George Russell, Mohammed Bin Sulayem

“Total transparency” needed over Ben Sulayem allegations – Russell

Formula 1

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Any investigation into the FIA president’s alleged intervention in last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix must be handled with “total transparency”, says George Russell.

The Mercedes driver lost third place in the Jeddah race 12 months ago to Fernando Alonso after a penalty decision against the Aston Martin driver was overturned. However it emerged earlier this week the FIA’s Compliance Division is looking into a report which claims the governing body’s president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, intervened in the matter.

Russell called for clarity over the matter, saying his team did not expect Alonso’s penalty to be overturned.

“We want to see all of the facts and just have total transparency, really,” he said. “We’re all racing here. We want a fair and level playing field for us to showcase what we can do. I can’t really comment further.

“We were surprised a year ago when the result got overturned as the legal team at Mercedes thought they did a great job of presenting our case and initially winning the case and then losing it thereafter. So we just want to see transparency and have the opportunity to race on a fair playing field.”

Alonso’s team was found to have touched his car with a jack while he was serving a five-second time penalty for another infringement. He was given a 10-second time penalty which was overturned after Aston Martin submitted a request for the incident to be reviewed.

The start of the new F1 season had already been overshadowed by a month-long controversy regarding Red Bull team principal Christian Horner before the allegations against Ben Sulayem surfaced. He has also been accused of attempting to block the certification of the new Las Vegas Strip Circuit last year.

Russell said it was disappointing these developments had taken attention away from the opening race of the season.

“I feel that the racing needs to be at the forefront of everything. And this is what we all love and what we’re here to fight for. And it’s a shame when that isn’t the forefront of the media attention.

“But equally, Formula 1 is at the forefront of technology. I think from an entertainment standpoint, I think we’ve been really pushing the boundaries in the last few years.

“And we do need to create an environment that is inclusive for everybody. We’re seeing the demographic change over the past couple of years, and it does need to be inclusive. So unfortunately, you need to have these hard conversations and questions. And going back to the earlier point, you want to see transparency within all of these reports, because ultimately, until we see the facts, we can’t really comment.”

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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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13 comments on ““Total transparency” needed over Ben Sulayem allegations – Russell”

  1. Completely agree total transparency is needed, we need to know why that Wolff investigation was opened and closed so fast.

    1. we need to know why that Wolff investigation was opened and closed so fast.

      I would suggest that is probably because the FIA initially claimed that they were investigating following complaint(s) from another team (or teams) – but all the teams penned missives that said none of them had submitted any such complaint.
      So, they had a suggestion, from a Jack-of-no-name, that Suzie had divulged information she didn’t have access to, thus leaving the whole paddock and onlooking fans saying WT* are they smoking?
      Then the FIA realized that not only were they going to look sillier than normal, but also somewhat poorer when the legal boys gave them a kicking for spreading malicious gossip.

    2. exactly. Ford Bull and Ferrari FTW.

  2. Fernando Martins
    6th March 2024, 18:52

    Totally agree! But Wolf is holier than thou, and all he has to do is fake indignation for everything to fall in line.

  3. Stubbed my toe this morning…. I blame Toto :)

  4. Total transparency in a world where deals are done with dictatorships and authoritarian states the world over? I’m filing that under ‘unlikely’ George.
    Alonso again benefitting from some alleged dodgy race intervention that went on completely unknown to him. Does that make him lucky or unlucky?

    1. FIA president intervention or not, Aston Martin fought and deserved to win that little “legality’ battle over the penalty.

  5. Well, at least (finally, in 2024) there is something going on to make F1 interesting since the introduction of the ground effect cars.
    Thanks Christian and Ben. Appreciate your efforts.
    Makes a change from talking about tyres, I suppose.

  6. This is a fair complaint really. Sulayem has no provision within the regulations to get involved in day to day stewarding or sporting concerns directly. If he did so he should be removed. FIA is far bigger than F1 with regards to its scope of operations and realistically as its president Sulayem should only have a cursory interest in F1 at best.

    He knows this, he’s said in the past that he will take a step back from F1… Yet here we are.

  7. Whilst I agree with most of what he says, he mentions that it’s a shame that this stuff is taking attention away from the racing… I’m not so sure that’s true. It’s more that the racing is so mind-numbing that people are blowing these other stories up more than they usually would do in order to generate clicks. No-one is going to go searching for more Bahrain Grand Prix news. I sat through an hour and a half of it live and I really don’t want to hear more about it afterwards.

  8. Wolff and Zak were quick to ask for transparency regarding Horner. I wonder if they’ll ask for transparency regarding the FIA president again today in the press conference.

  9. The Mercedes PR machine is actively engaged in a denigrating campaign against Ben Sulayem on behalf of FOM. Interestingly, I don’t recall George calling for transparency regarding the Wolffs investigation.

    1. He probably didn’t have the time. That investigation was done before it started.

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