FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem to step back from F1 role

The FIA president will have less of a hands-on approach in Formula 1 going forward


FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem will no longer have such a direct role in the day-to-day running of Formula 1.

Ben Sulayem succeeded Jean Todt in December 2021 in the wake of the controversial title decider between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi and promised to restructure the sport’s race control process, among other things.

However, since then the 61-year-old has been embroiled in numerous controversies of his own that have led to question marks over his suitability at the head of motorsport.

In a letter sent to F1 teams, Ben Sulayem insisted it was always part of the long-term plan to scale back his direct involvement in F1 matters, writing that it had been his “stated objective to be a non-executive president via the recruitment of a team of professional managers”.

He added that this step “has now largely been completed”.

Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s single-seater director, will take over the day-to-day running of F1 ahead of the 2023 season, with the sport’s governing body reiterating the message in Ben Sulayem‘s memo.

An FIA spokesperson said: “The president’s manifesto clearly set out this plan before he was elected – it pledged ‘the appointment of an FIA CEO to provide an integrated and aligned operation,’ as well as to ‘introduce a revised governance framework’ under ‘a leadership team focused on transparency, democracy, and growth.’

“These goals, as well as the announcement of the new structure of the single-seater department, have been planned since the beginning of this Presidency.

“The FIA president has a wide remit that covers the breadth of global motor sport and mobility, and now that the structural reorganisation in Formula 1 is complete, this is a natural next step.”

Mohammed Ben Sulayem was elected FIA president in December 2021

Mohammed Ben Sulayem: The controversies

During his relatively short tenure, Ben Sulayem has already been at the heart of several F1 controversies.

He was involved in the decision to ban drivers from wearing jewellery, which prompted Hamilton to turn up at the next race wearing various items from his collection.

In similar fashion, the FIA recently instated a ban on F1 figures using the sport to make political statements, a move which has received widespread condemnation.

Ben Sulayem was also accused of making misogynist remarks after he was quoted as saying he “does not like women who think they are smarter than men” in an archived story on his old website.

F1 then issued the Emirati with a cease and desist letter when he took to Twitter to respond to a report that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund had lodged a $20 billion bid to buy the sport, calling it an “inflated price tag”. It’s understood that the report was false.

Although he won’t be as heavily involved, Ben Sulayem will still be part of the decision-making process on strategic F1 matters.

Andrew Wright
Andrew Wright
Sports Journalist for
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