In 2023, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem was a controversial figure in Formula 1 due to disagreements and conflicts with teams and the F1 CEO, despite his claims of having a good relationship with the latter and prioritizing the interest of motorsport.
‣ FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem was a controversial figure in Formula 1 in 2023, often finding himself at the center of disputes and disagreements.
‣ Two major issues that caused tension were the opening of F1’s registration and the controversy surrounding Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, both of which Ben Sulayem was held responsible for.
‣ Despite the conflicts, Ben Sulayem insists that his relationship with F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali is fine and that his primary concern is the integrity and honesty of the sport.
‣ Ben Sulayem dismisses talk of secession from Formula One, arguing that manufacturers want certainty about the rules and that the FIA is the right place for them.
Formula 1 in 2023 was abuzz. Not about a driver or team principal, though. Nope. The chatter was all about FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem. He was the eye of a storm, a storm critics say he often stirred up himself. After a year of squabbles and fuss, it’s clear: there’s a rift between the FIA boss and Formula 1.
F1’s registration opening. The drama around Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. These were the hot topics. And guess who was at the center of it all? Ben Sulayem. No shocker, then, if the bond between F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and Ben Sulayem has gone a bit frosty.
But Ben Sulayem? He’s having none of it. In a chat with Motorsport Magazin, he insists all’s well with Domenicali. “I only ask for sincerity,” he says. “I don’t care about the share price or ticket sales. Just honesty. That’s my mission.”
Ben Sulayem’s Counterpunch
Ben Sulayem admits a little friction can be good. But for him, motorsport always comes first. He knows he’s under fire for his views, his actions. He’s aware of the media attacks. “I know who’s after me. They think I don’t. Do they really think I’d be here if I had idiots around me? My team’s sharp. The paddock’s a small place. Everyone knows everyone. I know who’s spreading rumors about me. And what do I do? I smile at them. I know who’s behind it and I just smile.”
In the interview, Ben Sulayem laughs off talk of a Formula One secession. “People who say that don’t know what they’re talking about. Do they really think big manufacturers will start their own championship, with no one regulating? Will they invest in that? We all know who’d win.”
He believes manufacturers want rule certainty. And the FIA provides that. “Then you can invest. That would be a show. But not here! Here there’s a show, with leadership, rules. Everything’s monitored, so it’s fair. The rest is up to the teams and their driver.”