FIA’s Mohammed Ben Sulayem faces investigation for alleged F1 race interference

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the FIA president, is under investigation for allegedly interfering with an F1 race result.

Mohammed Bin Sulayem (UAE) FIA President. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain,
Mohammed Bin Sulayem (UAE) FIA President. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd…

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been placed under investigation for allegedly attempting to interfere with an F1 race result. 

BBC Sport reports that a whistleblower has told F1's governing body that Ben Sulayem intervened to overturn a penalty handed out to Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Alonso finished third in the Jeddah race behind Red Bull pair Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen but dropped to fifth when the FIA announced he had copped a 10-second penalty for having not properly served an earlier five-second penalty he had been given for failing to line-up within his grid box.

But the two-time world champion's 100th career podium was reinstated after the penalty was revoked following a successful right of review request from Aston Martin.

It has now been claimed that Ben Sulayem directly got involved in the matter.

Ben Sulayem is alleged to have called Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamas bin Isa Al Khalifa, the FIA's vice-president for sport for the Middle East and North Africa region, to make it clear that Alonso's penalty should be overturned.

BBC Sport says it has seen the claim in a report by FIA compliance officer Paolo Basarri to its ethics committee, and also verified the information with "several senior figures at high levels in F1 and close to the FIA." 

A controversial reign 

(L to R): Mohammed Bin Sulayem (UAE) FIA President with Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Formula One President and CEO on the
(L to R): Mohammed Bin Sulayem (UAE) FIA President with Stefano Domenicali…

This marks the latest controversy Ben Sulayem has been at the centre of since being elected to the biggest job in motorsport at the end of 2021. 

Ben Sulayem immediately caused controversy in his first press conference by suggesting that Lewis Hamilton would be punished for refusing to attend the FIA gala in protest of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix events

He was suggested to be behind the push to clampdown on the issue of drivers wearing jewellery, which caused friction with Hamilton

There was a stand-off between F1 and FIA over the amount of sprint races, the early publication of the 2023 calendar, and Ben Sulayem's offering of public support to Andretti's F1 bid. Ben Sulayem also angered F1 by questioning the sport's value

Ben Sulayem was then caught up in a sexism storm when historic misogynistic remarks appeared on an archived version of his website. He later defended these remarks in an interview with the Press Association last November. 

In February 2023, Ben Sulayem stepped back from direct involvement in F1, but he continued to cause headlines. 

Most recently, the FIA placed Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and his wife and Susie under investigation over an alleged conflict of interest following claims made in a magazine. 

The enquiry was dropped just 48 hours later after Mercedes' nine rival teams united in coordinated social media posts to deny making any complaints about the Wolffs. 

Wolff has admitted to still being angry about the reputational damage he believes the investigation caused. 

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