Mohammed Ben Sulayem elected FIA president

Perhaps if there was a time to leave your post as FIA president, now would be the time given the storm that is sure to follow from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix incident. So after 12 years at the helm of the motorsport governing body, Jean Todt steps down.

The FIA Prize-giving Gala, or what we in the US might call and awards ceremony, Jean made his final statements and it was touching to hear him wish Michael Schumacher could have been present.

Jean was not cut from the same cloth as previous FIA president Max Mosley. He did not approach the role in the same manor and for the first few years he seemed to merely be orbiting the role such was Max’s day-to-day involvement.

It was a refreshing approach on some level as Max was electrostatic at this point in his career but there were several occasions where Jean refused to get involved where in the past, Mosely would very much have inserted himself for the continuity of the sport.

The FIA is a machine and if you are not familiar with how it works, I would urge you to read Mosley’s autobiography or other sources to get a glimpse of how the organization functions. There are both positive and negative elements to it, much like any organization, but in particular it is interesting how elections are held.

We interviewed Ari Vatanen when he ran against Jean Todt a few years ago and it was very eye-opening on how the politics work inside this organization. It was a very contentious election and Mosley was heavily involved, having just faced a vote of confidence himself, and Vatanen was very critical.

Now the FIA have a new president with a commanding 61% of the vote. As Jean trots off into the sunset, what will the new president face with the fallout from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Mercedes very keen for a complete overhaul and how will he retain the control and legal oversight of world motorsport? There is a lot on his plate and in some way, as it pertains to Formula 1, Todt has left a bit of a dumpster fire for Mohammed to put out.

Official FIA Press release:

He received 61,62% of the votes from FIA Member Clubs to Britain’s Graham Stoker’s 36,62% and abstenstions were 1,76%, and will therefore succeed Frenchman Jean Todt, who was President since 2009 and served the maximum three terms possible.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, 60, from United Arab Emirates, President of the Emirates Motorsports Organisation (EMSO) since 2005, was FIA World Motor Sport Council Vice President for Middle East. Former Rally driver, he was 14-time FIA Middle East Rally Champion, winning 61 international events from 1983 to 2002. He campaigned under the banner “FIA for Members”, committing to double motor sport participation worldwide, strengthen diversity and inclusion and be a leading opinion-former on sustainable mobility.

Elected for a four-year term, he appointed Carmelo Sanz de Barros as President of the Senate, Robert Reid as Deputy President for Sport and Tim Shearman as Deputy President for Mobility.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, new FIA President, said: “I am very honoured to have been elected FIA President at the conclusion of the Annual General Assembly in Paris today. I thank all the Member Clubs for their esteem and trust. I congratulate Graham for his campaign and his engagement to the Federation. I wish to express my infinite gratitude in the name of the FIA and that of its Members to Jean Todt for all that has been achieved over the past 12 years. I am committed to pursuing the important work and make motor sport and mobility take further steps forward.”

Jean Todt, former FIA President, said: “A chapter has come to an end. We can be collectively satisfied of our achievements in motor sport and safe and sustainable mobility over the past 12 years. I would like to warmly thank my team, our administration and all our Member Clubs for their unwavering commitment, enthusiasm and resilience. I congratulate Mohammed on his election as FIA President and wish him, his team, and the Federation the best of success for the years to come.”

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Well, at least he’s an ex-racer!
I had thought Jean Todt would have been more effective, especially following his excellent managerial skills at Ferrari… but I guess the Peter Principle kicked in. His wife was increasingly absent from F1 events, so maybe the writing was on the wall.