Mohammed Ben Sulayem to step back from direct Formula 1 involvement
Motorsport boss Mohammed Ben Sulayem says he will take a step back from direct involvement in Formula 1.
The 61-year-old’s move comes after a series of controversies since he became president of governing body the FIA in December 2021.
Ben Sulayem wrote that it had been his “stated objective to be a non-executive president via the recruitment of a team of professional managers”.
This step, the Emirati said, “has now largely been completed”.
Despite Ben Sulayem standing for election on the pledge of being a non-executive president, he has taken a direct, hands-on role in F1 for the past year.
That has led to a series of controversies, including but not limited to:
his insistence that he personally should approve changes to the cars to prevent aerodynamic “porpoising” last summer;
his blocking for six months of an agreement between the teams and commercial rights holder F1 to double the number of ‘sprint’ race weekends for 2023
Receiving a “cease-and-desist” letter from F1’s lawyers following his reaction on social media to a story claiming Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund had tried to buy the sport for $20bn
Ben Sulayem’s letter to teams said that from now on he would “focus on strategic matters with my leadership team”.
Their “day-to-day contact for all matters on F1” would be the FIA director of single-seater racing Nikolas Tombazis, he said.
Tombazis, formerly the head of the FIA’s technical department, was given his new role last month in a restructure of the body’s F1 departments.
This included the recruitment of Steve Nielsen from F1 to oversee race control, with the aim of improving its running after a series of controversies in recent years.
The FIA pointed to the employment of a new chief executive officer, the former automotive executive Natalie Robyn, as central to the restructure of its operations.
A spokesperson said: “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.’
“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 1 is complete, this is a natural next step.”
The spokesperson added that Robyn, an American, would oversee F1 as part of her role, and that she “participates in [legislative body] the World Council and will be in Bahrain [at the first race of the F1 season on 3-5 March]”.