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Ben Sulayem angers fans

NEWS STORY
09/06/2022

FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem has taken to social media following a fan backlash to comments he made in response to 'driver activism'.

In a recent interview, Ben Sulayem singled out Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel for criticism, claiming that their activism was making the sport too political.

"Niki Lauda and Alain Prost only cared about driving," he told GrandPrix247. "Now, Vettel drives a rainbow bicycle, Lewis is passionate about human rights and Norris addresses mental health.

"Everybody has the right to think," he added. "To me, it is about deciding whether we should impose our believes in something over the sport all the time.

"I am from an Arabian culture," he continued. "I am international and Muslim. I do not impose my belief on other people, no way, never! If you look at my operation in the UAE: 16 nationalities! Name me one federation that has that many nationalities.

"On top, there are over 34% women and 7 religions. And even more Christians than Muslims. I am proud because it creates credibility and merit.

"But do I go and pose my beliefs? No. The rules are there, even now there are issues when it comes to - for example - jewellery, I didn’t write that."

At a time F1 bosses are seeking to make the sport more inclusive, with the full cooperation of the teams, his comments caused a backlash on social media.

This weekend will see Mercedes sport a revised rainbow logo in tribute to Pride Month, whilst Alpine is adapting its livery accordingly, with other teams likely to follow suit.

Meanwhile, in a recent interview, Vettel said he is longing for the sport to welcome its first openly gay driver, whilst supporting F1's continuing foray into countries with poor human rights records.

Today, taking to social media, and using his personal account, Ben Sulayem sought to calm the situation.

"As a driver, I have always believed in sport as a catalyst of progress in society," he tweeted. "That is why promoting sustainability, diversity and inclusion is a key priority of my mandate. In the same way, I value the commitment of all drivers and champions for a better future."

The Emerati's first months as FIA president have not been entirely smooth, what with the way the sport's governing body handled the aftermath of Abu Dhabi, and the continuing 'row' over jewellery and mandated underwear.

Indeed, one wonders if today’s tweet was inspired by Ben Sulayem himself or on the advisement of others at the FIA or F1.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Baku, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Superbird70, 13/06/2022 16:29

"New Buzz Lightyear banned in UAE. Apparently, no 2 of the 34% women are allowed to kiss eachother."

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2. Posted by elsiebc, 11/06/2022 4:05

"For those who argue there is a difference between "expressing" your beliefs, and "imposing" your beliefs and claim that up to this point all has been the former, it would do well to remember the year and a half of knee bending/mandatory t-shirt wearing/lecturing on how racist we fans all are."

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3. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 10/06/2022 13:16

"There is a world of difference between "expressing" your beliefs, and "imposing" your beliefs. Mr. Ben Sulayem would do well to remember that.
Michael Foot once stated "I thoroughly disagree with your beliefs, but will defend to the end your right to express them"

@ Superbird - as that a person who is 34% female????"

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4. Posted by Superbird70, 10/06/2022 12:25

"34% women?? What happened to the rest?"

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5. Posted by Spindoctor, 10/06/2022 10:44

"What a load of BS\codswallop\hypocritical nonsense!
FYI Mr Ben Sulayem your criticisms are an example precisely of what you are attempting to address. Were you not an FIA bigwig, you'd be just another ex-Rally Driver. I'll warrant 90% of F1 fans & a much bigger proportion of the general populace had never heard of you until recently.

Now he's on the world stage Ben Sulyamen wants to impose some kind of omerta on drivers, while freely expressing his own views & opinions. That's paradoxical at the very least...
As an Emirati he comes from a country currently run by a rather oppressive regime which has implemented mass-surveillance & often imprisons & tortures anyone who opposes it (https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2022/country-chapters/united-arab-emirates). Instead of using his new-found fame to criticise those championing Human Rights & genuine diversity he might like to highlight abuses nearer home.

On the more general point, which crops up here with depressing regularity, Sport IS "Political".
A huge International Sport like Olympics, F1, or Football is threaded through with political significance. This started with the inaugural Olympic Games in Ancient Greece, where competitors had safe passage between often hostile cities in order to attend. More recently, Russia was booted-out of many Sports because of its invasion of Ukraine - Politics.

Sports stars are famous and are followed by many people but simply expressing their views is hardly "politicising" Sport - that's done by the bureaucrats & ideologues of the Governing Bodies, like Mr Sulaymen.
I respect & agree with Lewis & Seb's views on many topics, but I don't form my political views or judgment based upon their opinions. Their public utterances don't change beliefs, but they might focus attention on issues I hadn't previously considered. This is perfectly legitimate."

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6. Posted by Hobgoblin, 10/06/2022 9:53

"These drivers are not imposing their beliefs on anyone. What they are doing is highlighting social issues that affect a large part of our society.
Lots of other people also do the same, the only difference here is that these drivers are able to reach a larger audience due to their position.

Their vocal support for their cause gives a degree of comfort to those adversely affected. It has not affected the racing at all that I can see, although it obviously makes some of the audience uncomfortable.

It seems to me that those wishing to silence them have something to lose - either they benefit from the status quo, or worse.."

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7. Posted by @R1Racing71, 10/06/2022 9:16

""Everybody has a right to think"
Well, at least he acknowledges free thought - there is hope for him yet."

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8. Posted by JClark-Monza1967, 10/06/2022 0:41

""whether we should impose our believes in something over the sport all the time"

Driver's expressing their opinions does not constitute *imposing* their beliefs and for Sulayem to say that is an obvious attempt to redirect and mislead those reading his statement. He wants drivers to just shut up and drive? Maybe that works is his world but it surely does not and will not work with F1. Sulaymen has the same choice we all have: if you don't like what the drivers say about something, ignore it. If he continues in this direction, he won't last long as FIA director and shouldn't."

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9. Posted by kenji, 10/06/2022 0:11

"Exactly so No 67. Sulayem gets my total support for his comments. F1 is F1 and not a platform for individuals to push and impose their beliefs on others. There is nothing wrong with expressing an opinion in a free speech based society as that is democracy working but to preach to a captive audience is wrong and should be stopped. The same goes for the 'jewels' rule. Either conform to the written rules or remove the rule. The majority of drivers have supported the rule."

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10. Posted by No.67, 09/06/2022 23:45

"Good for Ben!
And it's about time someone told Lewis the truth about BLM.
As for everyone else: Go Woke, Go Broke."

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11. Posted by prime, 09/06/2022 16:27

"he needs to address the "britification" of the sport"

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12. Posted by JamesD, 09/06/2022 16:26

"Speechless ! How out of touch can you be ?!?! Completely it would seem ..."

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13. Posted by Roli, 09/06/2022 16:19

"You must be joking "16 nationalities! Name me one federation that has that many nationalities" ??? How about the RAC, BRDC, AA to name a few. But the rules you are imposing are on the verge of being ridiculous. How about leaving F1 to be a sport and not a money spinner? You completely ignore the fans, without who, you would have nothing"

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