Motorsport

FIA President Under Investigation: Ben Sulayem Alleged For Revoking Alonso's Penalty In Saudi Arabian GP 2023- Reports

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been alleged to have interfered with the result of the 2023 Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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(Photo: X|Mohammed Ben Sulayem)
FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem. (Photo: X|Mohammed Ben Sulayem)
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Controversy surrounded the FIA president Mohamed Ben Sulayem as he reportedly is under investigation for interfering in a Formula 1 race. This interference perhaps, prevented Aston Martin's driver Fernando Alonso from losing his third place on the podium at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in 2023. (Formula 1 Guide| More Motorsports News)

Together, Aston Martin's engine and Fernando Alonso drove all F1 fans crazy last year, one of the best comeback it was! They began the season with a P3 finish at the Bahrain Grand Prix, followed by another strong showdown at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. However, It was tough to retain the podium trophy in Saudi as Alonso was given a 10s penalty for work done on his car while he was already serving a 5s penalty.

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This resulted in him temporarily dropping to P4, swapping with the Mercedes driver George Russell. But then the penalty was later revoked, allowing the Spaniard to reclaim his 100th podium. And, perhaps there were influential figures at play, not just the rulebook.

What is the Allegation on Mohammed Ben Sulayem?

A whistleblower informed the governing body of Formula 1 that it was Ben Sulayem who called the vice-president for the Middle East and North Africa region, Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa who was the Jeddah circuit watching the race, after which the stewards changed their decision. After that, the tides turned in the two-time world champion's favour.

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As reported by BBC, a compliance officer of FIA, Paolo Basarri filed a report to FIA's ethics committee alleging the president to have "pretended the stewards to overturn their decision".

What happened at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2023?

Fernando Alonso, third on the podium at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2023.
Fernando Alonso, third on the podium at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2023. (Photo:X|Fernando Alonso)
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One of the standout moment of the 2023 Formula 1 season was when the Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso and Mercedes driver George Russell exchanged the P3 trophy in Saudi Arab. Early in the season, when Red Bull had already adopted its dominant strategy, Aston Martin emerged as a tough rival. First at Bahrain Grand Prix and then at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Alonso stood on the podium alongside Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

However, a drama surrounded the green team at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit that day. The two-time world champion started the race from P2, but he received a 5s penalty for a wrong grid position, as pointed out by team Mercedes. Despite this, the Spaniard still managed to finish at the very special podium as it was his 100th podium finish in F1 career. Aston Martin celebrated a back-to-back achievement after a long time. Just then, the shadows appeared. It was discovered later that while serving the 5s pit stop, the AMR23 was touched by the team's jack, resulting into another 10s penalty. This transferred his trophy to the fourth placed Russell.

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Disappointed by the Stewards decision, team Aston Martin found a method to regain what was theirs. They highlighting the fact previously on seven different occasions in Formula 1 where jacks have touched their car without facing a penalty. Team's boss Mike Krack questioned on why they have to face it, and asked for the right to review the matter.

The Jeddah stewards reviewed the matter and determined that, “There was no clear agreement, as was suggested to the Stewards previously, that could be relied upon to determine that parties had agreed that a jack touching a car would amount to working on the car… In the circumstances, we considered that our original decision to impose a penalty on Car 14 needed to be reversed and we did so accordingly.”

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After a long discussion and taking in account the issue of wording problems in the rules written as well as acknowledging that McLaren, Mercedes, Alpha Tauri and even Haas had done the same thing earlier, the decision was overturned. As a result, Fernando Alonso was handed over his 100th F1 podium trophy back, Russell left empty handed, back to the P4.

The decision was taken based on the article 54.4c) of F1 rulebook, which stated that "While a car is stationary in the pit lane as a result of incurring a penalty in accordance with Articles 54.3a) or 54.3b) above, it may not be worked on until the car has been stationary for the duration of the penalty."

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Later, during the Australian Grand Prix 2023, a more detailed protocol and rules regarding the car touching penalty for future cases was released stating "In this context, touching the car or driver by hand or tools or equipment will all constitute working."

As of now, FIA has not confirmed any of the allegations made on the FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

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