direct yesterday. The game will feature 500 cars of which 100 will be new to the series, with 20 environments to race around including the newly-announced Kyalami circuit, each with dynamic time of day and weather conditions.

There is no launch date for the title yet, which will be releasing on Xbox Series S|X consoles and PC, but the game is still set to release this calendar year.

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Comment of the day

With Sky confirming that Johnny Herbert and Paul di Resta will both not be returning to their F1 coverage in 2023, @rbalonso comes to the defence of the latter:

I’m very disappointed that Di Resta and Sky are no longer working together. I’ve never understood the vitriolic criticism he receives on Twitter; he wasn’t the most charismatic orator I’ve ever seen but his level of detail I think will be sorely missed. It’s a wider point than just Sky coverage, and it’s certainly more noticeable post-DTS, but I think we’re losing the appreciation of the actual technical skill of driving a fast racing car.

Rosberg and Button, who I was really impressed with in the second half of last year, are able to convey how a car is reacting (which most of us can see) and how to fix it, what discussions take place and cite examples of when it happened to them. In short, you need to be an experienced F1 driver who’s been working on motorsport and in F1 teams recently to be effective.

Brundle and Hill are strong communicators but haven’t raced an F1 car in a quarter of a century – which is why I think Herbert’s time is up. But Di Resta was close to being the last man standing in this regard. Most foreign drivers understandably work in their home country or first language.

So who else can we turn to? Davidson and Chandhok are there already, Webber and Coulthard have contracts with C4. Will Stevens is hardly experienced or a household name, is Ricciardo going to be queuing up for it?

The sport has done a great job of promoting the gossipy, political, personal tension side recently and no doubt that is key for F1. But let’s no forget why we’re here – to appreciate the skills and lives very few people are lucky enough to experience, and losing Di Resta is a step away from that.

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Shelley Lee, Tnfox and David Clifford!

On this day in motorsport

  • 50 years ago today new BRM signing Clay Regazzoni put his car on pole position for the first race of the season at Buenos Aires

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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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33 comments on “Ben Sulayem branded ‘unprofessional’ by UK peer for ‘ignoring’ human rights concerns”

  1. Re COTD: IMHO I hope that Sky would go for Jolyon Palmer as a pundit, with Danny Ric on the team for a handful of races if he’s interested. With di Resta gone I hope they use Davidson more regularly in the comm box when Brumdle isn’t there.

  2. UAE isn’t as bad as the others, & Qatar is worse, yet didn’t get mentioned.

    1. @jerejj

      Qatar is worse, yet didn’t get mentioned.

      To the surprise of many, Qatar is one of the most influential states on the planet media wise. They have been working to promote their image since the mid 90s. Aljazeera is a powerful platform in terms of propaganda and spreading the narrative that suits Qatar agenda. They have been exposed in the last decade thanks to social media when the average viewer can make the difference between what they are saying and what is actually happening in reality.

      They have their own funded network of NGOs and fake “activists” working 24/7 following their orders. They also have been hosting opposition from the countries they don’t agree with and providing them with media platform and coverage to denigrate those countries’ images. They will do everything they could so that opposition will be in power in their country of origins like they did with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Talibans.

      They have a lot of “western” politicians on their payroll and they know how to play the game. The latest Qatargate EU corruption scandal have uncovered how they have infiltrated the EU institutions at their highest levels. In the USA, there is no issue since lobbying is legally permitted.

    2. @jerejj Qatar is too important to antagonise. In addition to their strong international media program, they host the headquarters of United States Central Command (USCC) and United State Air Force Central Command (USAFCC).

  3. “Unprofessional?” Well, nobody knows “unprofessional” behaviour better than a politician….

    Horner again showing he’s no better than Wolff – at least not in regard to the sporting aspects of F1.
    Red Bull is so flush with cash they have nothing to worry about (especially given that they were also against the budget cap in the first place, and apparently have the current highest paid driver in all of motorsport on their books). And I certainly don’t think that he’s overly concerned about the well-being of any of the other teams, either.

    Agree with CotD for the most part, much of the team that is left is hardly inspiring. Sky have lost two of their most honest presenters. Deliberately for that reason? I wonder…

  4. I think Ben Sulayem should respond to that politician’s letter when the British is willing to have a serious conversation about (a) the effects (many of which are still ongoing) that British colonialism has caused the world and (b) the ongoing discrimination faced by people of colour and members of the LGBTQ+ community in the UK (as evidenced by Lewis Hamilton’s comments in the news over the last few days).

    1. @geemac
      We don’t have to go back to the colonial era, 20 years ago UK (and USA) invaded Iraq based on the lie of “mass destruction weapons” and to promote “democracy”.

      The result is millions of deaths and refugees and the transformation of Iraq to a living hell that hosts the most extreme terrorist groups on earth. The entire Middle East and North Africa region have been destabilized. The rate of crimes and resultant deaths in Iraq is even higher than in South Africa, Mexico, Brazil…

      Talking about human rights, no one can take these politicians seriously when it was revealed that the British ministry of defence have deployed a team of interrogators to Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison at the height of arguably the biggest scandal ever in terms of torture, abuses and humiliation of prisoners. This was discovered during an investigation into Britain’s involvement in the CIA’s rendition programme and the mistreatment of detainees.

