Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2024

FIA president cleared of alleged interference in two 2023 races

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The FIA’s Ethics Committee has cleared the governing body’s president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, of two counts of alleged interference in rounds of last year’s world championship.

The decision followed a review conducted by the FIA Compliance Department in conjunction with external advisors. The review lasted 30 days an 11 people were interviewed.

It determined “allegations against the FIA president were unsubstantiated and strong evidence beyond any reasonable doubt was presented to support the determination of the FIA Ethics Committee.”

Ben Sulayem was “cleared of any wrongdoing regarding allegations (i) to have interfered with the stewards’ decision to reverse an additional penalty on car 14 [Fernando Alonso] following a challenge from the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2023 and (ii) to have attempted to interfere with the track certification process for the Las Vegas Grand Prix 2023. The certification was completed and approved in due time.”

The Ethics Committee’s decision to clear the president was unanimous, the FIA confirmed.

The announcement comes 16 days after the first allegation against Ben Sulayem came to light. He was accused of attempting to overturn a post-race penalty which dropped Alonso from third place to fourth in last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Aston Martin driver was originally penalised for failing to serve a five second time penalty correctly because his team had touched his car with a jack. Aston Martin submitted a request for the penalty to be reviewed which was accepted after the team showed other teams had avoided penalties for the same thing.

Ben Sulayem was also accused of instructing an FIA staff member to find grounds to prevent the certification of the new Las Vegas Strip Circuit which held its first round of the world championship last year. This claim was also rejected by the Ethics Committee.

The FIA’s Ethics Committee was a focus of attention in December last year, when it was briefly charged with investigating an alleged conflict of interests involving Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and F1 Academy CEO Susie Wolff, who are married. The probe was called off after Mercedes’ rival F1 teams unanimously and publicly confirmed they had raised no concerns about the situation.

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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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27 comments on “FIA president cleared of alleged interference in two 2023 races”

  1. Bet Sky will still be frothing over it demanding further investigation and explanation

    1. Jack, what might not help the perception of neutrality is that, out of the six members of the Ethics Committee, at least four of the members were picked for the role by Sulayem.

      The only two individuals who were on the Ethics Committee whose appointment pre-dated Sulayem were those of Darbelnet and Monteiro. However, although Darbelnet is listed as a member, it is understood that Darbelnet effectively resigned from the committee in July 2023.

      The FIA themselves refused to explain why he had resigned, but there were allegations that Darbelnet resigned in protest when other members of the committee blocked an investigation into a different allegation of unethical behaviour by Sulayem.

      1. These well expressed and intelligent points of yours mean nothing to Jack.

      2. Wait a minute, someone effectively resigned from the committee 8 months ago and has not been replaced? Surely that is, by itself, against the regulations and requires ethical investigation (presumably by a court since the Ethics Committee doesn’t have its own appeals board?)

      3. Allegations by who? It’s almost nine months since that date, is it still only “understood”? Has nobody bothered to ask him? A quick Google search into Darbelnet and FIA gives just one recent news article by The Telegraph from England, which always seems to be at the forefront of rumours and allegations about the FIA president.

        Members of the Ethics Committee are elected by a majority of the the General Assembly based on the proposals made by the Member Organisations, the World Councils for both road and sports, and the FIA Senate. Does the FIA president’s preference matter? Sure. But he was also elected by the Member Organisations. Their interests and preferences largely align.

        As an aside, Antonio Nuzzo and Denen Ikya are both elected until 2024, so unless there is something off about their appointments (which are for four years), they got their job in 2020 – before Ben Sulayem became FIA president. The other members – including Darbelnet and Monteiro – have terms until 2026, so they were (re)elected in 2022, after Ben Sulayem became FIA president.

        1. MichaelN, you will find that Sulayem announced Denen Ikya was appointed to the committee in December 2022, with his term of office starting on the 1st Jan 2023. Your attempts to try and back date their appointments before Sulayem’s tenure, therefore, fails.

          Perhaps I should also have rephrased it from “understood” to “confirmed by the FIA”, with the latter having issued a statement confirming the resignation of Darbelnet.

          1. Hence phrasing it that way. It still remains unclear why, starting from that date, Ikya’s term is shorter than the statutes outline. Someone elected as per 2022 would have four years through 2025, not the date listed on Not impossible, but odd all the same. Darbelnet is also still listed as a member of the EC today.

