Mohammed Bin Sulayem, Losail International Circuit, 2023

FIA confirms allegations made against “members of its governing bodies”

Formula 1

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The FIA has acknowledged allegations have been made against “certain members” following reports regarding president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

The governing body of motorsport did not specify the nature of the allegations, or who they involved.

However a pair of BBC reports in the past two days have detailed claims about Ben Sulayem’s actions at two Formula 1 events last year, in Las Vegas and Jeddah.

The latest report, published today, quotes a whistle-blower who claims Ben Sulayem instructed an official to find a reason to prevent the FIA from approving the Las Vegas Strip Circuit for use by F1. The track held its first world championship round in November.

The track inspection was delayed due to construction work, though it eventually received the FIA’s approval and the grand prix went ahead. However Carlos Sainz Jnr struck a loose water valve and badly damaged his Ferrari 10 minutes into the first practice session which heavily disrupted the opening day of running.

A previous report quoting the same whistle-blower claimed Ben Sulayem made efforts to overturn a post-race penalty given to Fernando Alonso at last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Las Vegas Strip Circuit, 2023
New Las Vegas track held its first race last year
In a statement supplied to RaceFans an FIA spokesperson said: “The FIA confirms that the compliance officer has received a report detailing potential allegations involving certain members of its governing bodies.”

The reports did not mention any subjects of the allegations besides Ben Sulayem.

“The Compliance Department is assessing these concerns, as is common practice in these matters, to ensure that due process is meticulously followed,” the statement concluded.

The FIA’s Compliance Department is responsible for ensuring compliance with the governing body’s Code of Ethics. It is headed by Paolo Basarri, who has run the division since 2017.

In December last year the FIA announced the Compliance Department had begun an investigation into an alleged exchange of information between two individuals, later identified as Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and F1 Academy CEO Susie Wolff, who are married. The investigation was called off within two days as the FIA accepted “FOM’s compliance management system is robust enough to prevent any unauthorised disclosure of confidential information.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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52 comments on “FIA confirms allegations made against “members of its governing bodies””

  1. Why would MBS not want the Las Vegas race to go ahead? Part of the ongoing FIA-Liberty power struggle?

    1. It baffled me too. From the linked BBC article:

      But the backdrop to Las Vegas, the penultimate race of last season, was two years of tension between Liberty Media and the FIA, in which Ben Sulayem on numerous occasions was keen to extract more money from F1 for the FIA.

      Surely not down to… money?

      1. @david-br money could be a motivating factor, as one trend that has been apparent throughout Sulayem’s tenure is a desire for more aggressive commercial expansion of the FIA.

        Under Sulayem, we have seen the FIA introduce, for the first time, a CEO position that expressly called for “a commercially oriented leader” whose role called for “pursuing new commercial revenue streams, with accountability for its financial performance”.

        To that end, Sulayem has pushed the FIA to sign commercial sponsorship deals that it previously refrained from – for example, back in February, Sulayem announced the FIA has signed a three year deal with Red Bull’s clothing brand, AlphaTauri, with AlphaTauri becoming the FIA’s official clothing partner and providing all FIA staff with clothing and accessories (the first time that the FIA has engaged in that sort of commercial partnership).

        In a situation where Liberty Media has expended significant amounts of time and money into that particular race, it would be rather damaging to Liberty Media, both financially and from a reputational standpoint, if the FIA were to deny the circuit a licence and the race could not be held. That could create an incentive to withhold the licence to put Liberty Media under increased pressure to pay more for that particular circuit licence.

        1. Coventry Climax
          6th March 2024, 1:42

          So what’s the construction with the brands of safety cars used over the years? Surely there’s commercial contracts there too?

          1. I think the money for the Safety cars during the races goes to Liberty Coventry Climax

          2. Coventry Climax, whilst the FIA might set certain criteria that the safety cars have to meet in terms of performance, equipment loads and so forth, the commercial deal is between FOM and the car supplier.

        2. That makes sense anon. Not sure where this particular plot thread to F1 2024 will be going either. Definitely not the last instalment.

