(AP) – The FIA on Tuesday confirmed its compliance officer has received two complaints “detailing potential allegations involving certain members of its governing body” in seeming reference to recent whistleblower claims against the president of Formula 1′s governing body.

The BBC reported this week that FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem allegedly intervened to overturn a penalty given to Fernando Alonso at last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. A second BBC report says the same whistleblower also claims Ben Sulayem told officials not to certify the Las Vegas circuit for its race last November.

“The Compliance Department is assessing these concerns, as is common practice in these matters, to ensure that due process is meticulously followed,” the FIA said in its statement.

The FIA confirmed no details about the allegations or even that Ben Sulayem is the target. In an additional statement given to The Associated Press, an FIA spokesman said: “It is unfortunate and a source of great concern that the matter has been disclosed to the media without any prior authorization and that certain elements of the report were inaccurately reported.”

The BBC reports follow a dramatic month in which Red Bull investigated team principal Christian Horner over allegations of misconduct with a team employee. The complaint was dismissed days before Saturday’s season-opening race in Bahrain, won by Max Verstappen of Red Bull.

Even after Horner was cleared by Red Bull’s parent company, a trove of evidence that had allegedly been presented against him in the investigation was leaked to more than 100 industry members during practice in Bahrain. Horner has denied all allegations and his wife, Geri Halliwell, was by his side on race day for Red Bull’s 1-2 finish.

After the race, Verstappen’s father told The Daily Mail the team will implode if Horner is not removed from his position.

The whistleblower is believed to be a former FIA employee who currently works for Formula One Management, a person with direct knowledge of the complaints told AP speaking on condition of anonymity because the name and other details are not being disclosed by FIA.

It is the second time in a year that allegations have surfaced in the F1 paddock against Ben Sulayem in what appears to be a bitter power struggle between the governing body and F1 itself. Ben Sulayem was elected FIA president by its membership in 2021 just days after the controversial season finale cost Lewis Hamilton a record-breaking eighth title and gave Verstappen his first world championship.

In the latest allegations, the whistleblower told the BBC that Ben Sulayem called Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa – the FIA’s vice president for sport for the Middle East and North Africa region — to make clear he thought a 10-second penalty against Alonso should be rescinded for work done on his car while he was serving a previous five-second penalty.

The penalty dropped Alonso from third place to fourth. The penalty was overturned and Alonso nudged George Russell of Mercedes off the podium.

In its second report, the BBC reported that Ben Sulayem told race stewards to find a way not to declare the Las Vegas circuit safe for racing.

The temporary street course was not completed in time to be inspected in the FIA’s required window ahead of an event. The inspection happened early in the morning of the first practice and Carlos Sainz Jr. ran over a loose drain cover that destroyed his Ferrari and ended the session after just nine minutes.

The entire course had to be reinspected, leading to lengthy delays and a second practice that ended at 4 a.m.

The BBC said the whistleblower was contacted by their manager, “who on behest of the FIA president instructed him to find some concerns to prevent the FIA from certifying the circuit before the weekend of the race”. The compliance report quotes the whistleblower as saying that “the purpose was to find fault with the track in order to withhold the license”.

The Las Vegas Grand Prix debut race was the first promoted by F1 and commercial rights holder Liberty Media, and an estimated $500 million was spent on the event.

F1 races in Saudi Arabia this weekend.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *