Senior motor racing officials have expressed a widespread sense of fatigue and dissatisfaction among Formula One teams with the sport’s governing body, the FIA.
What is seen as an increasingly fraught relationship between the teams and the FIA was further strained at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, with the body’s president Mohammed bin Sulayem criticized for a failure to lead.
F1 is enjoying a huge surge in popularity at the moment, but many in the sport are concerned that the FIA, which enforces its regulations, is proving to be more of a hindrance than a help to that growth.
At Monza last weekend, with a series of grid penalties handed down across the field, the governing body were only able to provide a grid for Sunday’s race three and a half hours after qualifying had finished, a time inexplicable to fans. Indicative of a difficult relationship with F1 – the holder of the commercial rights – the FIA claimed the suspension was due to F1’s failure to publish timing data, which F1 strongly denied.
The race itself ended behind the safety car, prompting disapproval from team principals including Red Bull and Ferrari’s Christian Horner and Mattia Binotto, while Haas’ Guenther Steiner bluntly stated: “It wasn’t handled as it should have been to become”. However, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff pointed out that the FIA had followed its regulations correctly.
Ben Suleiman took over as president in December last year and his leadership has been criticized ever since. There was irritation when the Monaco GP did not start in the rain and disappointment when the FIA failed to ban Russian drivers from racing after the invasion of Ukraine. The report on the controversial ending of the Abu Dhabi GP last year was seen by many as unsatisfactory and it is claimed that Ben Suleiman opposed the increase in the number of sprint races as a way to extract more money from F1, a charge he has denied.
The president was recently believed to have asked the FIA to be granted a motorhome of an equivalent size to that used by the teams. Sources said this was indicative of concern that Ben Sulayem placed more importance on podium appearances and appearing in matches than running his organisation. Likewise, the teams were left confused by what he was trying to do and the drivers by the failure to make the regulations clear, giving a sense that there was no coherent strategy from the chairman.
The FIA used its safety car rules quite literally in Italy, however, and did so after full and open discussions with the teams about how the safety car should be used after Abu Dhabi. , agreeing that the rules should be followed in exactly the same way, regardless of when and in which match.
The organization insisted it remained in good cooperation with F1 teams and was in every position to report any complaints.
“We run the sport in a collaborative way, as we always have,” a spokesman said. “Our processes involve all teams at all levels, any issues the teams want to raise can be addressed through the sporting and technical advisory committees, the F1 Commission and ultimately the World Motor Sport Council to make whatever changes are agreed.”