    2. Stephen Taylor
      6th March 2024, 8:13

      MBS hates the power FOM has . He knows Vegas is FOMs new jewel in the crown so forcing it to be cancelled would be getting one over on FOM.

    3. Stephen Taylor
      6th March 2024, 8:46

      Because he doesn’t like FOM.

      1. Or because *some people* within FOM do not like him, because he isn’t willing to turn a blind eye to the actions of some F1 employees.

        What has MBS done exactly? Other than turf out the corrupt bad apples and upset certain team principles who were overly friendly with far too many FIA officials.

  2. Gotta be honest. I never liked the guy, so I’d not be sad if he were to step down.

    1. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
      5th March 2024, 22:16

      @fer-no65 same boat as you. FIA leadership has been poor for awhile and this gut has not changed it.

      1. @come-on-kubica

        this gut has not changed it

        Whilst I am unsure it will improve anything at the FIA, you could try a diet and see if it helps.

    2. @fer-no65

      Was intending to respond to Yes, and screen jigged down so accidentally clicked ‘Report Comment’ for Fer no.65.

      Mods…….Please ignore.

    3. Coventry Climax
      6th March 2024, 1:50

      Maybe, but who and what do we get in return?
      I don’t mind (=opinion) someone that tries to keep Liberty especially, but also FOM, in check a bit.
      I think (=opinion) that’s preferable over yet another Liberty marionet.

      1. Whoever it is their objective should be the sport itself not growing their own pie.
        If they don’t have enough money to properly oversee the sport, I think they’d only need to publicise that and FOM would be forced to front up with more cash.
        MBS has always seemed primarily focussed on personal power/influence to me (and hasn’t won any of fights he’s picked with Liberty or the teams in any case).

        1. Coventry Climax
          6th March 2024, 10:21

          Oh, I agree.
          To me, it would seem both Liberty and FiA put eachothers value, legitimacy and powers in question. FOM should be about the sports, but is more and more just in it for the manufacturers and thus money and power, it would seem, so picks the side of most ‘promising’. As the FiA as such has no money to offer, so their choice is a clear one.
          I can see Liberty/FOM thinking they can very well do without FiA. I don’t think one side will be very willing to pay the money the other side lacks. That’s what battles are about, internal or external: power and money.
          With ‘someone to keep Liberty in check’ I did not specifically intend to refer to MBS; could be anyone.
          But given the FiA’s historic line of presidents, I can hope for, but sincerely doubt any new guy will be an improvement.
          I’m inclined to say ‘wake me when you’re done’, as it’s not at all what attracted me to/in F1 in the first place.

        2. MBS has always seemed primarily focussed on personal power/influence to me (and hasn’t won any of fights he’s picked with Liberty or the teams in any case)

          Possibly because he isn’t as clever as he thinks he is and his “cunning plans” are script material for Blackadder?

      2. I’m still sad Vatanen never got his shot.

  3. So an anonymous person claims that someone else claimed that they were telling them to do something (which they didn’t do) “on behest of the FIA president”?

    Sounds legit. Let’s see how this plays out. No doubt the WhatsApp screenshots are already being zipped…

    1. MichaelN, in most jurisdictions, a whistleblower raising ethical concerns is often entitled to a degree of anonymity to offer a degree of protection against possible retaliatory action by the employer.

      1. Sure, and there are good reasons for this. But at the same time it seems fair to be a bit skeptical after all the attempts made so far to stir anti-MBS sentiments with smears and dubious stories. Let’s be critical of the FIA, but also not be naive about the people who feel threatened by its current administration. For us, F1 is sports and entertainment, for them, it’s a business worth billions. It changes the stakes.

        1. MichaelN,
          Undoubtedly, there’s an agenda by FOM to undermine Ben Sulayem, compelling his resignation to install their preferred candidate, David Richards. It’s worth to mention that Toto Wolff is a key ally in pushing this agenda forward leveraging the Mercedes PR machine.

