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F1 and FIA Tensions Ben Sulayem vs Liberty Media

Formula 1 and FIA: Tensions, Governance, and the Future of Racing

10/01/2024

Amidst roaring engines and the thrill of speed, Formula 1 and the FIA find themselves at a crossroads, grappling with tensions and questions of governance that could redefine the future of racing. This critical juncture examines the intricate balance of power and the path forward for this high-octane sport.

In the high-octane world of Formula 1, a burning question looms: Can F1 outpace and operate without the FIA? Recent paddock murmurs and key figure departures fuel this debate.

Is Formula 1 stronger than the FIA to the extent of functioning independently? This question has been circulating in the paddock for several months, and Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s tenure is far from universally acclaimed.

Significant departures of key figures associated with F1, such as Steve Nielsen and Tim Goss, highlight the current heightened tensions.

However, Ben Sulayem assures Motorsport Magazin that there’s no chance of a parallel championship emerging. A Formula 1 without the FIA is not on the cards.

Formula 1 vs. FIA Tensions : Balancing Profit and Fairness

“Yes, F1 is a business! It’s not F1 per se; it’s Liberty Media and FOM. Because F1 is an FIA World Championship. We are here to promote the FIA Championship by being reliable, well-governed, and trustworthy. You must have confidence that we will make the right decisions.”

“I’m simply advocating for clarity and fairness. My involvement doesn’t extend to stock prices or ticket sales. What we need here is fairness; that’s my mission. We’re establishing clarity in our relationship with FOM and Liberty. That’s good. It’s important to understand whom I represent. I represent the head of the household. We’re not just a service provider! I keep saying this and I believe it too. But sometimes, friction is healthy to bring out the best. I totally agree with that. It’s like with your body: if you wake up in the morning with pain, at least you know something is wrong.”

“We want the best for the sport. Let me tell you something, and I’ll say it very humbly and clearly: you’re not going to wake up tomorrow with F1 devoid of the FIA. For others, it’s different. Liberty also has the right to sell the lease to another company. Tomorrow, it might not be them, but someone else. Then, I’ll have to get along with them. That’s the difference between us. I respect them; they are in it for profit. That’s why they bought it. Otherwise, why would they buy the lease? They are smart people, and I support them.”

FIA’s Role Beyond Profit Motives

“At the same time, I was elected by FIA members to do my best for the FIA. I’m not paid, and I’m not complaining; I knew that going in. We are a non-profit association. Whatever we earn doesn’t go to shareholders or directors. Investments are made back into equipment and training to develop better stewards and race directors. And then there’s another pillar, mobility: we have over 80 million members, including ADAC. It’s a big deal! We have synergies between sport and mobility. That’s the only way it works.”

“Media representatives understand how this works: people don’t want to wake up and read ‘the sky is blue, the grass is green, birds are singing.’ That’s not interesting. Ultimately, I know who’s attacking me. And they think I don’t know. Do you really think I’d be in this position if I had stupid people around me? Of course not, my team is very smart. The paddock is a very small circle, everyone knows each other. You know who leaked or made up something about me. I know this. And what do I do? I just smile at it. I know who’s behind it all and then I smile at them. Is it counterproductive? No. Is it good for business? No.”

Honesty and Clarity in F1

“Do you know what’s good for business? Honesty. You sit down together, talk, shake hands, sign a contract. We understand our responsibilities and tasks and vice versa. That’s the best way. Clarity is very important. I am certainly not against anyone’s business. People are here to make money. Every product we have here, every sponsor, every partner: if they invest, there’s something in return. Nobody does it for nothing. The FIA is different. We’re not profit-driven. But we also need to support our finances. We need to give more value to the people working for us.”

“In the ongoing discussion about leaving the FIA, many don’t grasp the full implications of their words. Do they genuinely believe major manufacturers would form their own championship without regulatory oversight? Would they truly commit investments to such a venture? Wanting a scenario akin to the WWF is unrealistic, where the outcomes are predictable. If someone invests and then the rules shift suddenly, it undermines the whole structure. This is why having clear, predefined rules is crucial for investment. Our domain is more than just a spectacle; it’s a spectacle governed by rules. We ensure proper monitoring and fairness. Ultimately, the decision rests with the teams and drivers.”

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