It was revealed on Wednesday that Ben Sulayem had sent a letter to F1 bosses in which he said he would be handing over “day-to-day” matters to the FIA’s director of single-seater racing Nikolas Tombazis. 

It comes in the wake of several controversies involving Ben Sulayem, including his reaction to a story claiming Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund had tried too buy F1 for $20bn and the emergence of historic misogynistic remarks on a now-archived version of his website from 20 years ago. 

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Reflecting on the turn of events, Sky Sports News reporter Craig Slater said: “This has been a heated situation at the top of world motorsport. 

“Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been, in many people’s eyes, a controversial president. 

“He is not resigning, he’s not quitting - he is, in effect, taking a back seat. 

“He will still be attending grands prix and he will still be involved in a lot of the bigger decisions. But we’ll hear a little less from him and a little bit more from Nikolas Tombazis.” 

Slater described Tombazis as an “experienced engineer but not a major political figure.”

The FIA has stressed that Ben Sulayem’s decision to relinquish his direct involvement with F1 was planned since the start of his presidency and was not a reaction to the recent controversies. 

Despite this, Slater reported that “a number of senior figures within the World Motorsport Council, so people within that FIA organisation and the heads of national authorities, have offered their advice to Ben Sulayem in the last couple of weeks, voiced their concerns, perhaps about his style of leadership.” 

One senior F1 figure told Sky: “He [Ben Sulayem] has put a structure in place. Now he needs to let it do its job. So good move, I think, as per his manifesto’s intentions.”

“Maybe this is a positive sign and it allows Ben Sulayem to regroup and rethink how he goes about leading world motorsport and takes the heat out of what had become quite a fractious situation,” Slater concluded. 

Issues that irked F1 bosses: 

  • The time it took to sort the Abu Dhabi enquiry
  • The time it took to deal with the F1 cost cap saga
  • Releasing the 2023 calendar without telling F1’s rights holder
  • A perceived fixation about Hamilton's jewellery
  • Full points confusion in Japan 
  • Speaking out about the ‘lukewarm’ response to Andretti’s F1 bid 
  • Talking about the value of F1 itself