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F1 team bosses warn against 'prejudging' FIA president amid investigation

Formula 1 team bosses have warned against ‘prejudging’ FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem until a full investigation has been conducted regarding claims that he interfered with championship officiating.

Mohammed bin Sulayem, President, FIA

Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images

As first reported by the BBC, a whistleblower has come forward with two claims against Ben Sulayem.

The first accusation is that he attempted to get a penalty overturned in last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, when Fernando Alonso was reprimanded for Aston Martin having prematurely touched his car during a pitstop when he was already serving a five-second penalty for incorrectly lining up at the race start.

Ultimately, the team successfully protested the penalty and Alonso was reinstated in third.

However, it is said that Ben Sulayem called FIA vice-president for sport in the Middle East and North Africa, Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and made it clear he thought the penalty should be revoked.

The second case against Ben Sulayem is that he put pressure on officials to not homologate the Las Vegas GP street circuit ahead of last November’s blue-riband event for F1.

The FIA has issued a statement in response, which reads: "The FIA confirms that the Compliance Officer has received a report detailing potential allegations involving certain members of its governing bodies.

"The Compliance Department is assessing these concerns, as is common practice in these matters, to ensure that due process is meticulously followed."

Bruno Famin, Team Principal, Alpine F1 Team, Mike Krack, Team Principal, Aston Martin F1 Team, James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing, Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

Bruno Famin, Team Principal, Alpine F1 Team, Mike Krack, Team Principal, Aston Martin F1 Team, James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing, Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Addressing the claims in Saudi Arabia, F1 team bosses cautioned against the governing body president being judged before all the facts have come to light.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who has also been at the centre of an investigation after claims were made against him of inappropriate behaviour by a female employee, said: “I think the one thing that I've seen and learned certainly from any investigation is that don't pre-empt the facts.

“There needs to be an investigation. I'm sure the relevant parties and again, the process that they have within the statutes of the FIA, will be followed.

“All I would urge is don't prejudge. Wait for the facts. Wait to see what is the reality before coming to a judgement.”

Williams F1 chief James Vowles shared that sentiment, saying: “I'm pleased to see is there is a process in place to review it, and I think we should be judged not by the moment we are in now, but in the future once we look back at that. I think for now, as far as I understand, it's in review, which is the right thing.”

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Mike Krack reckoned, as far as his Aston Martin team was concerned, the “whole matter is clear and closed” given the squad followed the FIA Right to Review process to overturn the Saudi penalty.

“We were one of the involved parties,” he said. “I think it can be re-read in the stewards’ documents how the whole process was.

“We executed the right of review. We brought new evidence, and the penalty was taken out. So, I think from their point of view, for us, the whole matter is clear and closed.”

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