Stefano Domenicali, Mohammed Bin Sulayem, Singapore, 2023

‘Friction’ between F1 and FOM ‘sometimes healthy’ – Ben Sulayem

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In the round-up: Mohammed ben Sulayem says that it is ‘healthy’ for there to be some ‘friction’ between the FIA and FOM

In brief

‘Friction’ between F1 and FOM ‘healthy’ – Ben Sulayem

FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem says that it is natural for there to be some ‘tension’ between Formula 1 as an organisation and the sport’s governing body.

Asked about the relationship between the two bodies, Ben Sulayem told Motorsport Magazin the FIA wants “clarity and fairness” in all their dealings with the sport’s commercial rights holders.

“I am not involved in the stock price or ticket sales – we just need fairness here, that’s my mission,” he said.

“We define clarity between ourselves and FOM, Liberty Media. That’s good. We need to understand who I represent – I represent the head of the house. We are not a service provider. I keep saying that and I believe it too. Friction is sometimes healthy to bring out the best.”

Kvyat not giving up on F1 return

Former Toro Rosso and Red Bull racer Daniil Kvyat says he’s not given up on racing in Formula 1 again but accepts it would be a ‘Hollywood’ story if he was to return to the grid.

The 29-year-old has not raced since 2020, replaced by Yuki Tsunoda at AlphaTauri. He started 110 grands prix in his career and scored three podium finishes.

“I keep in touch with Helmut [Marko] from time to time,” Kvyat told the official F1 website. “I also recently spoke with Franz [Tost] and I’ll try to go skiing with him now that he’s retiring.

“But I’ll always keep an eye on F1. In the end, whatever I drive, you can see that there’s a bit of an F1 style. The easiest thing for me is to jump back in an F1 car and take it to the limit again. I mean now, if I had to ever come back to F1, it’s more like a Hollywood or Netflix scenario – but why not?”

De Vries “rational” about losing F1 seat

Former AlphaTauri driver Nyck de Vries, who was dropped by Red Bull midway through his rookie season of 2023, says he can understand why he was dropped because of his performances.

“Formula 1 is something I dreamed of for so long and then it stops so soon,” de Vries told De Telegraaf. “That is a huge disappointment. But it is part of life and also a bit part of the sport. That may sound very rational, but that’s how I really feel. I embrace the things that have come my way again now.”

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Comment of the day

This weekend’s Caption Competition winner is Derek Edwards!:

“You may be the commercial rights holder, Stefano, but I’m the commercial rights holder-holder…”

Derek Edwards

Thanks to everyone who came up with caption ideas this week and a special mention to Tristan, Only Facts!, Benjamin Brown and Euro Brun who all came up with particularly good captions.

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Michael Roberts!

On this day in motorsport

  • On this day in 1979 Derek Bell gave the new Wolf WR7 its first run at Donington Park

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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14 comments on “‘Friction’ between F1 and FOM ‘sometimes healthy’ – Ben Sulayem”

  1. No Dakar in racefans?

    1. Hopefully not. It’s not easy to watch Dakar live and spoilers are annoying. But if racefans does start posting Dakar news, I’ll just ignore this website for the next couple weeks. Best race of the year, at least for me!

      1. I think Racefans ‘ought to’ cover it, but in a nod to fans, could simply name its links “latest update on Dakar” until it’s done and they can post an update

        I guess there’s a question about finding specialists with the right level of knowledge before writing

        1. I can’t speak for Racefans, but I’ve worked in the motorsport media realm. It’s not about finding people with the right knowledge, it’s the lack of audience that’s the problem. You can’t expect people to work for free, and I guess Dakar provides a vanishingly small R.O.I for anyone covering it.

          1. I think Dakar is making steps, very very slowly though. With the introduction of WRRC, a championship to go along with Dakar, they’re starting to place themselves as a championship.

            The biggest problem is the production value. I’ve been watching Dakar since 2009 or so and the production is basically the same as back then. They focus the broadcast on the scenery and ‘dakar stories’. Which are both fantastic but they put almost no emphasis on the standings. They’ll flash the standings for about 5seconds, I literally have to stop the program just to read all the riders/drivers. Not to mention they only display the top 10 in each category.

            It also doesn’t help that its all produced by the French. Which isn’t a bad thing but then it has to be translated by Eurosport, which almost seems to be on the fly for Carlton Kirby. Lots of mistakes or even mistranslated sentences.

            It’s still my favourite race of the year! With all the current ‘hype’ about diversity, this race is by far the most diverse race in the world. The most classes of vehicles, men and women competing, young and old competitors, and probably the most countries represented of any sport other than the Olympics.

            It is a little unfortunate that it’s held in Saudi Arabia, some people have problems with that, but I’m just glad the race is still being held. They had a lot of problems when they moved it to South America.

  2. A bit more friction would be welcome imho. Liberty shows signs of prioritising entertainment over sport integrity. A party that keeps an eye on this balance is welcome and needed (ref FIA).

