Sky warns Ben Sulayem against “a public confrontation” with Hamilton

© Sebastian Kawka for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix ltd.

Sky Sports says “a public confrontation” with Lewis Hamilton, “one of the world’s most popular athletes”, is “the last thing” FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem needs right now.

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been involved in a lot of controversies as of late.

It all started when he decided to comment on an alleged F1 takeover bid from a Saudi Arabian investment fund, which drew the ire of F1 owners Liberty Media.

Then, he was accused of sexism after he was quoted as saying he does “not like women who think they are smarter than men”, on an archived version of his old website.

He was also openly supportive of the proposed F1 entry bid by Andretti Global, even though some teams have been hesitant to easily accept it.

In Sky Sports’ new article looking at Ben Sulayem’s situation, the broadcaster also mentioned some public spats the FIA, and Ben Sulayem as its leader, had with Lewis Hamilton.

First, there was a rift between the FIA and Hamilton in 2022, after the governing organization decided to enforce a rule which prevents drivers from wearing jewellery while in the car.

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And now in 2023, after the FIA announced drivers are forbidden from making ‘political or personal statements’ during events sanctioned by the governing organization, one can easily foresee another conflict with the most outspoken driver on the grid – Lewis Hamilton.

Well, Sky Sports thinks this is definitely not something Ben Sulayem needs right now.

“While Ben Sulayem appears to have work to do to mend his relationship with F1 bosses and teams, he could also be heading for a confrontation with the drivers,” Sky wrote.

“Ben Sulayem announced earlier in January that F1 drivers must not use the platform provided by the FIA to make statements for their own ‘personal agenda’.

“Drivers will need prior written permission from the sport’s governing body to make ‘political, religious and personal statements’ following an update of the International Sporting Code.

“Unless the FIA grants approval in writing, drivers who make such statements will now be in breach of the rules.

“Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is among high-profile drivers who have made such statements in recent seasons.

“Hamilton has stood up for human rights and racial equality while also addressing LGBTQ rights in conservative countries like Saudi Arabia which has held two races since 2021.

“The Briton has yet to comment on the new rules, and it remains to be seen whether he will choose to abide by them when the season begins in Bahrain in early March.

“Hamilton clashed with the FIA last season after the introduction of new rules banning the wearing of jewellery, which eventually resulted in the Mercedes driver removing a nose-ring after a lengthy stand-off that saw him granted exemptions.

“Considering Sky Sports News’ Craig Slater has reported this week that several senior figures within F1 have said there is active discussion among team bosses over whether Ben Sulayem’s tenure is an increasing problem, a public conflict with the one of the world’s most popular athletes is perhaps the last thing the embattled FIA president needs at the moment,” Sky concluded.

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