In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem addressed numerous topics from Michael Andretti’s bid to land a Formula One team, the existing Concorde Agreement with F1, Red Bull’s dominance and the Super License system:
RED BULL RUNAWAY
Red Bull heads into the British Grand Prix this weekend undefeated through all nine races this season, with two-time reigning world champion Max Verstappen on a five-race winning streak. He has seven wins, while teammate Sergio Perez has won the other two races.
The Red Bull dominance has created a lackluster season — even with F1 enjoying a surge of interest in the U.S. market — but Ben Sulayem said he does not believe it is something F1’s governing body needs to address.
“If we go about what’s good and bad we’ll open the door. I mean, was it good for Mercedes? Fair enough?” Ben Sulayem said. “It is (Verstappen’s) time, it’s Red Bull’s time. What do we do and punish the good kid? No, let’s go and make the other teams good. Nobody’s stopping the other teams from being better. We cannot punish people for being better, for trying harder. That is unfair.”
A driver must have a Super License from the FIA to compete in F1 and the points structure has been prohibitive to those from the IndyCar Series in the U.S. trying to make the jump. The FIA last year briefly considered an exemption for American driver Colton Herta, who has been under discussion for F1 seats and would likely move to the series with Andretti Global should Michael Andretti be granted a team.
Herta was not given an exemption and the 10 F1 teams would prefer the FIA reassess how it values IndyCar moving forward.
Ben Sulayem said: “We look at it from the safety side, and we look at the credibility and we look at the rules. If we see the rules are no good, we cannot break them. We grow and we improve them. We evolve with the demand and the changes of the world. If we see that we need to have change the points, then we will look into something. But we cannot just change it and make a special exemption because if something happens to anyone, it is always the FIA is responsible. I am here to protect and serve, and if our system needs to be improved, and we think it is the right thing, then we improve it.”
The FIA is actively trying to quell online abuse and it has become a pet project for Ben Sulayem.
The governing body in March outlined a “sustained and collaborative approach the FIA will adopt in confronting online toxicity.” The project has the multiple governments as well as the European Commission, motorcyling’s governing body and the organization responsible for match officials in English professional soccer.
The FIA is using artificial intelligence to detect and remove abusive content on its channels, and competitors have been told they must be considerate of how their social media commentary impacts officials. Ben Sulayem cited a female race steward — a volunteer — who received death threats from fans directed at both her and her family.
“This is something that I raised my hand about last year because if we don’t have the volunteers, we don’t have a sport,” he said. “This is important for us, this issue is just an attack and if we do not stand up for this, our sport will be beyond repair.”
Jenna Fryer, The Associated Press