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F1 2022

Ben Sulayem on relationship with drivers: I apologised to Gasly after Japan

Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been in post as FIA President for one year, and has explained how he has been able to empathise with drivers.

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FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has explained how he can empathise with Formula 1 drivers, and cited this season's Japanese GP as an example.

Ben Sulayem was elected FIA President in December 2021, taking over from Jean Todt who departed after 12 years in office.

The former rally driver has had to deal with the immediate aftermath of the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as well as overseeing the FIA's response to porpoising and Red Bull's breach of the cost cap during his first season at the helm.

While explaining the relationship and access between himself and the Grand Prix drivers, Ben Sulayem noted how he knows what they feel after incidents.

Ben Sulayem on driver relationship

"I have been a driver, so I know that frustration comes sometimes," Ben Sulayem explained to media including RacingNews365.com at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

"I was a rally driver for 20 years, I've had issues with the stewards, I've seen accidents and had stages with cars coming against me, and of course, there are moments where you lose it.

"That half hour, one hour of frustration [I can understand] from the drivers as I was in their position at one time.

"The relationship [with the drivers] is great. They gave access to my phone [number], I have access to theirs."

Ben Sulayem cited the Japanese Grand Prix and the tractor incident involving Pierre Gasly, where the AlphaTauri driver sped past the recovery vehicle, without being informed it was there in low visibility conditions.

Gasly later said he could have been killed had he hit the vehicle, with the FIA launching a swift investigation into the incident, with the report being released in time for the next race in the United States two weeks later.

"With Pierre, he called straight away after the incident in Japan, and I was the one who apologised," said Ben Sulayem.

"He's the driver, and what do you want from him? You want the feedback.

"I cannot say: 'Oh, you said this to the marshals or officials' and have a go at the drivers.

"You need them because they are the ones on track - and the feedback we get from them is so good."

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	© XPBimages

Easy to work with drivers

Ben Sulayem was also firm that the FIA needed to have a constructive, positive relationship with drivers to reach "common ground" and help improve racing and safety in Grands Prix.

"I sat down with [Fernando] Alonso and Lewis [Hamilton] and had a lot of the drivers, even George [Russell, GPDA director] and the feedback was around what drivers need from the stewards and where the issues are.

"We might take one or two points from them, but unless you consult them, we will not reach we were want to be.

"[The drivers] are also fast-forwarding it for us.

"They are making it easier and smoother for us to reach common ground."

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