  2. Coventry Climax
    20th March 2024, 18:40

    Exactly the same as this.

  3. This thing of institutions investigating themselves… I wonder if any time them found themselves guilty… What a joke… And Alonso… Man… That guy… In every F1 scandal, there he is… McLaren 2007, Crashgate, and now being helped by FIA president… Disgusting…

    1. Alonso’s “involvement” in McLaren’s 2007 espionage was being the whistleblower who sent the proof to the FIA that got them caught.

      1. I have an opinion
        20th March 2024, 21:46

        The actual whistleblower was the employee of the copy / binding shop that contacted Ferrari when he noticed Trudy Coughlan’s documents to be scanned were technical specifications of Ferrari’s F1 car.
        Alonso disclosed his knowledge of the espionage at a much later time and to suit his own purposes (which possibly included attempted blackmail of the McLaren Mercedes team). It is rumoured that Mercedes (who footed the bill for the huge fine) branded Alonso persona non gratain perpetuity for this.

      2. That’s not the case, Alonso was heavily involved with testing based on the stolen information, together with his compatriot, and now colleague at Aston Martin, Pedro de la Rosa. Their back and forth e-mails about the data were an important part of the case. For a prolonged period Alonso tried to benefit from the situation and never raised any issues – not with McLaren’s Ron Dennis nor with the FIA – until he became desperate to get McLaren to back his fading championship bid.

        1. On the Sunday morning of the Hungarian GP, Alonso had set the fastest time in quali the prior day, won the last race and was 2 points off the top of the championship – hardly ‘fading’ is it?

          1. He himself felt spooked enough to use this trump card in a confrontation with Dennis. But indeed, it’s possible that, had he kept his focus (and not crashed in Japan), he could very well have won the 2007 title and none would be the wiser about the saga.

      3. It was Ron Dennis who alerted the FIA. Alonso had threatened to do so, but Dennis called his bluff.

    2. So exactly what did FA do in this incident that was wrong?

  4. Is the FIA trying to catch up with FIFA in the corruption stakes?

  5. isthatglock21
    20th March 2024, 19:47

    Fair enough but this was the easiest charge to beat. The Vegas track etc & whatever else they have lined up against him if it fails will be harder to beat. The Alonso penalty was always silly which is what everyone thought, Aston are great at having decisions over turned with evidence & have done it before. The rule was never written & Aston showed the stewards other videos of jacks touching the cars. Sure it’s bad he contacted 1 of the guys, but it’s clear other normal issues are why it was overturned. The other charges however….yikes. Liberty want him out & will not stop

  6. I mean the ethics committee is independent. It’s fair that they followed due process. Some people can never win in the court of public opinion so unsurprising the general social media outage for this.

  7. I’m shocked that the FIA president was cleared by the FIA. Shocked.

    1. Quite. F1 marking its own homework again. No transparency. No accountability. Not good enough.

  8. The guy who cheated Lewis was already fired, even if people asked him at the time to wreck #44, its ultimately the dude’s fault.

    To be honest though, I thought it was a little too easy for Lewis to get right up there at the end of that year, and the whole second half of the year felt manipulated. I watched the same kind of racing at Mercedes between Nico and Lewis in 2016, Lewis crawled up the order and got smacked back, rinse and repeat, keeping one driver just out of arms reach until the final deciding race.

    At least in 2007, Lewis had the chance to really win, and dumped it in Pit-In and had a nervous end in Brazil which really hampered his chances, but was really down to him. 2016 and 2023 were definitely in someone else’s hands.

    1. Wow, thats some revisionism you’ve cobbled together there. I was gonna counterpoint it but fear I might wear my keyboard out :)

  9. Luckily the press has the Susie thingy and might just be able to keep the RedBull thingy going. I was worried for them for a moment.

  10. F1 is falling apart. Litigation is now everybody’s first choice.
    Someone has to impose order and we all now see that Bernie’s iron fisted control at the top was preferable for F1 than this epidemic of litigation we have now which does not even end with the legal verdict delivered: no, it goes on and on beyond the verdict itself.
    Sulayem seems not to have the personal authority required, and most certainly Domenicali lacks it altogether. The outcome of this weakness at the top is trouble for the sport.

    1. F1 isn’t falling a part, although Liberty Media might want to part ways soon, if the Wolff’s cry too hard.

      The flood is coming for Mercedes, watch out.

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