FIA president cleared of race interference allegations by ethics panel

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Mohammed ben Sulayem, FIA President looks on after the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 09, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been cleared of race interference allegations. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) (Clive Rose via Getty Images)

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been cleared of race interference allegations by an ethics panel.

A whistleblower had accused Ben Sulayem of interfering with the officiating in the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. The FIA president was also accused of attempting to prevent the approval of the Las Vegas Grand Prix track ahead of the inaugural 2023 event. The panel cleared him of both of those allegations and said it found no evidence of any wrongdoing.

“After reviewing the results of the inquiries, the Ethics Committee were unanimous in their determination that there was no evidence to substantiate allegations of interference of any kind involving the FIA president Moahmmed Ben Sulayem,” a statement from the FIA said.

The FIA said that 11 witnesses had been interviewed as part of its 30-day investigation.

“Allegations against the FIA president were unsubstantiated and strong evidence beyond any reasonable doubt was presented to support the determination of the FIA Ethics Committee.”

Ben Sulayem had been accused of requesting that race stewards overturn a 10-second penalty that had been given to Fernando Alonso during the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. The penalty was given to Alonso after a jack had touched his car while he was serving a five-second penalty.

The 10-second penalty was overturned after it was called after confusion over what constituted working on the car. After the race, the FIA added clarifying language to the rule that made it clear that touching a car with a jack or another piece of equipment counted as working on the car while a penalty was being served.

At Las Vegas, Ben Sulayem was accused of requesting track inspectors to find issues with the temporary street circuit so that it could be declared unsafe to race on. The Las Vegas race went on as scheduled, though the Friday sessions were marred by a loose drain cover that tore through the floor of Carlos Sainz’s car and cut practice short.