F1 would end up ‘like WWF’ without the right governance – Ben Sulayem

2022 F1 season

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The FIA must “be careful” to ensure it regulates Formula 1 correctly and not allow the sport to become “like WWF”, says its president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

The governing body has faced criticism over its administration of the championship following a series of controversies. At times there have been tensions between the FIA’s enforcement of its rules and F1’s desire to maximise the spectacle.

The conclusion of the 2021 season was tainted by a row over former FIA race director Michael Masi’s failure to follow the rules during the finale, which influenced the outcome of the championship and led to his departure from the organisation. Other rows erupted during 2022 over decisions taken during races, including the delayed start to the Monaco Grand Prix, the failure to restart the Italian Grand Prix after a Safety Car deployment and the rules confusion which overshadowed this year’s championship-decider in Japan.

Ben Sulayem said administering F1 is always challenging and controversy is an inevitable part of it, but stressed the FIA must enforce the series’ rules correctly.

“Formula 1, it is the pinnacle,” he said in a press conference at the FIA Gala yesterday. “Always you will find controversy in it, you will find the challenge, the teams are up to the limit there. They always want to find the way to go. So it is a challenging… every hour is challenging there.

“And it’s healthy. It’s going so good. But you see us, as the FIA, we should also be careful. There is the side of the money, but the governance has to be right also.”

He drew a comparison to World Wrestling Entertainment, formerly known as the World Wrestling Federation. “You cannot just have it without the rules,” he said. “You cannot have it without amending it, updating it.

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“What would you end up with? Like wrestling? Like WWF, which has no governance? No, the governance has to be there.”

Ben Sulayem described his first year in charge of the federation has been enjoyable but challenging. “I knew there must be a big challenge in the FIA, improving it, updating it to the new era,” he said. “Now it’s like a telephone, if you don’t update your telephone, you will be behind. Definitely the teams, the technology is going ahead and ahead and we have to be not just up to that, but ahead of that.

“And the regulations, the finance – and the FIA inherited some of the issues from before – and you cannot take decisions without going, digging in and getting all the facts and then going further. One year has been a challenge – I’m not talking about Formula 1 – I’m talking as the FIA as a whole.”

However he stressed that the complexity of motor racing will always make it harder to administer than many other sports.

“The FIA is complex, I say. Why? Because if you look at another game, like football, I mean look at the regulations there. […] There is one goal size, there is one size of a football and there everybody is watching.

“But look at the FIA. I mean, you look at karting, imagine the regulations that goes into it. Imagine all the disciplines, forget Formula 1, go to rallying and others. So every day is a challenge, but an enjoyable challenge.”

During the evening’s trophy presentation ceremony Ben Sulayem addressed the rules confusion at Suzuka this year, insisting the FIA had been incorrectly blamed for the situation.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 20 comments on “F1 would end up ‘like WWF’ without the right governance – Ben Sulayem”

    1. I think I get what he is saying, but I don’t think he has used the best comparisons.

      “Like WWF, which has no governance?” *Triple H’s theme music plays and he comes storming down the aisle to give Ben Sulayem a piece of his mind and challenge him at Summerslam.

      WWF (he presumably hasn’t been tuning into RAW for twenty years) is full of rules and regulations, try not to drop people on their head is one, regular drug tests another. Wrestling I think treads very carefully in regards to all kinds of legal issues (insurance must be a nightmare).

      *Unless he thinks wrestling is real? And it’s just a free-for-all of punches and steel chairs.

      Football likewise, “There is one goal size, there is one size of a football”. Has he not watched the introduction of VAR? Backpass rule, handball rules changes, the awarding of certain places World Cups. FIFA’s headquarters is modelled on the War Room from Dr. Strangelove. If that isn’t governance I don’t know what is.

      I imagine the FIA is very complex once you’re inside it, and it’s one of those things that if it works, nobody notices that it’s there. So I can see that people might not appreciate the work that goes into it, but other organisations have their own challenges also.

