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Friday 3rd February
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F1 and the president of the FIA have decided to have an argument

Tensions have been brewing for a while, and we’ve now reached the strongly worded letter stage. Eep

Published: 25 Jan 2023
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With another month still to go before pre-season testing, president of the FIA Mohammed Ben Sulayem and F1 itself have gone all EastEnders for - presumably - our entertainment until the on-track action returns.

Joking aside, tensions between the two parties have been ramping up ever since Ben Sulayem took over from Jean Todt in December 2021, and the latest row has erupted over the most modern of controversies: a series of tweets.

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MBS took to Twitter on Monday to caution against “inflated price tags of $20bn being put on F1”, in response to a report suggesting that the Saudi Public Investment Fund (the one that bought Newcastle United FC two Octobers ago) had tried to buy F1 for that amount.

He went on to say that any buyer should “consider the greater good of the sport” and bring more to the table than “just a lot of money”, explaining that such a bid could result in “increased hosting fees” that would price fans out of the sport.

Which all makes sense… except the FIA is required to keep out of F1’s commercial matters and F1 thinks this is none of its business. Cue a strongly worded letter.

That letter has been leaked to a number of publications, and reports say F1 and its owner Liberty Media’s legal chiefs have called the president’s remarks “unacceptable”.

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They’ve also reminded the FIA that it has the right “to exploit the commercial rights in the FIA F1 World Championship” under the 100-year lease that was agreed near the turn of the millennium, and that “the FIA may be liable” for any comments that damage F1’s value.

Remember when Elon Musk was fined $40 million for misleading investors in 2018? Yeah, that sort of thing.

So why does this matter? Well, it’s just the latest in a series of events that have left F1 and the teams feeling uneasy about the way the sport is being run by the governing body under Ben Sulayem. Former race director Michael Masi was removed from his post after errors made in Abu Dhabi in 2021, but controversial decision making was still a common theme under the new race direction setup in 2022.

Then you had the blocking of additional sprint races, the Japanese GP recovery truck incident, the early publication of the 2023 calendar by the FIA, and most recently the president’s call for new teams as the Andretti-Cadillac bid was inbound.

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Politics, eh?

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