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FIA president at the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain

F1 vs FIA: 5 times Mohammed Ben Sulayem's actions have stirred unnecessary controversy

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem took over the role on the footnotes of F1's biggest scandal in a long time. At the end of the 2021 season, former FIA president Jean Todt's term came to an end, with Ben Sulayem succeeding him in the role.

The role was always going to be daunting as one of F1's biggest scandals happened in Abu Dhabi in 2021 when the race director Michael Masi decided to restart the race on the last lap of the season, altering the path of the championship.

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While the ghost of 'AD2021' continues to haunt the FIA, the new president has just had a too eventful a run at the top. Ever since he's taken over there has been a fair share of friction between the FIA and F1.

In this feature let's take a look at five such instances where Mohammed Ben Sulayem's actions have stirred an unnecessary controversy.


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#1 The Jewelry Gate

Arguably the first one that caused a lot of backlash was how the new FIA president wanted to apply the International Sporting Code sternly.

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According to the code, drivers were not allowed to wear any jewelry at any point in time when they were in a car. Hence no driver should have been wearing jewelry at any point during the Free Practice sessions, the qualifying, and the race.

On the face of it, the application of something like this should not have caused any objection whatsoever. However, the issue was the unnecessary back and forth that involved Lewis Hamilton and gave the impression to many (including Sebastian Vettel) that the Mercedes driver was being targeted.


#2 FIA's push for an 11th F1 team

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Something that has stuck out as a sore thumb from the FIA has been the push for the 11th team on the grid. Andretti has made it clear that it wants to be a part of the F1 grid.

However, what that also means is that it needs some level of acceptance from FOM who has been a bit reluctant and has found ways to prevent that from happening.

During all of this, Andretti has found an unlikely alliance with the FIA. Ben Sulayem spearheaded the process of inviting applications from prospects for an 11th F1 team. After multiple levels of evaluation, it was Andretti that succeeded and now finds itself in limbo when it comes to the time it would make it to the grid.

It's more or less an open secret that all of this has essentially been done against the FOM's wishes and the organization could not be more against what's going on at the moment.

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#3 Mohammed Ben Sulayem's drunk actions at the FIA 2022 Gala

Now who can forget the FIA president's drunk antics at the gala last year? When Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was to be given the constructors' championship title, it was the FIA president, the FOM head, and the head of the Austrian team on the stage.

At that time, Mohammed Ben Sulayem tried to take a dig at Horner for the cost cap breach but it was just far too obvious that the FIA president was in an inebriated state and was just not in a position to make any comment.


#4 His comments about bringing Michael Masi back

In what could only be described as an act of trying to open a can of worms, the FIA president recently claimed that if it was possible he would be more than happy to bring back Michael Masi.

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Masi was unceremoniously dropped from his role as race director after what had happened in the Abu Dhabi GP in 2021.

Masi has been a contentious figure, especially when it comes to the likes of the Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton, and hence, even talking about bringing him back ruffled quite a few feathers at the time.


#5 Investigation against Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and Susie Wolff

Finally, a public statement made about launching an investigation to check the possible conflict of interest between a team principal and a FOM representative was sent out recently.

The statement cited 'media speculation' even though there was only a single report by an F1 magazine that had mentioned it.

In the end, when the F1 teams put up a united front the FIA had to back off in a move that made the organization look highly unprofessional.

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Edited by
Samya Majumdar
 
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