26 April 2023

FIA followed ‘due process’ as president Mohammed Ben Sulayem accused of sexism

26 April 2023

Formula One’s ruling body the FIA has said “allegations of abuse are taken very seriously” after its president Mohammed Ben Sulayem was accused of sexism.

The Daily Telegraph has reported that former FIA employee Shaila-Ann Rao wrote a letter accusing Ben Sulayem of sexist behaviour following her departure from the federation last year.

Rao, who was the FIA’s interim secretary general for motor sport, left the organisation in December after just six months.

The FIA takes allegations of abuse very seriously and addresses all complaints using robust and clear procedures

However, the FIA said it followed “due process” following the “specific allegations” surrounding Rao and said an “amicable negotiation” followed.

Responding to the Daily Telegraph’s report, a spokesperson for the FIA said: “The FIA takes allegations of abuse very seriously and addresses all complaints using robust and clear procedures.

“As part of this, the FIA has an anti-harassment policy, an anonymous whistleblowing facility and an investigation procedure and all staff are made aware of these through an induction and regular training.

“With regards to the specific allegations surrounding Shaila-Ann Rao, due process was followed, with an amicable negotiation conducted by the President of the Senate and as such, no referrals were made to the Ethics Committee.

“As previously stated, both parties agreed she would leave her position in November 2022 and mutual privacy terms were agreed as is common business practice.”

Rao’s claim in her letter – which the PA news agency has been told by a high-level source in the sport was sent – is the latest in a string of setbacks which has marred Ben Sulayem’s presidency.

Earlier this year, Ben Sulayem, who took on the role as FIA president from Jean Todt in December 2021, was quoted on an archived version of his old website as saying that he did “not like women who think they are smarter than men”.

The FIA said the sexist remarks do not reflect his beliefs.

He was also accused of “unacceptable” interference by F1 in response to a series of tweets in which he said a £16.2billion valuation of the sport was “inflated”.

Ben Sulayem was told that the FIA could be “liable” for harming the value of F1’s owners, Liberty Media.

The president has also clashed with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton over the wearing of jewellery in the cockpit, while the FIA this season U-turned on a move to prevent drivers from making “political, religious or personal” comments without prior approval following a driver-led backlash.

Ben Sulayem gave up the day-to-day running of F1 to director of single-seater racing Nikolas Tombazis in February. He is however expected to attend this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix despite the latest storm.

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