FIA will “remain neutral” over Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenia – Ben Sulayem

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In the round-up: FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem says that the governing body should remain ‘neutral’ to the crisis in Azerbaijan and Armenia.

In brief

Ben Sulayem sees no need to move Baku prize gala

The FIA’s Annual General Assembly and prizegiving will take place in the Azerbaijan capital Baku in December. A recent escalation in the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which the countries fought a war over in 2020, has led an estimated 60,000 ethnic Armenians to flee the area since last month.

Ben Sulayem said the FIA must remain neutral in the matter. “There is a war that will hopefully end,” he said, adding he could “name at least 20 countries” involved in armed conflicts.

The FIA’s Statutes state it shall “refrain from manifesting discrimination on account of… political opinion.” Nonetheless following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year it imposed restrictions on Russian and Belarussian competitors and events.

Ben Sulayem said that action was taken in line with the statutes. “When I was asked to cancel Russia, I said, ‘no, I’m not defying our statutes.’ We then called an extraordinary general meeting. Because it depends on what the members want. They have priority. And I was elected to implement the members’ wishes. And I am also a member myself.

“We must always maintain neutrality, both when it comes to religion and politics. Why? Because you don’t just talk about democracy, ethics and governance when it suits you. You either talk about it or you don’t.”

Garcia and Hamda Al Qubaisi take F1 Academy wins

Marta Garcia and Hamda Al Qubaisi claimed the victories from the first two races in the F1 Academy series round at Circuit of the Americas.

Garcia took the championship title by winning the opening race of the weekend from pole position, holding off Abbi Pulling throughout the race. Hamda Al Qubaisi inherited reverse grid pole for race two and made it count, leading the entire race and taking her fourth race win of the series.

Jessica Edgar, who took third place on the podium in race two, will start from pole for today’s third and final race.

Tramnitz wins opening FREC Hockenheim race

Red Bull junior driver Tim Tramnitz took victory in the opening race of the Formula Regional European Championship round at Hockenheim. The 18-year-old, who was recently signed by the F1 champions, led home R-ace team mate Martinius Kleve Stenshorne.

Mercedes junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli, who has already clinched the championship, finished sixth.

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Comment of the day

After the FIA widened the white lines denoting track limits at multiple corners of the Circuit of the Americas, Mark Zastrow says he approves of the larger lines:

I support this. It’s still the same track for everyone, and it allows drivers to get more up onto the kerbs and potentially unsettle the car, which is more fun for us to watch.

I find it amusing though that it does seem to contradict the sporting regulations, which hold that “for the avoidance of doubt, any white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track but the kerbs are not.” If you paint a kerb white, it is still a kerb, is it not?
Mark Zastrow

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Author information

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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24 comments on “FIA will “remain neutral” over Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenia – Ben Sulayem”

  1. They should drop the sprint and put the girlz on every Saturday. Let Marta stay on, give them more power, never mind whether or not they can scare the boys in open series, just have girls doing racing.

    1. I watch the Sprints, I wouldn’t watch that.

  2. Back in the day, it was only natural for a sports organization not to choose sides in international conflicts.

    1. Likewise, an automotive industry association.

    2. What period are you talking about?

  3. When a country violated international norms (SA / Apartheid, Russia / invading a neighbor) the result was cancelation.

    From what I know, we have a case of territorial aggression with Azeris invading an Armeni conclave (which has often been desecrated by the Az).

    Sanctioning this behavior is not in the interests of F1 or its followers. If religion is entering its ugly head in the debate, that’s worse.

    1. This was intended as a reply to @markeebber above.

    2. Ben Sulayem cannot decide these things on his own, which is presumably why he brings up the Russian example. It is for the FIA members to decide, and then it would definitely be possible to make changes, take a position, scrap events, etc.

      The media often portrays the FIA president as some sort of monarch, but he’s mostly a figurehead for the organisation.

