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FIA

Where do the FIA stand after 100 days of Ben Sulayem's presidency?

It has been 100 days since new FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem was elected. To mark this, a report has been released which assesses various areas of the governing body's work. RacingNews365.com's Dieter Rencken takes a closer look at the findings.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem
Column
To news overview © FIA

Like the United States of America, the FIA elects its president every four years; however, the country restricts its top official to two terms whether consecutive or not, whereas for motoring's governing body the limit is three, provided the incumbent is younger than 75 at time of final election.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the USA required widespread changes to legislation to deal with the financial crisis, so incoming US President Franklin D Roosevelt asked for "100 days" during which he took stock of the nation.

"We all wanted the opportunity of a little quiet thought to examine and assimilate in a mental picture the crowding events of the hundred days which had been devoted to the starting of the wheels of the New Deal," he said at the end of the period.

FIA President, Mohammed Ben Sulayem - elected 17 December 2021 - adopted a similar concept after replacing Jean Todt, and that period expired on 30 March. Thus, the Arab - the first non-European elected to motorsport's top office in its 117-year existence - and his cabinet have internally circulated the FIA 100 Days Report.

			© Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images
	© Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

What does the "100 days" report reveal?

The document is divided into five sections, with an executive summary of the findings of each:

Under Team and Management the report states "we are confident that we have good people with strong talent… to provide a sustainable and brilliant future", then finds that "the strategy of growing the relevance of our FIA brand by doing so many [activities] as possible anywhere and at any cost without a long-term strategic view of our portfolio and its impact is not financially sustainable".

Clearly, some of the FIA's road safety initiatives, such as the low-cost helmet and 3500 Lives [dying per day], are in for the chop. Indeed, could some FIA championships be relegated or wannabe series rejected?

The Financial Position states that "after seven years of steep decline, FIA operating losses in 2021 reached over €25m and the approved budget for 2022 will result in a further €23m loss". In a sideswipe at Ben Sulayem's predecessor, Jean Todt, the report states that the situation is not sustainable, and that "tough decisions will need to be made in the way the organisation is structured and works".

Under Todt's 12-year presidency, the federation's headcount grew from 90 in December 2009 to 222 (representing 21 nationalities), with the sporting department alone effectively tripling in size (45 to 122) and administration growing from 38 to 83. Clearly heads will roll – no easy task under French labour laws.

			© Getty Images/Red Bull Contentpool
	© Getty Images/Red Bull Contentpool

Legal liabilities and recruitment of a CEO

The report finds that under Legal Liabilities, the federation faces a "number of legal claims" and that the governing body "will ensure proper management for the protection of the FIA and its finances".

One of these claims is believed to be the alleged intellectual property infringement brought by inventor Jens Nygaard, who claims to have patented the halo and aeroscreen. The Norwegian has filed a case in the United States District Court in Waco, Texas, having cited all teams, the FIA and Formula 1 Management – and, at one stage, Lewis Hamilton.

In Saudi, some teams expressed concerns about racing in Miami, fearing that their assets could be attached should Nygaard secure a judgement before then. Ominously, the latest papers were filed last week, by Red Bull…

One of Ben Sulayem's election pledges was to Recruit a CEO to oversee the FIA's global operations on a business basis, with another being an Organisational Review of the federation's structures. According to the report, the latter will be completed in May, while a full-time CEO will be appointed "as soon as possible".

What are the FIA's aims going forward?

The balance of the report outlines Key Initiatives going Forward, including the Abu Dhabi report and remote race facility, the establishment of the FIA University to provide training for club members, and humanitarian programmes to aid displaced Ukrainians and internal efficiency programmes.

The report concludes with "after the initial 100 days we are confident that - [with member club support] - we can deliver our manifesto, getting the FIA back into profit by the end of 2023".

Unsaid is that this overarching target entails saving at least €2m per month - a massive ask in these straitened times - or putting a further squeeze on F1. That said, Roosevelt did not deliver all he promised…

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