The president of FIA stands by his sexist statements and refutes allegations of displaying inhumane misogyny.
The FIA’s president, Mohammed ben Sulayem, has stood by previous comments made on his personal website that were seen as sexist. He reportedly expressed disdain for women who believe they are more intelligent than men. He also shared that he faced racism while running for the position of FIA president.
During an interview, the 62-year-old leader of motor sport, who was elected in December 2021, strongly refuted accusations of sexism and stated that he had been subjected to a cruel slander campaign.
Ben Sulayem drew parallels between Lewis Hamilton’s controversial loss in the 2021 championship and England’s victory in the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany. He referenced Sir Geoff Hurst’s disputed goal, and reiterated his belief that Michael Masi, who has been accused of denying Hamilton an eighth world title, may make a comeback in the sport.
In January, a statement was found on Ben Sulayem’s previous website stating that he disapproves of women who believe they are more intelligent than men. The FIA stated that these comments, dating back to 2001, do not align with the president’s beliefs.
But in my own response to the comments, Ben Sulayem stated: “What if I did say it? Let’s imagine that it was me. I will tell you exactly what was said. It was: ‘I dislike it when women believe they are more intelligent than us’. But they also dislike it when men believe they are smarter than them.”
“Did I claim that we are more intelligent? No. Did I claim that they are less intelligent? No. If those are the only accusations against me, then please continue with your criticisms. Anyone can review the statements I have made and see if I have made any derogatory remarks about women. As the president of FIA for 117 years, I am proud to have appointed a female CEO, Natalie Robyn. I also established the commission for equality, diversity and inclusion, and brought on Tanya Kutsenko as an advisor.”
“There is disrespect to women if you say we have to have 30% [female staff]. You bring them in on merit and credibility. And that is why they are there. Look at Bernie Ecclestone’s wife [Fabiana Ecclestone, vice‑president for sport in South America]. She is one of the most active. They said that I brought her in because of the support from Bernie. But Bernie doesn’t have any connection with any votes. He has no power over them.”
In February, Ben Sulayem made the unprecedented choice to step away from his role overseeing F1 operations on a daily basis. This was due to conflicts with Liberty Media, the American owner of the sport, regarding the addition of an 11th team and doubts about the value of F1.
One month later, his son Saif passed away in a car accident in Dubai. In April, more accusations were brought to light when the Daily Telegraph published a report stating that Shaila-Ann Rao, the former temporary secretary general for motorsport at FIA, wrote a letter accusing Ben Sulayem of behaving in a sexist manner.
According to Ben Sulayem, when the position of CEO became available, Shaila-Ann expressed interest in taking on the role. However, I didn’t want to interfere and told her to go through the application process. We received 150 applications and all of them went through the same process.
Ben Sulayem grabbed his phone and showed a WhatsApp message purportedly from Rao, expressing gratitude for being hosted at the Italian Grand Prix this year. He stated, “I have no comment to make, but this message is from September. Sexism? Really? Is that all they have? Why don’t they confront me in person?”
The president of the FIA stated that the incident earlier this year was cruel, considering the personal hardship it caused. They expressed a desire for anyone who accused them of wrongdoing to have a conversation and confront them directly, rather than making false claims and then avoiding the opportunity to prove them wrong. Such behavior is not acceptable.
After Jean Todt stepped down, Ben Sulayem took over the position five days after the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi, where Hamilton was controversially denied his eighth world title. The race official, Masi, made a mistake by not following the proper rules, resulting in Hamilton being at the mercy of Max Verstappen. Verstappen went on to win the championship in Abu Dhabi and then continued his winning streak with two more titles in his dominant Red Bull. Since then, Hamilton has not been able to secure a race victory.
After further investigation by the FIA, “human error” was determined to be the cause and Masi was subsequently removed from his position. However, the governing body did not publicly apologize to Hamilton.
“I constantly apologize, but I cannot take responsibility for something that happened before I was involved,” stated Ben Sulayem. “I understand that I need to make an apology, but I will also have Michael Masi present. Do you believe that is the appropriate course of action?”
“The unfortunate individual was subjected to physical assault and mistreatment. Michael Masi endured a great deal of hardship. And if I come across a chance where the FIA requires assistance and Michael Masi is the suitable candidate, I will recommend him.”
I faced death threats because I had the ability to alter the outcome. However, I reminded them that during the 1966 World Cup, England played against Germany and the result remained the same. Germany did not receive the victory.