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F1 president Mohammed Ben Sulayem decries attacks amid son’s loss

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Mohammed Ben Sulayem
Mohammed Ben Sulayem. Photo/Sky Sports
  • Mohammed Ben Sulayem is in the eye of the storm
  • The saga began with the General Motors-backed Andretti team
  • Ben Sulayem initiated an ‘expressions of interest’

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), is in the eye of the storm over the proposed induction of Andretti as an 11th team into F1 circuit.

What makes this ordeal even more harrowing is that it unfolded during a period of personal grief following the death of his son Saif Muhammad bin Salim.

The saga began with the General Motors-backed Andretti team’s application to join the Formula One grid, set to become a reality in 2026.

Ben Sulayem initiated an ‘expressions of interest’ process early in the year, and subsequently, he approved the American bid.

However, this move was met with resistance not only from Formula One’s owners, Liberty Media, but also from the existing teams. The root of the conflict, as it often is, lies in finances.

Ben Sulayem

FIA president Ben Sulayem. Photo by Planet F1

Liberty Media is evaluating the implications of welcoming Andretti, as it may necessitate an increase in future prize money, which would then be distributed among the teams in an additional manner.

In the midst of this tumultuous chapter, Mohammed Ben Sulayem found himself grappling with personal tragedy. His beloved son, Saif, tragically lost his life in a road accident in Dubai in March.

While mourning the untimely death of his son, Ben Sulayem was navigating the stormy seas of Formula One politics, facing an unwarranted barrage of hostility and criticism.

“I went through hell,” Daily Mail Sport reports. “They attacked me even when my son died. They abused me to try to break me, just because I opened expressions of interest. We have a contract that allows for 12 teams, don’t forget.”

Amidst the tumultuous winds of this controversy, Ben Sulayem’s stance remained unyielding. He questioned the motives behind the relentless attacks.

“How can you refuse GM? For God’s sake, they are an OEM (original equipment manufacturer),” he inquired.

With a steadfast belief in the merits of welcoming Andretti, he articulated the benefits, stating that it was not just good for business but also for motorsport as a whole.

Optimism shone through his words, as he expressed his belief that Liberty Media would ultimately recognize the value of this addition to the Formula 1 grid.

Further, he emphasized his dedication to the sport, rooted in the mission to protect and nurture it.

“I was elected to look after the sport. I put nothing in my pocket. There are no shareholders. There is no board of directors to share profits. My mission is different from theirs.”

Ben Sulayem FIA

Fernando Alonso with FIA president Ben Sulayem. Photo by xpbimages

Though Ben Sulayem refrained from specifying the source of the alleged attacks he endured, it is widely assumed that media briefings played a significant role.

In a separate development, the FIA recently made headlines by increasing the maximum fines for drivers to €1 million, a substantial jump from the previous €250,000.

This adjustment was the first in a dozen years, underscoring the organization’s commitment to enforcing safety and regulations on the track.

In Ben Sulayem’s own words, these amendments signify a departure from “old regulations dated to Jurassic Park.”

Nevertheless, the towering fines are not imposed with the intent of being punitive but rather serve as a powerful incentive for drivers to adhere strictly to the rules.

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, but an outgoing sports writer with focus on tennis, athletics, football, motorsports and NBA.

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