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FIA chief Ben Sulayem steps back: Will tension dissipate?

FIA chief Ben Sulayem steps back: Will tension dissipate?

F1 News

FIA chief Ben Sulayem steps back: Will tension dissipate?

FIA chief Ben Sulayem steps back: Will tension dissipate?

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is stepping back from his role overseeing Formula 1.

The move comes amid growing tensions between both organisations.

In a memo sent to the 10 F1 teams on Monday, it was announced that the head of the FIA’s single-seater commission, Nikolas Tombazis, will take over running F1 from Ben Sulayem on a day-to-day basis.

A litany of controversies

The Arab has been involved in a number of controversies since his appointment as chief of the FIA.

These included how long it took for clarity after the controversial championship decider in Abu Dhabi in 2021, another long delay in dealing with the breach of the budget cap, the unnecessary fixation over Lewis Hamilton's jewellery and the confusion over how many points should be awarded after the shortened race at Suzuka.

More recently, you have the late unveiling of the 2023 calendar to the Formula One Group and Ben Sulayem talking down the value of the series amid reports of potential investment.

There is also the ban by the FIA on political statements by drivers, which has been widely criticised and has remained a continuing talking point in the build-up to the season, before F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali backed the drivers over their criticism on the clampdown on Wednesday.

It's quite the list of mishaps for the 61-year-old, who only took over from the widely-respected Jean Todt at the end of 2021.

Ben Sulayem to focus on 'strategic matters'

In a letter to the 10 teams, per Sky Sports News, Ben Sulayem wrote: "My stated objective was to be a non-executive president via the recruitment of a team of professional managers, which has now been largely completed.

"Therefore, going forward, your day-to-day contact for all matters on F1 will be with Nikolas (Tombazis, director of single-seater racing) and his team, while I will focus on strategic matters with my leadership team."

Nikolas Tombazis

The FIA suggested that this was always the "natural next step" for the organisation, rather than a climbdown to provide an antidote to growing tensions.

An FIA statement said: "The president's manifesto clearly set out this plan before he was elected - it pledged "the appointment of an FIA CEO to provide an integrated and aligned operation," as well as to "introduce a revised governance framework" under "a leadership team focused on transparency, democracy, and growth."

"These goals, as well as the announcement of the new structure of the single-seater department, have been planned since the beginning of this presidency.

"The FIA president has a wide remit that covers the breadth of global motor sport and mobility, and now that the structural reorganisation in Formula 1 is complete, this is a natural next step."

Moving forward...

No doubt, some the challenges Ben Sulayem faced were particularly tough and it cannot be argued that the former rally driver did not take ownership of problems but the Arab chose to play the role in his own way and that was not to everyone's taste.

The chairman was vocal on Twitter and sought to tackle issues head on, in a transparent manner. He will continue in his role, albeit a little less visible, with Tombazis now the more prominent figurehead.

The changing of the guard, at least from a visual standpoint, should serve to dispel any animosity which was building.

Stepping back may prove to be a shrewd move by Ben Sulayem to ensure his tenure is not defined, at least not entirely, by some of the ignominious happenings up to this point.

READ MORE: F1 history made by Alfa Romeo with 2023 launch

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