Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has found himself in hot waters after a recent statement on the financial value of Formula 1.
How did FIA President Sulayem Find Himself In Controversy?
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the President of the FIA had recently termed the $20B price tag on Formula 1 as an “inflated price tag being put on F1.” This statement was in response to a recent Bloomberg report on how Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund attempted to buy the motor-racing sport for $20B.
“Any potential buyer is advised to apply common sense, consider the greater good of the sport and come with a clear, sustainable plan – not just a lot of money,” Sulayem further added.
Comments Were Simply ‘Unacceptable’
Consequently, Formula 1 and its owners, Liberty Media found Sulayem’s remarks ‘unacceptable’. He now faces the wrath of Liberty Media for his recent comments. In a letter (obtained by BBC Sport) issued by Formula 1 and Liberty Media, the narrative was clear – Sulayem interfered with their rights. The letter was written by Formula 1’s Chief Legal Officer, Sacha Woodward Hill and Liberty Media’s Chief Legal Officer, Renee Wilm.
They responded by clearly demarcating the duties of the FIA. They stated, “The FIA has given unequivocal undertakings that it will not do anything to prejudice the ownership, management and/or exploitation of those rights.”
“The circumstances in which the FIA would have any role in a change of control of the F1 group are very limited…Any suggestion or implication to the contrary, or that any potential purchaser of the F1 business is required to consult with the FIA, is wrong,” Hill and Wilm further added.
It was re-iterated by F1 and owner, Liberty Media that Sulayem and the FIA overstepped “bounds of both the FIA’s remit and its contractual rights.” It was further mentioned that the value of Liberty Media might get affected and that the FIA may be held accountable for any damage to its value.
This was a stern and final warning to Sulayem and the FIA.
Growing Fences Between F1 and FIA
American outfit Liberty Media purchased Formula 1 in 2017. Its stock value has increased manifolds and is currently valued at around $15B. Formula 1, as a franchise has seen an increase in viewership over the past few years, owing to the widespread popularity of the F1-based Netflix docuseries – Drive To Survive.
The FIA and the F1 and its drivers share an estranged relationship and have contradicting views on certain matters. Formula 1 struck a huge sponsorship deal with Saudi Aramco in 2020.
The F1 calendar additionally now ‘controversially’ accommodates a race at Jeddah and has been accused by many, of prioritizing ‘blood money’ over human rights and queer rights. Drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were vocal about having a problem racing at Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, Formula 1 drivers and the FIA are poles apart on the introduction of more Sprint Races to the F1 calendar. Despite drivers calling for more Sprint Race reforms, the FIA increased the number of Sprint Races in the 2023 calendar as they’re more profitable.
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