UNITED KINGDOM: FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has reminded F1 managers that “the championship is ours, and we have only rented it out” amid rising tensions between the FIA and F1 management in the ongoing war of words.
The F1 World Championship has “two popes,” according to Alpine F1 team boss Otmar Szafnauer, referring to the power struggle between the FIA and F1 administration.
The “two popes” are the FIA, motorsport’s governing body, and Liberty Media, who own the media rights to Formula 1, having purchased a controlling interest in the F1 group in mid-2017.
While the FIA’s jurisdiction is to guarantee safety and uphold the rules and regulations of the sport, the F1 group is accountable for all business undertakings.
However, the two are currently in constant conflict over practically everything to do with the game.
Strains started to climb last season when the F1 bosses clashed with the FIA over their impedance regarding porpoising.
The FIA enforced a rule change for the 2023 F1 season, while the competing teams requested an increased budget cap.
F1 was further unimpressed with the FIA’s treatment of the Italian Grand Prix and its implementation of red flags two races later, when a recovery vehicle on the track at the Japanese Grand Prix brought back memories of Jules Bianchi’s shocking 2014 accident at the same circuit.
They’ve recently disagreed over the FIA’s longing to acquire an eleventh team in Formula 1, with Ben Sulayem pushing for Andretti to join the grid.
The other teams, and F1 in general, aren’t keen on the expansion and have expressed their desire to keep the game down to ten groups.
As the contentions keep counting up, the most recent connects with an article in media reports that proposed Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund was keen on buying F1 from Liberty Media for $20 billion. The F1 bosses allegedly dismissed the proposition.
Learning of this, Ben Sulayem scrutinised the “alleged inflated price tags of $20 billion being put on F1.” His remarks incurred the wrath of the F1 bosses, who shot off a letter saying he had “overstepped the bounds of his remit.”
However, Ben Sulayem, or the FIA, controls whether Liberty Media can sell F1. They can also control who the purchaser is.
As per media reports, while “the FIA isn’t permitted to meddle in F1’s commercial choices,” the matter for F1 administration is more complex than it sounds.
Assuming the sale of privileges, the purported “Don King Clause” would come into force.
The extraordinary clause in the agreement was named after a boxing advertiser and gave the FIA a denial right should there be a potential change in F1’s ownership.
The FIA allocated the option to utilise “Formula 1” to Bernie Ecclestone back in 2000 in a 100-year deal. The ex-F1 supremo sold the rights to Liberty Media.
Ben Sulayem has made it clear: “The championship is ours; we have only rented it out.”
He added that there are just rumours of a potential deal so far. However, the FIA ought to have a say and have the option to offer counsel.
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