FIA defends president amid escalating F1 conflict

The governing FIA has defended its president amid an escalating political climate in Formula 1.

In recent days, weeks and months, it has become ever clearer that a rift is forming between the teams and Liberty Media on one side, and the newly Mohammed Ben Sulayem-led FIA.

They have collided over the issues of political speech in F1, the Andretti-Cadillac entry bid, and most recently the potential sale of the commercial rights to Saudi Arabia.

As the fronts harden, it is highly conspicuous that quotes attributed to Ben Sulayem on a defunct 2001 official profile website paint him as sexist.

In the profile, he is quoted as saying he doesn’t “like women who think they are smarter than men, for they are not, in truth”.

A spokesperson for the Paris-based federation strongly defended the FIA president.

“The remarks in this archived website from 2001 do not reflect the FIA president’s beliefs,” the spokesperson said.

“He has a strong record on promoting women and equality in sport, which he is happy to be judged on. It was a central part of his manifesto and actions taken this year and the many years he served as FIA vice president for sport prove this.”

According to Sport1, Liberty Media – having lashed out at Ben Sulayem last week over his opposition to the potential sale of F1 for $20 billion – would prefer that the current FIA president is ousted.

The German source said former F1 team boss David Richards is being promoted as a potential successor.

Last week’s highly critical letter, however, was signed off by F1 lawyers Sacha Woodward Hill and Renee Wilm – not the sport’s chief executive Stefano Domenicali.

Roger Benoit, the veteran correspondent for the Swiss newspaper Blick, quoted Domenicali as saying amid the conflict: “The FIA is doing its job.

“We are doing ours.”

Forbes, the highly respected American business magazine, has named Liberty Media the ‘world’s most valuable sports empire’ in 2023 with its Saudi-linked $20 billion valuation.

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