Ben Sulayem on what he would do as FIA president

FIA presidential candidate Mohammed ben Sulayem believes there are opportunities to make motorsport bigger at all levels if costs can be made more affordable for competitors.

In an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com talking about his vision if he is successful in this year's election, the former world rally driver sees great opportunities for all the member clubs of motor racing's governing body.

"I want to grow the FIA," he said. "I think there is potential. I feel there is potential to grow the competition.

"The FIA relies on two pillars: you have motorsport and you have mobility. The mobility, there are the motorists who we have to take care of, there is the environment and there is also the road safety. That all goes hand in hand.

"In motorsport, we have to grow the numbers and I believe whether it is in Latin America or if it is in India, or if it is in China, or any other place in Africa, there is a lot of potential.

"How to grow it is first of all to make it affordable. Today the sport is expensive. Even go-karting is very expensive. You can see people would spend $300,000 dollars for a full season for a young driver. Competition costs that much."

Ben Sulayem thinks that reducing costs at all levels of motorsport is essential if categories are going to thrive in the future – and the FIA can devote resources to achieving this.

"No one denies that F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport in the FIA, but the FIA is not only F1, otherwise it will be only limited to certain areas. What about regional championships? We don't want them to die.

"The only way to improve is to protect the regional championships. And protecting them is actually to make sure they are affordable. The rules are not there to restrict, the rules are there to save and also to grow with them, to serve them.

"I saw our championship in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, it went up and down. And that was always because we were not innovative. The differences between the cost of a team like mine, compared to the team in last place, was a huge amount of money.

"But if we make it a bit of a balance, with equality and so that nobody can come there with millions of dollars and buy the best car to win, there will not exist a big gap."

Looking at F1

Ben Sulayem thinks that F1's current owners Liberty Media did an incredible job in keeping grand prix racing going during the coronavirus pandemic, but he still thinks there are opportunities to make the sport better.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, and Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, prepare to lead the field away at the start

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, and Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, prepare to lead the field away at the start

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

"As a sportsman and part of the motorsport society, I congratulate Liberty and the teams for, against all of these restrictions, having a safe non-stop championship last year," he said.

"We know the pandemic is just horrendous, so to have a huge mobilisation and logistics with F1, this is something to say to them: 'well done on this'.

"Having said that, the challenges with F1 we have to address are that we have to listen to our partners and we have to go on with the future.

"The main challenge I feel is definitely the cost cap. It's the way to go, but the cost cap has to be also not just specific to certain parts of a team.

"I believe in [it covering] the whole team. And the whole team includes the engineering, the amount of testing and a lot of things, including the drivers, including a lot of things. And that would create a competition.

"I don't feel that anyone would like to go on and watch just two or three teams fighting and then the rest are lapped. That's not a competition and that's not what the teams want themselves.

"I believe in creating a good technical department in the FIA and to empower it, and to have also much bigger dialogue with the members and with the teams."

He added: "I enjoy a very good relationship with Formula 1. I have been the sporting organiser of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with my team since 2009, and I've seen how to grow an event and how to sustain it.

"I can see what issues there are and what they're looking for in the future. I've been talking to them. I've been talking to Toto Wolff about how we can sustain it.

"Motorsport is not just a competition, it's an entertainment and a business. And unless we have a plan, we will fail."

Todt praise

Ben Sulayem has also praised the job that current FIA president Jean Todt has done during his tenure,  and says he hopes to carry on some of his work, while also focusing on different areas too.

Jean Todt, President, FIA

Jean Todt, President, FIA

Photo by: FIA

"I was one of the biggest supporters of Jean in the first campaign as vice president and I am still," he said.

"Definitely Jean has been a great president of the FIA for eleven and a half years, up to now.

"Among other topics, he has focused on road safety globally. And he genuinely supports that, he believes in it and that legacy has to go also in the future, because you're talking about road safety. It is extremely important, especially in developing countries.

"I do intend to create better and affordable pathways for young drivers. That's the change. You cannot just repeat what the previous president did, it won't work. The challenges are different. As I said, the landscape is changing but you will not divert me from the main thing: to create better and affordable pathways for young people."

Ben Sulayem is currently going up against Graham Stoker for the FIA's top job, and hopes the election campaign is conducted in the right manner.

"I welcome the challenge and the opportunity of comparing our ideas to those of his team," he said.

"I just hope that we will run a fair and transparent campaign. And we actually will look forward to winning and making the FIA a world leading sporting federation in terms of governance and innovative thinking."

shares
comments
Motorsport Network becomes official motorsport partner of the IAA MOBILITY in Munich
Previous article

Motorsport Network becomes official motorsport partner of the IAA MOBILITY in Munich

Next article

Aston Martin Valkyrie's public debut stoppage caused by £5 part

Aston Martin Valkyrie's public debut stoppage caused by £5 part
Load comments
The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under Prime

The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under

Joey Mawson made waves in the middle of the last decade, beating future Haas Formula 1 driver Mick Schumacher - among other highly-rated talents - to the 2016 German F4 title. A run in F1's feeder GP3 category only caused his career to stall, but now back in Australia Mawson's S5000 title success has set that to rights

General
May 20, 2021
Why Todt’s FIA successor could be cut from the same cloth Prime

Why Todt’s FIA successor could be cut from the same cloth

Jean Todt has signalled that he will not stand for re-election as FIA president. Mark Gallagher analyses the strong credentials of one potential successor…

General
May 2, 2021
The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing Prime

The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing

OPINION: The greed-driven push for a European Super League that threatened to tear football apart is collapsing at the seams. Motor racing's equivalent, the football-themed Superleague Formula series of 2008-11, was everything that the proposed ESL never could be.

General
Apr 21, 2021
The real-life racing rogues stranger than fiction Prime

The real-life racing rogues stranger than fiction

The forthcoming Netflix film linking the world of underworld crime and motorsport plays on a theme that isn't exactly new. Over the years, several shady figures have attempted to make it in racing before their dubious dealings caught up with them.

General
Jan 31, 2021
The cherished curios kept by motorsport's professionals at home Prime

The cherished curios kept by motorsport's professionals at home

Keeping trophies and momentos of key triumphs is par for the course for motorsport professionals, but what are the most cherished souvenirs picked up by the drivers and engineers who have seen and done it all?

General
Dec 26, 2020
Why motorsport should consider a mid-week future Prime

Why motorsport should consider a mid-week future

International motorsport has been the preserve of weekends, but the pandemic forced Formula E to get creative with its Berlin season finale as four races were held mid-week. Should FE and other series break with tradition and repeat the experiment?

General
Oct 5, 2020
How pragmatic principles made Ron Tauranac a design legend Prime

How pragmatic principles made Ron Tauranac a design legend

Jack Brabham's 1966 world championship campaign in his eponymous car was also a defining moment in the career of designer Ron Tauranac, who would apply the same ethos to his ultra-successful production racing car business, Ralt.

General
Jul 23, 2020
The ingrained failure motorsport must fix to avoid 'turf wars' Prime

The ingrained failure motorsport must fix to avoid 'turf wars'

OPINION: The FIA has warned that the major motorsport championships must not get engaged in 'turf wars' when it comes to the urgent need to re-organising the 2020 calendars, but there are tedious past problems that must be addressed to satisfy all.

General
May 3, 2020