    1. Ferdinand, is it necessarily always a good thing, and is the friction occurring for reasons that are all that great?

      For all that Sulayem talked about being open to acknowledging mistakes and wanting to reform the FIA, we’ve seen in practice several high profile members of the FIA quitting their roles and implying that Sulayem is impeding reforms.

      In July 2023, we had Robert Darbelnet resign from the ethics committee in protest at the ethics committee refusing to investigate allegations of misconduct by Sulayem in the handling of the Ann Rao case, reportedly motivated in part by the actions of the members that had been personally appointed to the committee by Sulayem.

      Since then, we’ve had three major members of the FIA walk away from the FIA in less than a month. In mid December, we had Deborah Mayer walk away from her role as women’s commissioner for the FIA, followed by Steve Nielsen resigning from his post as sporting director. Today, we have now had the announcement that Tim Goss, the technical director of the FIA’s single seater committee, has also resigned from the FIA.

      All three of them seem to have reported difficulties with the management of the FIA – Mayer reportedly being frustrated at a lack of progress, Nielsen reportedly being repeatedly frustrated at his proposals to reform the way the FIA directs races being constantly vetoed and Goss now reportedly having similar complaints about reforms being blocked and a lack of a coherent strategy by the FIA for the 2026 technical regulations.

      It’s not just those in FOM who seem frustrated with Sulayem – the higher turnover of staff from the FIA suggests that there are those within the FIA who are also not happy with his management.

      1. I was talking about the FIA (as an organisation) keeping Liberty real. That is imho one of their tasks. The internal functioning of FIA is a separate topic. I personally do not have a good view whether Ben is establishing himself as a not so democratic leader (which would be a bad thing) or that he is cleaning the politically drenched former organisation (which would be a good thing as some seasons before Ben came in his role where rather questionable to say the least). So you might be right, or he is simply doing what needed to be done a long time ago. I am not sure which it is. All I do know is some strong indications (from observations over the years) that the FIA was a rather unethical entity before Ben started. He might indeed be continuing this but more catered to his interests (which is the default route if we look to entities like FIFA) or maybe there is hope?

    2. Problem is through one assumes from your point of view, Ben Suleiman would be singing the praises of F1’s traditions, while Fom and the Liberty are going the popularity route. That is obviously not what he is doing. He just wants to muddy the waters to see what happens. That approach only guarantees friction, and I can’t help but feel this an approach not likely to benefit the FIA or his presidency in the long run.

      1. See my reply to Anon above. And adding a reference to the remarks of @Tifosi1989 below. I agree with him Todt has been a rather questionable character.

  3. Kvyat would be extremely lucky if he ever got a re-return chance as that chance is effectively non-existent.

    1. Nobody outside Red Bull was interested in him, and it’s now been years since he had any relevance to F1. He’s not going to get a call. Even Red Bull didn’t care to have him replace Gasly either, and there’s the added issue of his pretending to be “Italian”. No team is going to give any Russian a race seat so long as the FIA’s special policies regarding such drivers and events remain in place.

  4. We are not a service provider. I keep saying that and I believe it too.

    I believe this is the crux of the matter. Mark Hughes highlighted in a recent article that the FIA has transformed into a service provider rather than the sole regulator of the sport, as outlined in the latest Concorde agreement, in exchange for more financial benefits. Consequently, the FIA can no longer independently enforce rule changes, except in matters of safety.

    I don’t know if RaceFans covered this detail in the latest Concorde agreement analysis, While I did find an article discussing the agreement itself, I didn’t find the specific detail I was looking for. Nevertheless, the 2022 rules were defined by F1 technical department led by Brawn thus affirming the earlier hypothesis.

    This is another great achievement under Jean Todt’s leadership that will solidify his legacy as the worst ever FIA president who, due to his stubbornness and political agenda, negatively impacted the sport to an unprecedented extent.

    MBS, as per his own statements, aims to return the FIA to its original role, a goal likely to be pursued in the upcoming Concorde agreement. However, he lack the support from the teams, particularly evident in their alignment with F1 during the recent Wolff saga. MBS, known for his unyielding stance, contrasts with Liberty’s typical American corporate negotiation style. The prospect of reaching a consensus in the next Concorde agreement appears uncertain at this point.

    1. Unyielding seems a bit negative; it’s always important to keep in mind that the FIA president is elected and has an agenda that the members – especially those who backed him – expect to be delivered upon. Someone who is politically savvy enough to get in his position isn’t likely to have something as important as the relation with F1 go off the rails; he just wants different things from F1 than Todt and Mosley before him did.

      The support of the teams is also not that important; dedicated F1 teams are small fish in the grand scheme of things, and the big players like Volkswagen, Mercedes, Stellantis, etc. have a relation with the FIA that spans sports and politics. F1 is just another marketing expense to them. They’ll come to an agreement.

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