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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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FIA President Under Investigation for Alleged F1 Race Tinkering

  • This is just the latest in a long string of controversies Mohammed Ben Sulayem has found himself in since taking over FIA in late 2021. 
  • The international auto racing federation’s ethics committee isn’t expected to rule on the matter for four to six weeks.
Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

When Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin was given a penalty in the middle of Formula One’s 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the decision to overturn it went all the way to the top. 

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the governing body of F1, is under investigation for alleged interfering in a race result. The claim, reported by the BBC, was made by an FIA compliance officer to the group’s ethics committee. That report states that the whistleblower said Sulayem called Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the FIA’s vice president for sport in the Middle East and North Africa region, to overturn the call. 

Alonso was originally issued a 10-second penalty for having his car worked on in the middle of serving a five-second penalty for placing his car partially outside his starting box on the race grid. The penalty had dropped Alonso from third place to fourth, and overturning it put him back on the podium. The report from the ethics officer said the whistleblower reported Sulayem expected the stewards to overturn Alonso’s penalty. 

It’s not the first time Sulayem has been attached to controversy since taking his position in December 2021. Throughout ’22, his first year in office, there was widespread concern about his leadership, which came with calls for replacement. He blocked an agreement between teams and a commercial rights holder for six months that would double the number of sprint weekends for ’23, and he received a cease and desist letter from F1’s lawyers after going on social media to react to a report that claimed the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia had tried to buy the league for $20 million. 

The ethics committee is expected to give a decision sometime in April. 

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