Ben Sulayem Under Investigation for Alleged F1 Race

Ben Sulayem Probed for F1 Race Interference Claims


2024 promises unprecedented F1 drama, eclipsing track events with off-track controversies, including a high-profile FIA investigation.

In addition to the Red Bull case or the shock transfer of Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari, it’s been revealed today that Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of the FIA, is under investigation for alleged interference in the results of a Formula 1 race.

A whistleblower has informed the FIA that Ben Sulayem intervened to cancel a penalty imposed on Fernando Alonso during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in 2023.

This claim is included in a report written by an FIA compliance officer to its Ethics Committee, according to BBC Sport, reporting the news tonight.

Alonso Penalty Revoked

The whistleblower’s allegation is that Ben Sulayem called Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamas bin Isa Al Khalifa – the FIA Vice-President for Sport for the Middle East and North Africa region, who was in Saudi Arabia for the race in an official capacity – and made it clear he believed Alonso’s penalty should be overturned.

Why? One supposed reason is because Alonso, who drives for Aston Martin F1, is backed by Aramco, the Saudi oil giant, which would lose its “home” podium if a second penalty was upheld.

Alonso indeed received a 10-second penalty for work carried out on his car while serving a five-second penalty for incorrectly positioning his car on the grid. The Aston Martin F1 team’s rear jack had touched the car during these 5 seconds, leading to this second penalty.

The penalty in question did indeed move Alonso from third place – behind Red Bull drivers Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen – to fourth place, also behind George Russell and his Mercedes. Before it was cancelled!

Probe into FIA

The report, written by compliance officer Paolo Basarri, indicates the whistleblower reported Ben Sulayem “expected the race stewards to reverse their decision” to impose the penalty on Alonso after the race.

This was indeed done: at the time, the rationale given by the race stewards for reversing the decision referred to a discussion that had taken place between the F1 teams and the FIA about working on the cars while serving a penalty in the pits. But nothing had ultimately been written into the rules clearly before the next Grand Prix.

The Ethics Committee is expected to take four to six weeks to publish its report.

Moreover, BBC Sport claims to have verified the information with several high-profile F1 figures and those close to the FIA. None wished to be named, but all stated they had the same information.

Ben Sulayem and the FIA have not responded to requests for comment.

Ben Sulayem Under Investigation for Alleged F1 Race. Ben Sulayem Under Investigation for Alleged F1 Race


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