I’ve never backed FIA chief Mohammed ben Sulayem – Lewis Hamilton

By Sports Desk March 21, 2024

Lewis Hamilton said he has never supported Formula One’s ruler Mohammed ben Sulayem – and believes the sport is sending out a “message that if you file a complaint, you will be fired” amid the Christian Horner controversy.

Ben Sulayem, elected as FIA president in December 2021, was cleared by his own organisation’s ethics committee on Wednesday after he was accused of meddling with the result of last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and attempting to block the certification of F1’s £500m Las Vegas Grand Prix on the Strip in November.

But four hours later, on another whirlwind day in the controversy-hit world of F1, Susie Wolff announced she has filed a criminal complaint against the FIA following the sporting federation’s conflict of interest inquiry into her and husband Toto, the team principal of Hamilton’s Mercedes team, in December.

Earlier this month, Christian Horner’s accuser was suspended on full pay in the wake of Red Bull’s investigation into alleged “inappropriate behaviour” by the F1 team principal. The employee of the Milton Keynes team has since appealed against the decision to exonerate Horner.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton was asked if 62-year-old Emirati Ben Sulayem remains the right person in charge of the FIA and if he still has his backing.

“He never has,” said Hamilton. The seven-time world champion was then asked for his thoughts on Wolff’s decision to launch legal action.

“Firstly, I’m incredibly proud of Susie,” said the seven-time world champion. “I think she is so brave, and she stands for such great values.

“She’s such a leader and in a world where often people are silenced, for her to be standing up sends such a great message.

“There is a real lack of accountability here, within this sport, within the FIA.

“There are things that are happening behind closed doors, there is no transparency, there is really no accountability and we need that. The fans need that. How can you trust the sport and what is happening here if you don’t have that?

“So, hopefully this stand that she’s taking now will create change, will have a positive impact, and especially for women. It is still a male-dominated sport, and we’re living in a time where the message is if you file a complaint, you will be fired, and that is a terrible narrative to be projecting to the world, especially when we’re talking about inclusivity here in the sport. We need to make sure we stay true to the core values.”

The probe into the Wolffs arose at the end of last year after a report in Business F1 magazine claimed that other team principals were concerned Susie’s husband Toto was benefiting from information shared by his wife, who runs the all-female F1 Academy series.

Two days after the FIA announced its compliance department was “looking into” the allegations, the federation said it “can confirm that there is no ongoing investigation in terms of ethical or disciplinary inquiries involving any individual”. At the time, Susie, 41, described the allegations as “intimidatory and misogynistic”.

And on Wednesday, she wrote on social media: “I can confirm that I personally filed a criminal complaint in the French courts on the 4th of March in relation to the statements made about me by the FIA last December.

“There has still not been any transparency or accountability in relation to the conduct of the FIA and its personnel in this matter.

“I feel more than ever it is important to stand up, call out improper behaviour and make sure people are held to account. Whilst some may think silence absolves them from responsibility – it does not.”

The FIA has been approached for a comment.

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    Max Verstappen claimed his fourth Spanish Grand Prix triumph in Barcelona as he continues to increase his lead at the summit of the F1 driver's championship. 

    Having started second on the grid after Lando Norris snatched pole position from his grasp on the last lap of qualifying, the three-time world champion wasted no time in overtaking the McClaren driver. 

    However, George Russell raced around the outside to take the lead in the race going into the first corner, having started fourth on the grid. 

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    2. Lando Norris (McLaren)

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    4. George Russell (Mercedes)

    5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

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