      Moreover, UK also had their own version of Abu Dharib when evidence of systematic and brutal mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at a secret British military interrogation centre emerged in 2008 during high court proceedings brought by more than 200 former inmates.

      1. @geemac @tifoso1989

        So both of your arguments seem to be that because the UK definitely has skeletons in the closet so to speak, Ben Sulayem is OK to ignore the politicians letter? The article indicates also that he was actually one of 90 ‘European’ politicians who wrote the letter.

        Surely the issues in these middle-eastern countries still need to be addressed. Sportswashing is definitely happening. Then who is going to raise them if it is not ‘western’ countries like the U.K.? Russia?, China? African states?

        No country is perfect or has a perfect record on human rights. If you can find one then let me know.

        1. I wonder how many wrote to the competent previous European heads of FIA demanding response to their letters and action?

          1. I wonder how many wrote to the competent previous European heads of FIA demanding response to their letters and action?

            If you follow the story back a little, the answer to that is approximately 90 since the base of the complaint is that the issue was initially being dealt with by Todt. Many things in process prior to the handover to Sulayem seems to have been laid aside or buried beyond reach.
            Yes, Todt should have done something before he left

        2. @phil-f1-21
          The point is the western hypocrisy is sky high. Human rights are not dividable and every abuse of those rights must be condemned in the firmest possible way.

          Though the USA, UK, EU… never miss any opportunity to lecture others about human rights where in reality they are constantly insisting about abusing those same rights to satisfy their greed. The UK and USA records with regard to human rights in recent history is one of the worst that humanity can offer. The issue is not the past but the present and the future.

          These countries will still invade, kill and destroy other sovereign countries whenever it is about their business interests. The USA have been involved in more than 50 wars after WW2. UK and the EU are just bending to the USA and follow them into their fantasies. Look at Germany and how it has been reduced to an American protectorate.

          It is OK for Ben Sulayem to ignore those politicians letter. First, and unlike those politicians, he isn’t paid from the UK taxpayers’ money. He is legally entitled not to respond to them. Who do they think they are ? Second those politicians should stick to the mandate given to them by their voters which doesn’t include interfering with other countries internal affairs. They are not the The International Court of Justice.

          Sportswashing is definitely happening. Then who is going to raise them if it is not ‘western’ countries like the U.K.? Russia?, China? African states?

          This is exactly the crux of the matter. Why the USA and its other “satellite” states think they have a god given right to rule the world. Who elected them ?

          Besides Sportswashing has been authorized by the UK itself when they let those Russian oligarchs and the Arab sheiks to pump money into British sports mainly football and horseracing that transformed those sports as a whole and boosted the cities in which they operate. If they don’t like these countries’ record on human rights, they should get serious and stop dealing with them, period.

          No country is perfect or has a perfect record on human rights. If you can find one then let me know.

          I totally agree, though there are few countries in the world that cannot live without involving their selves directly into wars or into proxy wars so their weapon industries can thrive and those same countries cannot lecture others about human rights. It will be like Rocco Siffredi doing a lecture about the benefits of chastity.

          1. @tifoso1989 I agree with most of what you have said. Especially about the influence of Russian or Arabic money on sports in the U.K. The thing is we are talking about F1 here on this forum so this is what we should address.

            The logical extension of your argument is that only those intimately involved with world wide motorsport or F1 in particular, should be able to comment or question human rights issues in a country in which they are going to race. The trouble is that most of those involved are so in-hoc to the money involved or afraid of damaging their careers that no one says anything. Who is going to speak out really? Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel who is no longer involved.

            Should all politicians or international figures of any other position ignore all of this? Lets not pretend we can easily find anyone who is completely untainted.

        3. @phil-f1-21 As French economist Frédéric Bastiat quipped, ‘The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended.’

          Politicians from certain countries will do much more for the cause of Western human rights if they stop criticising others and start by putting their own house in order.

    2. What are you blethering on about? What does any of that historical stuff have to do with Skriven or the current government? Nothing! On the other hand, MBS has PERSONALLY passed legislation to curb free speech about human rights, at a time when the UK and the rest of the world are taking great strides to make sure that those trying to bring these issues to light can be heard.

      You can’t just volley back any criticism about oppressive decision making by saying X country did this or that however many years ago. It’s ridiculous.

    3. Any chance of a libel action being brought against this “gang of 90” , preferably in the UAE.

    4. @geemac While there is some merit in your points, conveying that this is the reason for the non-response to the letter itself requires responding to the letter (either by return letter or by another medium).

      This is part of the reason why not responding to letters (especially from people who technically have the power to prevent the race from happening) is considered “unprofessional” – it prevents clear communication of why things are happening.

  5. Well it’s not just the FIA! I mean Tennis Australia has banned Russian flags, including those with Vladimir Putrid’s image emblazoned on them z symbol t-shirts etc. Aren’t these sportspeople allowed to have an opinion and stand up for their country,? Even Djokovic and his father have been warned for their actions.

