Ben Sulayem Wanted to Cancel the Vegas GP

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, FIA president, faces new whistleblower allegations suggesting he instructed officials to find reasons to block the certification of the Las Vegas Grand Prix circuit. This move could have jeopardized the high-profile race’s debut on the 2023 F1 calendar. The FIA insists that the certification process adhered to standard protocols.

Between the lines

  • A whistleblower alleges FIA president Ben Sulayem attempted to interfere with the Las Vegas GP circuit certification.
  • The Las Vegas GP, a key event in the 2023 season, could have been canceled if not certified.
  • FIA maintains the circuit’s approval process was conducted by the book, despite construction delays.
  • The FIA is also handling an internal discussion regarding a separate incident involving a penalty at the Saudi Arabian GP.

Go deeper
The BBC’s report on the allegations against Mohammed Ben Sulayem has stirred the F1 community, casting a shadow over the FIA’s leadership. According to the whistleblower, there was a direct instruction from the FIA president to find faults that would prevent the Las Vegas circuit’s homologation. The significance of the Las Vegas GP, with its glamorous Strip-side track and the Sphere, cannot be overstated, as it represents a major investment by F1 owner Liberty Media and a pivotal moment for the sport’s expansion in the United States.

Despite the serious nature of the allegations, the FIA spokesperson has confidently stated that the circuit approval for Las Vegas followed all the necessary protocols, emphasizing that safety and sporting fairness were not compromised. The delay in inspection, attributed to ongoing construction, did not impact the final certification, according to the FIA.

If you recall, there was a delay in the track being made available for inspection due to ongoing local organiser construction works.

The report quotes the whistleblower saying they were contacted by their manager, “who on behest of the FIA president instructed him to find some concerns to prevent the FIA from certifying the circuit before the weekend of the race”.

The backdrop of these allegations is a tumultuous period for the FIA, with previous reports of Ben Sulayem’s involvement in a dispute over a race result last year. This ongoing scrutiny of the FIA’s governance and decision-making processes is a reminder of the complex interplay between the sport’s regulatory body and its stakeholders.

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In light of these events, the FIA’s internal discussions regarding the penalty issued to Fernando Alonso at the Saudi Arabian GP are particularly poignant. The organization’s ability to manage such controversies internally will be critical in maintaining its credibility and authority within the racing community.

Formula 1’s silence on the matter suggests a cautious approach as the situation unfolds. With the integrity of the sport’s governance in question, all eyes will be on how the FIA navigates these choppy waters and what implications this may have for the future of Formula 1 racing.