FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has announced that in his second year in office he no longer wants to deal with the day-to-day problems of Formula 1. On the part of the world association, Nikolas Tombazis should work on this topic in the future.
Is that a cave-in to his critics or a long-planned partial retreat? FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem informed the Formula 1 teams in writing on Monday (February 8) that he no longer wanted to deal with the day-to-day business of the premier class in future. In the future, Nikolas Tombazis, who heads the Formula 1 Commission at the world association, will take care of F1 affairs on the part of the FIA.
Accordingly, Ben Sulayem only wants to get involved when it comes to very important problems or strategic decisions. Even if Ben Sulayem still wants to visit Grand Prix races from time to time, Tombazis will act as the direct FIA contact for the teams in the future.
The world association denies that this withdrawal is a reaction to the external pressure that has been building up in recent weeks. Instead, Ben Sulayem formulated this step in the plans for his term of office before his election in December 2021.
The partial withdrawal was therefore planned well in advance and well prepared. In September, the FIA employed Natalie Robyn for the first time as a managing director to relieve the President of his work. The single-seater racing department has also been completely restructured in recent months and new positions have been filled. According to the world association, this organizational process has now been completed.
Many FIA construction sites
Many in the paddock should welcome the fact that Ben Sulayem will stay out of F1 business in the future. The former rally driver has regularly made headlines over the past twelve months. Immediately after his appointment, the new FIA President had to clean up the shards of the Formula 1 finale in Abu Dhabi and appoint a new race director. However, the selected referees did not always cut a happy figure.
As soon as the new season started, the topic of bouncing suddenly came up. Here the head of the automobile authority made a name for himself as a friend of the driver. However, the prescribed measures to get rid of the annoying jumping of the cars were not well received by the teams everywhere. Again and again the accusation came that the new rules harm some cars more than others.
In the middle of the season there was a lot of argument about the engine regulations for 2026. Delays on the part of the FIA ensured that the legal text was not passed until the summer break. This particularly annoyed the VW brands Porsche and Audi who were interested in getting started – and of course the Formula 1 bosses as well.
When checking the budget cap numbers, the world association again received criticism.It was only made public at the end of October that Red Bull had exceeded the spending limit in the previous season. Not only the late time of the announcement caused astonishment in the paddock, but also the mild punishment for the sinners in many eyes.
Quarrels with the F1 bosses
Recently, Ben Sulayem cut an unfortunate figure when he sided with the US racing team early on in the discussion about Andretti Autosport's planned entry into F1, even though the FIA didn't even care about this matter cannot decide alone. After all, the story ended with the world association finally having an official registration process for applicants.
A comment by the FIA President on the value of the premier class also caused arguments with the F1 bosses. A $20 billion price tag, which was brought into play with an alleged purchase offer from Saudi Arabia, felt Ben Sulayem was too high. Such interference in business affairs is unacceptable, wrote the F1 legal department in a nasty letter sent to FIA headquarters and the ten teams.
A few days ago, Ben Sulayem hit the headlines again because British newspapers dug up an old version of his personal website from 2001. "I don't like women who think they're smarter than men because that's actually not true," it read. The fact that he now thinks differently and actively promotes women at the FIA was only able to weaken the shitstorm a little.