Russell calls for transparency amid Ben Sulayem’s investigation by FIA

Russell calls for transparency amid Ben Sulayem's investigation by FIA

George Russell has expressed the need for transparency in response to reports that FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem manipulated race results by overturning a penalty.

Mercedes driver George Russell has demanded ” total transparency” and “fair and level playing field” in Formula 1 in light of President Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s investigation by the FIA for race manipulation.

This week, there have been reports that Ben Sulayem is being investigated for allegedly interfering with the outcome of an F1 race as the race in question happens to be the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

It was also reported that Ben Sulayem had been advocating for the finding of flaws in the Las Vegas GP circuit to prevent it from being awarded Grade 1 status prior to its inaugural race.

Ben Sulayem, who took over as FIA president from Jean Todt in December 2021, is alleged to have intervened to reverse a penalty handed to Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso.

Alonso was relegated from third to fourth place in Jeddah last year after receiving a 10-second time penalty for working on his car and a five-second penalty for a gridbox infraction. Russell moved up from fourth to third as a result but hours later the outcome was dramatically reversed, with Alonso claiming his 100th F1 podium.

According to an internal FIA document, which the BBC revealed last week, President Mohammed Ben Sulayem allegedly contacted a senior FIA official to voice his decision that the penalty should be reversed.

Russell made an appearance at the press conference ahead of the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and demanded total transparency over the course of the investigation.

“We want to see all of the facts and just have total transparency, really. We want a fair and level playing field for us to showcase what we can do,” said Russell, who is also a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, the body which represents the F1 drivers in dealings with the FIA.

Furthermore, he claimed his team was shocked that Alonso’s penalty was reversed last year since they thought Aston Martin presented a strong argument.

“We were surprised a year ago when the result got overturned,” Russell said. “The legal team, Mercedes thought they did a great job of presenting our case and initially winning the case and then losing it thereafter.

“So we just want to see transparency and have that opportunity to race on a level, fair playing field.”

Russell’s opinion on Alonso’s penalty seems to be very different from what he said shortly after the race last year, when he acknowledged it as the correct decision.

Russell wrote on Twitter, “P4 it is then!” in response to a post by Alonso requesting the Mercedes driver to handover his third-place trophy.

The FIA has confirmed it received a report “detailing potential allegations involving certain members of its governing body” but didn’t give any details or specify whether Ben Sulayem was involved.

“The FIA confirms that the Compliance Officer has received a report detailing potential allegations involving certain members of its governing bodies,” read a statement from the FIA.

“The Compliance Department is assessing these concerns, as is common practice in these matters, to ensure that due process is meticulously followed.

“It is unfortunate and a source of great concern that these matters have been disclosed to the media without any prior authorization and that certain elements of the report were inaccurately reported.”

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