Formula One governing body speaks out as president investigated over alleged interference in F1 race

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem speaks with current world champion Max Verstappen. Credit: AP

Formula One’s regulator has broken its silence on claims surrounding president Mohammed Ben Sulayem by admitting a report “detailing potential allegations involving certain members of its governing body” exists.

Ben Sulayem is reportedly under investigation for interfering with the result of last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and attempting to block the certification of the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Regulator Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile said in a statement on Tuesday: “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.”

According to the BBC, a report by motorsport governing body’s compliance officer Paolo Basarri to the ethics committee says Ben Sulayem acted to overturn a penalty given to Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso at the 2023 Saudi Grand Prix.

The FIA boss reportedly tried to overturn a penalty given to Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso (pictured) last year. Credit: PA

A whistleblower alleged Ben Sulayem called Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa – FIA vice-president for sport for the Middle East and North Africa region, who was in Saudi Arabia for the race in an official capacity – and made it clear he thought Alonso’s penalty should be revoked, a BBC report published on Monday claims

The removal of Alonso’s 10-second penalty, imposed for work done on his car while he was serving a previous five-second penalty, returned him to the podium behind Red Bull duo Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen, after the sanction had dropped him to fourth.

At the time there was no suggestion there was anything untoward with the decision after Aston Martin’s sporting director Andy Stevenson had put the team’s case to stewards in a right of review.

On Tuesday a further allegation – also published in a BBC report – said Ben Sulayem had told officials not to certify the Las Vegas circuit for its Grand Prix last year.

An FIA spokesperson told the BBC: “From a sporting and safety perspective, the Las Vegas circuit approval followed FIA protocol in terms of inspection and certification.

“If you recall, there was a delay in the track being made available for inspection due to ongoing local organiser construction works.”

The sport is embroiled in scandal as Red Bull's Christian Horner faces calls that he should be ousted after being cleared of "inappropriate behaviour" towards a female colleague.

After Horner was cleared, the alleged WhatsApp messages between him and a woman were leaked, plunging the team boss deeper into hot water.

Despite the controversy, he and wife Geri Halliwell put on a united front at the season opener on Saturday.

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