August 16, 2022

Mohammed Ben Sulayem has recently appeared to question the activism of former world champions Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel; FIA president sought clarification ahead of weekend’s Azerbaijan GP; watch the F1 season continue all weekend, live on Sky Sports F1 in Baku

Last update: 22/06/09 13:54

Mohammed Ben Sulayem oversees his first F1 season as FIA president

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has insisted he supports the promotion of ‘diversity and inclusion’ by Formula 1 drivers, following his controversial remarks about Lewis Hamilton’s activism and Sebastian Vettel.

Former rally driver Ben Sulayem, who is overseeing his first F1 season as FIA president after being elected in December last year, has questioned the merits of fellow former world champion Hamilton Vettel and Lando Norris using their platforms to speak out on non-sporting matters. .

In an interview with GrandPrix247 at the Monaco GP last month, Ben Sulayem described motorsport as “too political”, before highlighting Vettel’s promotion of LGBTQ+ rights, Hamilton’s activism on rights issues rights and Norris’ attempts to encourage conversations about mental health, and likening the trio to former world champions Niki Lauda and Alain Prost, who he said were “only interested in driving” .

With the drivers due to face the media on Friday ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, for the first time since Ben Sulayem’s comments were published, the Emiratis took to social media on Thursday in an apparent attempt to clarify his words.

“As a pilot, I have always believed in sport as a catalyst for progress in society,” Ben Sulayem said on Twitter.

“That’s why promoting sustainability, diversity and inclusion is a key priority of my tenure. Equally, I appreciate the commitment of all the drivers and champions for a better future.”

In the interview published on June 3, Ben Sulayem was asked what Formula 1 should not become.

“Niki Lauda and Alain Prost were only interested in driving,” he said. “Now Vettel rides a rainbow bike, Lewis is passionate about human rights and Norris talks about mental health. Everyone has the right to think. For me, it’s about deciding whether we have to impose our beliefs in something on the sport all the time.

“I am of Arab culture. I am international and Muslim. I do not impose my beliefs on others? No way! Never. If you look at how I operate in the UAE: 16 nationalities! Name me a federation that has as many nationalities.

“In addition, there are more than 34% women and seven religions. And even more Christians than Muslims. I am proud because it creates credibility and merit.

“But am I going to lay down my convictions? No. The rules are there, even now there are issues regarding – for example – jewelry, I didn’t write that.”

“Unfortunate time for comments”

Sky Sports News’ Craig Slater revealed on Thursday that the FIA ​​had insisted its president was “under no circumstances” trying to put an end to driver activism.

However, Slater said the timing of Ben Sulayem’s comments was “unfortunate”, with several teams, including Hamilton’s Mercedes, currently supporting the LGBTQ+ community with features on their car livery during Pride Month.

“They seem to have come at an unfortunate time, these comments,” Slater said.

“The FIA ​​has told me that the FIA ​​President has no wish to end driver activism in any way.

“They said he was expressing a personal opinion as a regulator of sport. For him, in terms of message, sport should come first.

“But he was also trying to explain that his organization, the one he leads, is, in his view, aligned with those causes to make the sport more diverse – in terms of having a kind of neutrality on ethnicity, a mixture of religion.”