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FIA president Ben Sulayem steps back from day-to-day F1 operations

The FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has stepped back from day-to-day running of Formula 1 ahead of the new season.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President FIA

Ben Sulayem was elected the president of F1’s governing body in December 2021, and quickly outlined a plan to restructure the FIA’s F1 operations.

This included an overhaul of race control, sparked by the controversial end to the 2021 season in Abu Dhabi, as well as changes to the senior FIA management such as appointing a CEO for the first time

As part of this process, Ben Sulayem informed teams in a letter on Monday that he would be stepping back from hands-on involvement in F1, leaving the day-to-day handling of operations with FIA single-seater director Nikolas Tombazis.

The FIA set out plans for a restructure of its senior F1 structure last month, which saw Tombazis take on a broader role, as well as the appointment of Steve Nielsen as sporting director after moving across from F1

Ben Sulayem will remain involved in high-level decision-making and focusing on strategic matters, but Tombazis will be the primary point of contact for teams moving forward.

“The President’s manifesto clearly set out this plan before he was elected,” an FIA spokesperson told Motorsport.com. 

“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.”

A huge FIA flag flies on the grid

A huge FIA flag flies on the grid

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The move, which the FIA says was planned for some time, follows a series of controversies involving the president.

Last month, F1’s lawyers wrote to Ben Sulayem to express concern over remarks in which he suggested a mooted $20 billion valuation of the series was “inflated”. F1 claimed Ben Sulayem had “interfered” in commercial matters that came solely under the remit of its owner, Liberty Media. 

Ben Sulayem also came under fire when comments published on his website back in 2001 surfaced, in which he said that he did not like “women who think they are smarter than men, for they are not in truth.”

The quote was in an archived version of his former website. The FIA responded by stating Ben Sulayem’s remarks “do not reflect the FIA president’s beliefs” and pointed to his “strong record on promoting women and equality in sport.”

Tensions have also been growing between F1 and the FIA over their positions on potential new teams joining the grid in the future. While the FIA has formally started the process, and is supportive of the Andretti/General Motors bid, F1 and the existing 10 teams are known to have some reservations about the plans and what it would mean for the series.

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