FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has announced he'll be stepping back from his duties in favour of a more 'strategic' role leading motorsport's ruling body.
The former rally driver was appointed FIA chief in December 2021 when he took over from ex- Ferrari team principal and chief executive Jean Todt. However, the first year or so of Ben Sulayem's reign hasn't passed without incident as the 61-year-old has faced scrutiny for his approach to the role.
Most recently, his comments calling an alleged $20billion (£16.2bn) bid for Formula 1 "inflated" were not thought to have gone down well with the brand or its current owners, Liberty Media. F1 bosses are also believed to be against the FIA's openness to new teams joining the sport, with the wheels seemingly in motion for an Andretti/General Motors outfit to come aboard in the foreseeable future.
Whom do you think would make the perfect FIA president? Let us know in the comments section.
"My stated objective was to be a non-executive president via the recruitment of a team of professional managers, which has now been largely completed," read a letter to F1's team principals, per the Daily Mail. "Therefore, going forward, your day-today contact for all matters on F1 will be with Nikolas (Tombazis, director of single-seater racing) and his team, while I will focus on strategic matters with my leadership team."
Reports indicate the United Arab Emirates native may struggle to amass the support needed to secure a second four-year term, while rumours suggest some in the sport want to see Ben Sulayem resign. Among the list of points seemingly being counted against the FIA commander-in-chief is the assertion his 'personal involvement in negotiations over Red Bull 's cost-cap breach ' rankled some senior figures in the sport.
Ben Sulayem also faced accusations of misogyny when an archived version of his old website quoted the FIA chief discriminating against women's intelligence. The 2001 remarks read that Ben Sulayem didn't like "women who think they are smarter than men, for they are not in truth.”
The FIA addressed the matter by insisting those comments don't represent the beliefs of its president, defending his record of promoting gender equality in motorsport. A less prominent role in the running of the council may, however, lessen the chances of similar controversies as Cambridge-educated Tombazis takes over the more day-to-day duties.
"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,'" an FIA spokesperson told Autosport.
"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 One is complete this is a natural next step."2023-02-08T13:30:23Z dg43tfdfdgfd