FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem Under Scrutiny for Alleged Interference in F1 Race Result

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Last Updated on March 4, 2024

The president of motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, is currently under investigation following allegations of interfering with the result of a Formula 1 race.

A whistleblower has accused Ben Sulayem of attempting to overturn a penalty imposed on Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso during the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Whistleblower’s Allegations

According to a report by an FIA compliance officer, Paolo Basarri, to its ethics committee, the whistleblower claimed that Ben Sulayem contacted Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the FIA’s vice-president for sport for the Middle East and North Africa region, who was present in Saudi Arabia for the race in an official capacity. Ben Sulayem allegedly expressed his belief that Alonso’s penalty should be revoked.

The Controversial Penalty

Alonso was initially penalized with a five-second penalty for improperly positioning his car on the starting grid. This penalty was served during his first pit stop.

However, Aston Martin was then penalized with an additional 10 seconds because the team was deemed to have worked on Alonso’s car while he was serving his initial penalty, which is against F1 rules.

The penalty dropped Alonso from third place to fourth. However, if the penalty were to be withdrawn, Alonso would have been restored to a podium position.

The Aftermath

The ethics committee is expected to take four to six weeks to issue its report on the matter. The FIA and Ben Sulayem have not responded to requests for comment on these allegations.

A Series of Controversies

This is not the first controversy to involve Ben Sulayem since he was elected in December 2021. There have been several controversies, including a recent compliance inquiry into Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and his wife Susie, which was withdrawn after two days following angry interventions from Mercedes, F1, and the other nine teams.

Ben Sulayem’s Response

Ben Sulayem has previously stated that he would take a step back from direct involvement in F1, stating that it had been his objective to be a non-executive president. However, the series of controversies has led to widespread concern in F1 about his presidency and calls from senior figures for him to be replaced.

Note: This article is based on reports from BBC Sport and other sources. The FIA and Mohammed Ben Sulayem have not responded to requests for comment.

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