      1. Wrestling I think treads very carefully in regards to all kinds of legal issues

        Especially since they crossed swords with the real WWF a couple of decades ago and discovered that they weren’t world anything and had only just tiptoed from their home base into the rest of the world to discover that WWF meant World Wildlife Fund.
        Prior use means a lot more than lots of shouting. Then they discovered that the organisers could be held liable for the result of dangerous actions and outside their home base the legislation of the real world means a lot more than their shouting.

        *Unless he thinks wrestling is real?

        Ooh, take care with that line – one word: “Sprints”

    2. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
      10th December 2022, 8:04

      I’m not sure what this has to do with pandas but I imagine there is plenty of regulation there.

      Unless he means WWE which changed it’s name 20 years ago.

    3. Haha, this one is too easy to respond to. Ben is a comedian

    4. At least wrestling knows what it wants to be and who it wants to appeal to most.
      WW(E) know they are an entertainment show and are mighty proud of it – whereas F1 still hasn’t figured out just how far from sport it has drifted. ‘Sport’ isn’t even in the top 3 on their list of priorities.

      1. This is a good point. F1 drives should race (and transmit data to TV coverage) with heart rate monitors (that are also capable of measuring breathing frequency – breath per minute along with heart beats per minute) and more sensors for physical strain, like G-force during turns, etc. This data would show how much excertion, physical effort goes when racing a F1 car. Imagine a driver trying a pass with a heart rate above his average for the previous laps… thrilling

    5. …and instead we have the FIA, so it’s run like lottery

    6. One thing he could learn from the WWE (sic) is how not to price fans out of attending events.

    7. It already is the WWE of motor”sport”. Look no father than the Miami and Los Wages GP.

    8. Coventry Climax
      10th December 2022, 12:35

      And who again, decided this was the right man for the job?
      ‘Show’ as in ‘Comedy’ now?

    9. The FIA could learn a great deal about effective governance from WWE. Instead they seemingly strive to emulate FIFA.

    10. Yeah, F1 could end up like WWE did dealing with Saudi Arabia, if they aren’t careful.

    11. Not sure what the argument is here. The FIA should uphold and enforce its rules… yeah. That’d be great if they did so. But the only ones stopping them from doing so are the FIA themselves. Let’s not forget the FIA picks the stewards, and everyone who cares to notice knows that they don’t pick people who are sticklers for the rules. That’s not a coincidence.

      As Haas so theatrically and amusingly demonstrated in Texas, rules in F1 are very flexible and that’s because the FIA wants to facilitate the big teams and the show. F1 is their moneymaker, and the more big manufacturers join the more money goes around. Everyone wins. F1 merely tolerates the likes of Haas, Sauber and Williams so none of the big players has to finish last and look silly. Just compare how long uncompetitive manufacturer teams like Renault, McLaren and Aston Martin stick around in F1 with how quickly other manufacturers get out of sportscars when they actually end up last and mocked. Since all the amateur teams there race in lower categories, there isn’t any room to pretend they’re in ‘the midfield’.

      As for WWE, they’re putting on a great show. Adults watching WWE know it’s not a real sport, just like people who watch Amazon Prime know there aren’t really magic rings coming out of volcanoes. WWE knows what it is, and doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

    12. So he is trying to imply that it is not run in the same manner? The WWE manipulates the circumstances for a desired outcome? Perhaps Ben should watch the end of the 2021 last race a few more times!

      1. How true. Ben needs some self awareness.

    13. Paul Stuart Bernard
      10th December 2022, 21:21

      It became it at the culmination of last season.

    14. Is Benny Boy kidding? It turned into a WWE-esque choreographed pantomime the moment Yankee Liberty Media cried “Yee Hah” and rode in on their white elephant (or was it a donkey?). F1 is now little more than a corrupt, scripted money-making farce.

    15. The FIA decided not to award penalty points to Gasly in Brazil.

      And Brawn wrote a set of rules that suited another old man to the ‘T’.

      Yes folks, and ‘Ben’, F1 (thanks to the FIA) is a choreographed performance, just less dramatic this year than last.

    16. How can you say that the most regulated and predetermined theatrical show has no rules?
      Wwf is nothing but rules.

      How can one be so ignorant and have such a high standing within a sporting organization…

    17. Too late. Ross Brown obsession with “entertainment” made sure of that.

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