Ben Sulayem took over control of motor racing’s governing body just days after the scandal of last year’s F1 season finale, when the sport faced accusations of the title outcome having been manipulated.
The decision by F1 race director Michael Masi to selectively pick drivers to unlap themselves during a late race safety car, allied to the timing of the restart, left a dark cloud over the sport.
Although the FIA promised total transparency from an investigation it launched into what happened, the lack of depth of its eventual published findings, plus questions about why Masi was not formally interviewed and had been requested to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), left unease that things had not been dealt with as thoroughly as they should have.
Speaking to selected media, including Motorsport.com, at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday, Ben Sulayem explained that it was probably not ideal for him to have had to face such a serious matter so soon into his presidency.
However, he reckoned that major changes he has made within the FIA since have worked in increasing openness of the governing body. He suggests more changes are being made to improve things further.
Asked if the FIA should have done a better job in its Abu Dhabi report and transparency, Ben Sulayem said: “I see your point. But then if you look at the report that we did, with the NDA, that was transparent.”
He added: “I inherited something. And I will say no blame game. But when I got it, I’m just learning more about the transparency.
“I had to make a change in my management. So there have been some changes. There has been changes of the Secretary General of Sport, there have been changes in a lot of issues. And now we are again doing some changes because we are evolving.”
Ben Sulayem fully understands why there were concerns about the Abu Dhabi report, but believes that now he has been in his job for longer, things have advanced much more.
Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG, with Mohammed bin Sulayem, President, FIA
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
He cites the example of the swift investigation and response to the unease that was caused at this year’s Japanese Grand Prix when a crane was sent out onto the wet track early in the race.
“I see your point in saying, at that time, maybe the [Abu Dhabi] report was not enough. But the transparency, that was a good attempt of the transparency.
“Now, if you see every time we have an issue:…