  4. Justin (@vivagilles27)
    6th March 2024, 0:26

    Ethics issues in F1? Surely not. Now enjoy the next race in the FIA president’s country which holds mass executions of political opponents without due process, and just recently allowed women the right to drive.

    1. @vivagilles27

      and just recently allowed women the right to drive.

      I know, right. They really have gone too far this time!!.

    2. Mohammed Ben Sulayem is not a Saudi.

      1. Justin (@vivagilles27)
        6th March 2024, 0:55

        I stand corrected. He is, in fact, Emirati.

    3. @vivagilles27 No, he just doesn’t like women who think they’re as clever as men (apparently stated on his personal blog).

  5. If they’re true to form, the investigation will be to uncover and dispose of the whistleblower rather than anyone actually reported.

    1. Yeah, that does tend to be the way these things go worldwide, doesn’t it.

  6. Dreaming of the balmy barmy days of Ballestre.

  7. Is Christian Horner leaking these to shift the media throng from his door step?

    1. Or Toto’s revenge.

  8. Exclusively from next week allegations: Ben Sulayem has engineered covid-19 virus. Alternatively, Ben Sulayem silently f@rts in the meetings. Some dubious source with surprising connection to Domenicalli will gladly claim it.

  9. Formula One, under the thumb of two masters, gains the whole world and forfeits its soul.

  10. The press is stubborn on these ridiculous controversies of which it would be the right thing to announce their existence and then later on report on the result. But no, every day an article. Does anyone know a good forum on which F1 is discussed without an increasing tabloid angle?

    1. Mayrton, by which it sounds what you really want is a forum which panders to your prejudices?

      1. Since when is it prejudiced to want to discuss the actual racing side of F1 and not the side-drama?

        1. Sikhumbuzo Khumalo
          6th March 2024, 9:43

          F1 is multi billion $ industry. It has many stakeholders and it has to operate within ethical and legal frameworks. Given their own decisions – the sport for good reasons is under spotlight.

        2. Since about 2017 when Liberty bought it and even more so since 2019 when Netflix began fannying about with it.

        3. That same poster has engaged in spreading tabloid gossip, conspiracy throries and sleaze when it suited their agenda, so nobody believes these sudden pious claims.

        4. This. I do not watch F1 or visit this site for all media self created soap stuff. I like the sports element.

      2. No, talking about racing is the objective, preferably with conflicting views, since that is a learning opportunity.

    2. Does anyone know a good forum on which F1 is discussed without an increasing tabloid angle?

      You’re on it.

      1. But it increasingly is going down the Liberty rabbit hole…

    3. I recommend the YouTube comments sections. The most orderly fora for debate on important topics of the day. God’s speed.

      1. Haha, thats indeed way worse. I would like to see f1fanatics ethics returning here though. Liberty has also rubbed of here however.

  11. Why was MBS undertaking work beyond his remit? Is there extra pay for FIA presidents who make umpiring suggestions to the race director?

  12. Whistleblowers coming in thick and fast. Might be legit, but the amount of investigations could be indicating someone wants to shake up the power structures of F1. Just repeat all kinds of allegations and it will stick on somebody’s reputation eventually.

  13. The Dolphins
    6th March 2024, 12:38

    So Andretti was just a child stuck between two quarrelling parents, so unfortunate.

  14. There were a lot of issues with the Las Vegas GP and endless YT videos about what an organizational disaster it was going to be. The winning narrative was that these issues were being swept aside so F1 could establish the cornerstone and headquarters of its new campaign to conquer the US market. Did he have to “find a reason” to challenge certification?

    1. @dmw Given the subsequent drain issue, it should have been very easy to find a reason to deny the licence, and in fact the difficulty would have been in how it was retained (given the FIA had to break its own re-inspection rules to get the job done). Of course, that would have required subsequently denying one to Saudi Arabia when it again forgot to install the internal road on the Jeddah circuit (which means it doesn’t meet Grade 4), and possibly also denying both it and Bahrain for the drain covers, depending on when their re-inspection dates fell due.

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