  6. I remember Paul Scriven from back when he was a mediocre local councillor, rather than merely behaving like one.

    I think commercial pressures, rather than political ones, are the only way to arrest the decline at this point. A group of unelected, ermine-clad barons pointing out that some other countries might be out of touch with global norms is unlikely to make a big difference. But if some of F1’s (and the teams’) biggest sponsors decided they were no longer interested in sportswashing the Saudis? That might make Ben pay attention.

    1. + 1 A good point. It all boils down to the influence of money.

    2. @red-andy They tried that last year, and the politicians turned out to be more powerful.

  7. we expect openness and transparency from the FIA


    That’s pretty much the last thing to expect from the FIA!

  8. “Why do you think you can ignore parliamentarians?,”

    Ben Sulayem has never been paid from the British taxpayers’ money, he surely doesn’t have to report to the British parliamentarians. These power delusio nals are in constant need for a reality check. The USA, UK and the rest of the EU countries that have always been considered the most prosperous societies are collapsing by every measurable metric and instead of focusing on their own issues are continuing deflecting using the same rhetoric.

    1. Aside from the hyperbolic talk of “collapse”, it’s spot on that the FIA doesn’t, and in no way has to, answer to a random Brit. If this person wants, he can complain to the British member oganisations of the FIA and hope they raise the issue in the proper forum.

      Also, the lack of self awareness here is amusing. Last I checked the so-called ‘Lords’ are unelected and don’t answer to anyone themselves.

    2. @tifoso1989 Parliamentarians can, technically speaking, bar the FIA from holding activities on UK soil. Generally speaking, it is wise of any organisation to listen to the people who can stop it from doing what it wants to do. The FIA is not the exception Ben appears to believe.

  9. From Christian words (repeating Toto) I understand the FIA has other problems as well. How on earth is a contestant’s opinion relevant? Whether or not more participants are allowed is none of his business. He either accepts what he gets or he can go away and compete somewhere else. I really feel Toto and Christian should be removed from this circus in order to make it less of a circus.

    1. Maybe because those contestants you’re speaking about were given the right to vote on it and also have real equity partnership in the contest. So yeah it is literally their business.

  10. Maybe the British parliament should direct the letters to Liberty rather than the FIA as it is after-all Liberty who do the deals that dictate where F1 races.

    If Liberty were to do a deal to take F1 to a country that the FIA was uncomfortable with or against could the FIA even do anything to prevent it?

    1. The FIA is unlikely to have any objections to taking F1 to any their member countries that can afford an event.
      The only place they might not want to go right now is Russia – but even that decision has been taken out of their hands anyway.
      And given that the boss has very recently reiterated that politics is not the FIA’s problem, I can’t imagine that many places on Earth would cause them much concern.

      Hypothetically – if there were such a place and Liberty wanted to go there…. There would certainly be some serious discussions away from the public eye.
      The FIA have plenty of tricks up their sleeve to make events unable to go ahead if they don’t want them to, given that they hold all the cards to both the safety certification of venues and the actual running of their events events….

    2. PeterG, the FIA approves the calendars and is authorised to reject events that are not in line with its regulations (this is why it currently holds none in Russia through its direct powers).

      It is possible Liberty bothered to reply to the letter it was sent and thus avoided censure ;)

  11. I still maintain the view that the other teams should have zero say on if potential new teams are accepted or not.

    I believe that the regulations still say that the grid limit is 26 cars. As such if we have less than 13 teams entered I maintain the opinion that any team that have the facilities to design/build & run 2 cars with spares, The finances to run & develop them, A full team to run them & 2 drivers ready to drive them should be granted an entry.

    I’d even go further and allow more than 13 teams but retain the 26 car grid limit, If you don’t qualify within the top 26 you don’t race that weekend.

    More teams is great as it’s not just more spots on the grid for drivers but also more places for others in the paddock to work. Is it perhaps no wonder that people struggle to compete with Adrian Newey given how there’s hardly any opportunities for young designers & engineer’s to learn & show what they can do. Not just because of the lack of opportunities in F1 but also because of how everything below it has become spec categories. There’s nowhere for the next Adrian Newey to play around & learn now as everything is off the shelf from Dallara etc… with no tinkering allowed.

    It’s just ridiculous to me how closed off & over-regulated F1 has got.

  12. Gee, Christian– I don’t think you should have been allowed to purchase Jaguar’s entry, as you’re “just” a fizzy drinks company with no manufacturer backing– Andretti at least has a multi-decade sporting heritage, AND their entry has GM / Cadillac backing.

    So maybe you’re the one unnecessarily diluting the sport.

    1. When Red Bull purchased Jaguar in 2004 there were 10 teams.
      Their first year as Red Bull in 2005 F1 featured….. still 10 teams.
      And when they purchased Minardi and entered it as Toro Rosso for 2006, there were 11 teams – the 11th being Super Aguri….

      1. Oh, and in 2005, Red Bull were effectively the Cosworth factory team, as far as engines go….

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