Mohammed ben Sulayem has decided to quit the hands-on running of the governing body amid tensions with F1 chiefs. The FIA boss said he would only concentrate on “strategic matters” with head of single-seaters, Nikolas Tombazis taking over the “day-to-day” running.
However, it is understood Ben Sulayem will remain in his role as FIA president despite calls for him to resign. It comes after strained relations between the FIA and F1 after a series of conflicts on the eve of the new season.
Ben Sulayem revealed the new approach in an apparent letter to team bosses. According to the Daily Mail, it reads “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.”
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F1 lawyers also threatened legal action against the FIA after Ben Sulayem suggested a possible £16billion ($20b) Saudi Arabian takeover bid was “inflated”. They claimed that F1 had the “exclusive” right to exploit the commercial rights but this was challenged by Ben Sulayem who claimed the series was only on loan.
The two sides have also clashed over the future direction of the series with Ben Sulayem opening expressions of interest for new teams and backing Andretti’s bid. This comes despite reservations from team bosses who fear any new entrants could “dilute” the sport.
Sky Sports pundit Karun Chandhok has admitted the relationship between the two sides is not in a good place with just weeks to go before the first race in Bahrain.
He commented: “I think certainly the relationship is on the edge at the moment between the FIA and Formula One. I think publicly last year they were playing nice, although we all know from within the paddock and behind the scenes it was all getting a bit fractious.”