Ben Sulayem accused of mishandling sexism complaints

I’m unclear on what exactly is happening over at the FIA but president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is facing new charges of sexism in his organization. It seems that former interim secretary general for motorsport, Shaila-Ann Rao, had made the complaints to Ben Sulayem and the president of the FIA senate, Carmelo Sanz de Barros, about instances of sexist behavior at the FIA, She also said that the complaint was not investigated properly.

Shaila-Ann Rao left her role abruptly in December. She was also heavily tied to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff in the press as a former attorney for him. According the Daily Telegraph and The Guardian, this has prompted the FIA to comment saying:

“With regards to the specific allegations surrounding Shaila-Ann Rao, due process was followed, with an amicable negotiation conducted by the president of the senate and, as such, no referrals were made to the ethics committee. As previously stated, both parties agreed she would leave her position in November 2022 and mutual privacy terms were agreed as is common business practice,”

“With regards to the other allegations, there have been no complaints received against the president. Should the FIA ethics committee or compliance officer receive any complaint from a member of staff it will be dealt with in a comprehensive manner by our panel of independent elected ethics committee members which has been in place since 2012.”

The Article over at the guardian gets more personal saying that a paddock insider said, “He is, sadly, an open and running joke in the paddock”.

These are harsh words but if I’m honest, I can see where the feeling may come from given his antics since taking the helm at the FIA. I’ve suggested in previous editorial pieces that I’m curious if he is miscast for the play to be honest.

If you read the Federalist Papers here in the US about the founding of our nation and constitution, you’ll most likely come across a particular passage that I have always considered. In a nutshell, it says that the framework was being crafted to protect future generations because it was understood that eventually not everyone who held office within the government or as an elected official would be statesmen. They were right.

I wonder if there isn’t an element of that playing out here. Max Mosley was a barrister, Jean Todt a measured and collegial Frenchman. Ben Sulayem seems miles from the measured and legally sound presidents of the past. He seems more surprised than anyone that he got the job and doesn’t miss a chance to be on TV. He even participated in the post-race driver weigh-ins—when’s the last time you saw an FIA president reading the scale and mugging for the camera?

I fear there may be some that feel he is going through the motions and playin pretend in his role as FIA president while not being remotely qualified for the demanding role. I do not know if that is true but if it is, then the FIA should have considered that when vetting candidates for the election—who knows, maybe they can’t control who is and who isn’t nominated but I suspect they can.

Several years ago I interviewed FIA president candidate Ari Vatenen back in 2009 and he was a very serious candidate for the job. Max Mosley knew this and endorsed Jean Todt on the FIA letterhead from his office. I wish the FIA would have offered a strong voice like Ari’s this last time and maybe we wouldn’t be in this predicament.

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