    3. It’s a pretty political hot potato (as Alan Partridge once said). You then have the Chinese and their handling of the Uighar Muslims. What happens with the return to Shanghai International Circuit? It’s all been said on here a million times though because it’s can of worms time with UK, US etc

      1. It is indeed a complex issue. I mean, we went back to the USA in 2012 while they were in the midst of a war in Afghanistan and no one seemed to bat an eyelid…

  4. Something been talked about in the paddock is comments from the COTA bosses stating that this been a sprint weekend has seen zero benefits for them with Friday/Saturday attendance down on past years despite Sunday attendance been up.

    It’s also been noted more generally that despite the selling point of sprint weekends been higher fan engagement over the 3 days that it’s actually had the opposite effect with overall fan engagement been down on sprint weekends.

    The data appears to be suggesting that the fans who dislike the format simply aren’t watching the Saturday action and that it hasn’t brought in many more casual viewers. End result is that fewer people are watching qualifying on Friday than when it’s in it’s normal Saturday slot, Fewer still are watching the Saturday sprint qualifying session with the sprint race itself also drawing a smaller number the qualifying usually would in that slot. The GP on Sunday is about where it usually is.

    So if you are someone that has been ignoring the sprints and not watching them then It’s been noticed as it’s having an effect on ratings. So if you really dislike the format then keep not watching them i guess as it’s been noticed.

    1. That’s interesting. Almost nobody likes the Sprint idea, it’s so obviously a fake way of trying to milk more out of the same thing.

      They should put the girlz on instead, permanently, instead of trying to make them omg as good as the Boyz!

    2. @gt-racer nicely put. I have been watching F1 for 31 seasons. I have watched not a single sprint event/race and never will as I refuse to add myself to the viewing stats.

      I love qualifying and the Grand Prix so I’ll continue to tune in to them obviously.

  5. I agree with the FIA not taking sides on any political or military conflict but choosing to have your year end trophy ceremonies in a country that is in a clear conflict where it isn’t even up for debate their role in the conflict with Armenia is a really bad look for the FIA. As neutral as the FIA would like to look in this matter, the fact that a race is hosted in a country like Azerbaijan shows the FIA and F1 just prostitutes the sport to the highest bidder. I get it’s a business but have some moral compass for what you’ll accept and what you choose to turn down, you’re basically saying you don’t care what this country is doing as long as they are paying us our fee to come to your country then that’s all that matters.

  6. that it hasn’t brought in many more casual viewers.

    Let’s put that into the context of the level of competition (or lack thereof) in this year’s championship, though, shall we?
    Casual viewers want to watch a competition, not a parade.

    1. Thing is though that the ratings for the GP have remained strong which is an indication that the Verstappen dominance isn’t turning people off the racing itself.

      And some of the internal data they have is showing that the number of newer, younger, more casual fans for the Sunday GP has actually increased this year despite the lack of competition at the front of the championship.

      The drop in engagement & lower ratings are very specific to sprint weekends & it’s been a trend that started on sprint weekends last year.

      This is why you are starting to hear pushes to alter the format of sprint weekends next year to try & find something to maybe bring people into it because the sprint format as it is/has been simply & increasingly obviously isn’t working as they intended it to.

  7. Nothing to worry about regarding Azerbaijan.

    1. Nothing to worry about regarding Azerbaijan.

      Feel the force…

    2. You being ironic or have you missed the news coming from there?

  8. Russia bad, Azerbaijan good. Don’t worry, FIA, we the Eurovision fans are familiar with that kind of hypocrisies (not only AZE competes in the contest, Israel too).

  9. You can’t really be neutral, it’s just not caring. If they hold a huge gala somewhere, that’s approval

  10. When I was asked to cancel Russia, I said, ‘no, I’m not defying our statutes.

    Wow, then you can go to hell with this statement. You remain neutral, you support it.

  11. Coventry Climax
    22nd October 2023, 11:47

    FiA – Azerbaijan:

    If you decide not to choose, you still have made a choice.

  12. Looking forward to the Israeli GP in Gaza

Comments are closed.