This appears an easy headline given the threat of sanction made against party pooper Lewis Hamilton by the new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
In what has been a remarkable week since the safety car spell at the final race of 2021 in Abu Dhabi, the latest shock was from the inaugural interview with Jean Todt’s successor. When asked whether he would punish Lewis Hamilton for failing a regulation attendance at the FIA 2021 gala, Sulayem replied, “If there is a breach, there is [will be] no forgiveness.”
It is without doubt, the 60 year old Emirati will be far more hands on in Formula 1 than Jean Todd has been, and he may wish to stamp his authority on the sport by seeing through his threat to punish Lewis Hamilton.
The exact nature of the intended penalty is unclear from the regulations at present, yet even if it is a relative slap on the wrist financial penalty, Sulayem’s intent is to convey that 7 times F1 champions and global automotive brand ambassadors, like Toto Wolff, will see no favour from him.
The times are shifting in Formula 1
Bernie Ecclestone was in a perpetual state of negotiation with the big players to ensure the show stayed on the road. Teams had veto’s over rule changes, car design, engines and a whole host of other stuff. Yet the growing global audience of F1 appears to have provided the commercial rights owners – Liberty Media together with the FIA with a new found confidence in their authority.
Toto Wolff and his lawyer were clearly shut down behind the scenes and decided not to bring their appeal. This is evident if only from the self justifying rants from the Austrian team leader following the announcement of no further action. Clearly Stuttgart as the owners of the Mercedes brand will have had something to say, but also Sulayem admits he and Wolff had spoken during the week.
The Emirati culture is to wash their dirty linen in private, whether in it be matters of the family, commerce or politics. It is highly conceivable The Austrian boss of Mercedes F1 was warned of the consequences should the legal fight go ahead, hence the threat was withdrawn.
As an aside, the elections for the World Motorsport Council have delivered other startling results. As Joe Saward observes, “only 6 of the 23 elected members [under Todd are] still involve”.
In fact Saward comments further that the big losers are the European nations “with France, Italy, Germany and Belgium” all losing their seats.
Without delving into a member by member analysis, it is crystal clear this group amd the new head of the FIA, Ben Sulayem, will look to me more proactive than their predecessors. The Bahraini Khalifa family now are represented. This is the ruling family of the Kingdom and do not suffer fools gladly.
The days of Bernie doing the deals, Charlie writing the rules and Mosley/De Montezemolo/Todd playing the politics are truly over.
This may prove a positive step for F1. Maybe the trickle down result could see simple rules enforced which the teams refuse to comply with, like track limits. Something the F1 competitors as a whole have pushed back against, making the Race Director’s job at timesnigh on impossible.
Times may well be changing quickly.
Teams threatening to quit F1 a la Ferrari of old and Mercedes at present, could be shown the door. Particularly given the recent estimation of each F1 team franchise being worth upwards of $1bn and growing quickly. Clearly this is why the Haas team hang on spending no money, hoping one day for a big payout to buy some new CNC milling machines 🙂
Those who shout the loudest like Wolff and Hamilton, together with those who continually breach WMC council regs on political statements may quickly find themselves ‘before the stewards’ repeatedly. And for some, this will be a good thing.
Lewis will have matured much since Monaco 2011, when following several weekends of stewards questioning his behaviour and attitude – he retorted when asked – why him – he retorted “Coz I is Black?”.
Yet refusing to allow the likes of Hamilton and Wolff to throw their weight around, demand changes of FIA personnel and threaten to quit the sport all because a sporting decision went against them – may be met with short shrift.
The King Todd is dead, Long live the King Sulayem!