F1 chief Ben Sulayem 'facing fresh allegations of sexism and bullying'

Formula One chief Mohammed ben Sulayem is ‘facing fresh allegations of sexism and bullying from a former colleague at the FIA’ after controversial remarks about women who ‘think they are smarter than men’ resurfaced earlier this year

  • Ben Sulayem relinquished hands-on control of Formula One earlier this year
  • The 61-year-old has been accused of ‘grandstanding’ by some of his key allies
  • He has also faced a backlash over sexist comments made over two decades ago 

FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem has ‘been accused of sexist and bullying behaviour’ at motorsport’s world governing body – just two months after relinquishing hands-on control of Formula One.

Mail Sport revealed in February that Ben Sulayem, the former rally driver who took over the FIA almost 17 months ago, sent a letter to team principals informing them of his decision to step back and focus on ‘strategic matters’ amid growing pressure on his leadership.

The 61-year-old made the move after coming under fire from key allies over his perceived ‘grandstanding’ approach – which has cast doubt over his chances of staying on past his first four-year tenure – as well as drawing heavy criticism after sexist remarks he made on an old website more than two decades ago resurfaced.

When discussing his likes and dislikes, Ben Sulayem was quoted as saying: ‘Nor do I like women who are smarter than men, for they are not in truth.’ An FIA spokesman said however that ‘the remarks in this archived website from 2001 do not reflect the president’s beliefs.

And now Ben Sulayem is facing fresh allegations of sexism and bullying from one of his former colleagues at the FIA, reports The Telegraph.

FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem is facing fresh allegations of sexism and bullying

Ben Sulayem, who took over the FIA in December 2021, was reportedly accused of sexist behaviour by one of his former colleagues

The 61-year-old faced a backlash earlier this year after controversial remarks he made about women on an old website more than two decades ago resurfaced

According to the report, Shaila-Ann Rao – the governing body’s former interim secretary general for motorsport – alleged several instances of sexist behaviour from Ben Sulayem in a bombshell letter before her abrupt departure back in December.

Though despite the seriousness of them, it is understood that her accusations were never investigated.

Sulayem has called the accusations ‘nonsense’. Speaking to Mail Sport, the FIA president said: ‘I have always been entirely open to everyone regardless of their background or anything else, and I’ve looked to support their role and progress within the organisation.’

A host of current and former FIA staff are said to ‘paint a picture of erratic and bullying behaviour behind the scenes’.

Rao’s letter was allegedly sent to both Ben Sulayem himself and Carmelo Sanz de Barros, the president of the FIA Senate.

When quizzed on the matter, an FIA spokesperson is quoted as saying: ‘Shaila-Ann Rao was a temporary director at the FIA from June 1 2022 and then became interim secretary general for motor sport. In Nov 2022 it was decided by both parties that she would leave that position. Mutual privacy terms have been agreed as is commonplace in business. Neither party has made a reference to the FIA Ethics Committee.’

The FIA’s statutes claim that any alleged breach of the Code of Ethics should be referred to the FIA’s Ethics Committee for a full investigation, before the results are handed over to the president.

Yet should the president be the subject of the investigation, any reports should be submitted to the Senate, who will then decide whether any further action is required.

The FIA was quick to leap to Ben Sulayem’s defence when the sexist comments resurfaced

When faced with allegations of sexism for the first time earlier this year over his controversial comments on mohammedbensulayem.com, the FIA leapt to Ben Sulayem’s defence.

‘He has a strong record on promoting women and equality in sport, which he is happy to be judged on,’ said an FIA spokesman.

‘It was a central part of his manifesto and actions taken this year and the many years he served as vice-president for sport prove this.’

Ben Sulayem was also at the centre of another controversy in January when he described $20billion (£16.2bn) as an ‘inflated price tag being put on F1’.

The sport’s commercial rights holders owned by American conglomerate Liberty Media hit back by accusing him of ‘overstepping’ the mark and intruding into their commercial affairs.

They also warned Ben Sulayem that he may be held liable for any financial damage caused to their business.

The Emirati has endured a turbulent reign as FIA president since replacing Jean Todt at the end of 2021 and his future at the helm is therefore uncertain.

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