Today’s FIA announcement of the process by which potential F1 competitors must apply appeared to bring to an end the recent heated war of words between F1 bosses and the president of the sport’s regulatory body.
The penultimate paragraph of the statement made it clear the FIA would not – as had been previously suggested – force an 11th, 12th or 13th team on the championship.
FIA olive branch to F1 teams
“The overall long-term interests of the Championship, involving all stakeholders, will determine which candidates are selected together with the applicable regulations and governance arrangements,”
The persistent requests from the Andretti organisation to join Formula One has created much resistance amongst the teams. While Andretti would have to pay an ‘anti dilution fee’ of $200m to the teams to offset their dilution in prize money, recent comments from team principals believe this amount is not enough given the growth in the sport since it was enshrined in the Concorde agreement in 2020.
So by making it plain that “all stakeholders” interests would be considered the teams concerns must now be addressed.
BBC uncovers anti Ben Sulayem conspiracy
Yet the BBC is reporting there is a widespread view that Mohammed Ben Sulayem must be removed from his office as president of the FIA. The broadcaster cites an anonymous “F1 team boss” to have stated, “Everyone thinks he’s got to go. That is definitely the general view.”
Of course Formula One teams and even the commercial rights owner have no say in who the president of the FIA should be as they are elected by 240 national motorsport associations. Though the BBC claims of “one insider” that they believe Ben Sulayem is in the last chance saloon.
“What will be interesting will be does he change his game at all? If he makes one more mis-step, I don’t know how he survives.”
FIA president has agitated F1 supremo’s
By refusing to respond formally to the legal communication jointly sent from F1 and Liberty Media to “cease and desist”, Ben Sulayem may have already decided his shaking of the tree is enough for now.
Further, the BBC claim “there are whispers this week” of a move against Ben Sulayem from some FIA member clubs “and within F1” to force a vote of no confidence in the Arab leader.
Yet there appear to be no methodology to force such a process within the statutes of the FIA.
The BBC does question whether the Senate is empowered to “study any question that might arise as a result of unforeseen factors.”
Mechanisms to remove FIA president
Further and the World Council “may resolve any difficulties not governed by the present regulations which might arise during any meeting”.
There is a meeting of the Formula One commission days before testing begins in Bahrain. The commission comprises roughly of 1/3rd voting powers split equally between the FIA, the teams, and Formula One’s commercial rights owners and race promoters.
The BBC cites “an insider” as claiming it, “is going to be pretty interesting – even the dynamic between [F1 president] Stefano [Domenicali] and Mohammed.
“I get the sense they will come in not aligned.”
Ferrari boss on the record over Ben Sulayem row
Unlike the BBC sources, the new Ferrari boss has gone on the record over the recent war of words between Ben Sulayem and F1
“I’m really convinced that as soon as we will put the cars on track, this will disappear a little bit off the screen,” said Frederic Vasseur.
“For sure we’ll have discussions but, as always, I hope that we’ll be able to stay focused on the sporting side.”
This viewpoint from F1’s most famous team contradicts the BBC source’s opinion that “everyone thinks he’s got to go.”
F1 bosses prefer ‘fellow’ FIA presidents
Mohammed Ben Sulayem is the first president of Formula One’s ruling body without a background in the sport since the election of Jean-Marie Balestre elected in 1985.
The motorsports associations had the option to elect Jean Todt’s preferred successor Graham Stoker, yet by a majority f around 2:1 Ben Sulayem convincingly won the vote in December 2021.
Given the lack of mechanism to get rid of Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the great and good of Formula One may just have to accept they are stuck with the current FIA president until his term ends in December 2024.