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FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem investigated for alleged race interference at 2023 Saudi Arabian GP

FIA looking at claim Mohammed Ben Sulayem made clear penalty to Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso at Saudi Arabian Grand Prix should have been revoked; "FIA confirms the Compliance Officer has received a report detailing potential allegations involving certain members of its governing bodies"

Mohammed Ben Sulayem
Image: FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is reportedly under investigation for allegedly interfering with a Formula 1 race last year

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is under investigation for allegedly interfering with a Formula 1 race last year, multiple sources have told Sky Sports News.

As first reported by the BBC, an FIA ethics committee investigation has been looking at a claim Ben Sulayem made it clear that a penalty handed out to Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso at last year's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix should be revoked.

"The FIA confirms that the Compliance Officer has received a report detailing potential allegations involving certain members of its governing bodies," the FIA said in a statement on Tuesday.

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

The 10-second penalty handed out to the Spanish driver meant he dropped to fourth place from third in the race behind Red Bull drivers Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen, and also Mercedes' George Russell.

Alonso's penalty was removed after Aston Martin successfully argued the team's case to race stewards.

Image: Alonso was demoted to fourth at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix before having his penalty overturned

One of the potential additional allegations aimed at Ben Sulayem relate to the process of certification of the circuit used for last year's Las Vegas Grand Prix.

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In an interview in November for GP Racing UK, Ben Sulayem said: "The president of the FIA is the one who signs the homologation for the new track, or for all the tracks. I supported it.

"I could have said no [because it wasn't ready in time for inspection]. But as soon as my team said it was safe, because I'm a driver, I care about the wellbeing of the drivers and the people around them, our staff and the marshalls, I did it.

"It was a big thing. If I had said no, it would have been disastrous [for F1]. But it would have been legal."

What happened at last year's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix?

Alonso, who started the race in P2 and led for the first four laps after overtaking pole-sitter Perez, was given a five-second time penalty for an incorrect start position after lining up too far to the left of his grid box.

The Spaniard served the penalty under a Safety Car when his team-mate Lance Stroll broke down on the 19th lap but was then later hit with a further 10-second penalty.

That was because stewards deemed the pit crew broke the rules by working on his car before the initial five-second penalty had elapsed, with the rear jack in contact with his AMR23.

Alonso was only handed the penalty after the race and celebrations had been completed, prompting him to call the decision a "poor show" from the FIA.

Aston Martin appealed the decision and received a right to review on the basis that there had been seven previous examples of a jack touching a car while a penalty was being served that had not been punished.

The stewards subsequently reversed their decision the following morning.

At the time, there was no suggestion there was anything untoward.

Sky Sports F1's Saudi Arabian GP schedule

Wednesday March 6

  • 2.30pm: Drivers' Press Conference

Thursday March 7

  • 9.50am: F2 Practice
  • 10.50am: F1 Academy Practice
  • 1pm: Saudi Arabian GP Practice One (session starts at 1.30pm)
  • 2.55pm: F2 Qualifying
  • 4.45pm: Saudi Arabian GP Practice Two (session starts at 5pm)
  • 6.15pm: F1 Academy Qualifying
  • 7.15pm: The F1 Show

Friday March 8

  • 11.55am: F1 Academy Race 1
  • 1.10pm: Saudi Arabian GP Practice Three (session starts at 1.30pm)
  • 3.05pm: F2 Sprint Race
  • 4.10pm: Saudi Arabian GP Qualifying build-up

Saturday March 9

  • 12pm: F1 Academy Race 2
  • 1.20pm: F2 Feature Race
  • 3.30pm: Saudi Arabian GP build-up: Grand Prix Saturday
  • 7pm: Saudi Arabian GP reaction: Chequered flag
  • 9.30pm: Saudi Arabian GP highlights

Watch the second round of the new F1 season - the Saudi Arabian GP - live on Sky Sports F1 this coming week, with practice on Thursday, qualifying on Friday and the race at 5pm on Saturday.

Anthony Joshua's heavyweight showdown with Francis Ngannou takes place on Friday March 8, live on Sky Sports Box Office with the main event expected around 11pm. Book Joshua v Ngannou now!

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