(GMM) New FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem says it’s “unavoidable” that Formula 1 has become a much more political environment than ever.
World champions Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and others have led the emergence of social, political and environmental issues in the paddock, which in theory is against FIA statutes.
“Unfortunately, it’s unavoidable,” new FIA president Ben Sulayem told Speed Week.
“Of course you try to separate sport and politics, as one of the core values of the FIA is neutrality. Sport must always be the focus.
“But sometimes acting politically is unavoidable. I always say it’s ok to be political, but we can’t just become politicians. We have to keep the balance.”
He said that while Niki Lauda and Alain Prost were solely focused on F1, Vettel is “committed to environmental protection and sexual orientation tolerance.
“Lewis is committed to fighting racism,” Sulayem added. “Lando Norris addresses the thorny issue of mental health.
“All of this is a testament to how diverse our world has become, with numerous issues that need to be tackled. But it’s also about not imposing your worldview on others and putting it above sport.
“I am a Muslim but would I ever force my culture on other people? Never!”
At the same time, however, the popularity of Formula 1 is soaring – but Ben Sulayem thinks the reason for that is covid-19.
“The pandemic changed people’s attitudes,” he said. “People want to have fun again and enjoy life like before the pandemic.
“Then there is America, where Formula 1 is experiencing a boom. We’ve had American drivers and races there before, but what is happening now is different.
“We have to keep up this momentum with a healthy balance between sport, entertainment and business.”