Dre’s Newswipe – Ben Sulayem Race Fixes?, Jos Verstappen’s Warning Shot

With Jos Verstappen firing the first shot in a potential F1 civil war, and Mohammed Ben Sulayem alleged to have fixed a race… can F1 have ONE day without nonsense?

Never miss a post

Sign up for our monthly newsletter so you don’t miss any posts or updates!

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us. By subscribing, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with our privacy policy.

Read time: 5 mins

I hate that I’ve got the lift the lid on the emergency blog button again, but Formula 1 literally can’t go more than a day without friggin’ nonsense happening. Let’s get into it real fast.

Hold on, so you mean to tell me that someone’s been investigated for an incident involving Fernando Alonso? On a street circuit? In a night race? If I had a nickel for every time this has happened, I’d have two nickels, which isn’t a lot but it’s weird that it’s happened twice. 

According to Andrew Benson at the BBC, FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem is under investigation from within his own governing body for allegedly interfering in a race result and more specifically, Fernando Alonso’s 10-second penalty that was later reversed for having his team touch his car while he was serving his penalty. 

Via Benson’s report, there was allegedly a whistleblower who came forward and claimed that Ben Sulayem had reached out to Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa – the FIA’s vice president for sport for the Middle East and North Africa region, and asked for the penalty to be revoked. Not a great look given Sheikh Al Khalifa was there working the GP in an official capacity. The ethics committee are now investigating this and we should expect an outcome sometime in April.

Oh dear. The one thing Mohammed Ben Sulayem gets an unfair wrap for was Abu Dhabi 2021 (He wasn’t president yet when that happened), and now it looks like he may have been guilty of the same crime. And it’s the second major Benson report that’s thrown hot water at the FIA President after he claimed yesterday that he pushed Max Verstappen into endorsing Christian Horner. That report read: “Ben Sulayem’s approach came after Max Verstappen gave only qualified support to Horner when asked four times in the lead-up to the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday whether he had full faith and confidence in him.”

It’s yet another sketchy story for the FIA President who seems to have done nothing but stir the pot since being elected two years ago. He’s already been partly responsible for a divide between the governing body and F1 itself over a potential expansion of teams and then stepped back from the day-to-day running of the sport mere days after F1 wrote a cease-and-desist letter in response to his comments about a potential sale of the sport’s commercial rights to Saudi Arabia, originally reported by Bloomberg for $20bn.

And don’t get me started on the dug-up sexist remarks about women too. The FIA needed to elect a president to smooth over its biggest firestorm of a title finale in 25 years when Ben Sulayem took up his post. He’s done nothing but pour kerosene on his bridge. If he’s found guilty of interfering in a GP, I fear a vote of no confidence would be sure to follow. 

This alone would be a hell of a news day, but of course, another chapter of the Christian Horner investigation story had to be thrown in too…

Just when you thought a dominant Max Verstappen win in Bahrain would blow things over at Red Bull Racing, their house was reignited by the winning driver’s Dad. Jos Verstappen took to the Dutch media and made it abundantly clear that Christian Horner needs to stand down as Red Bull team principal saying that the team would “tear itself apart” and that he’s “playing the victim while he’s the one causing problems.”

Now asking Jos Verstappen about toxic relationships is… f***ing wild. Still, it was a comment that would get people talking, and I suspect, trying to put two and two together, even if the answer’s 22. While Jos denied he was the source of the leaks, you have to remember that De Telegraff is allegedly close to the Verstappen camp, the same papers were the original reporters and pushers of the story in the first place (Including claims it was sexual harassment and that they’d seen the texts a week before the leak). And you do have to wonder where someone could have gotten all those hundreds of e-mails the alleged leaked evidence went to. I’m not saying Jos leaked anything, but if he did, he’s doing a terrible job of hiding it.

It does expose one thing for sure though – There seemingly IS a power struggle from within Red Bull. Jos does have an official role within Red Bull as a cushy talent scout for their academy. Questions have to be asked. It’s well-documented that the 51% majority stakeholding Yoovidhya family is backing Horner behind the scenes. In contrast, there have been links saying that Red Bull head of driver development Helmut Marko and the 49% owning Mark Mateschitz camp (Son of late father Dietrich) are keen for Horner to step aside. And as much as the team can claim they’re “United and focused on racing”, Jos has just proven otherwise. But is he a lone voice or is he representing more people in the back who aren’t prepared to stick their necks on it?

And the next question – Is this about to become a Horner vs Verstappen “It’s him or me” situation? Jos has always been prepared to go the extra mile for his son, with rumours he pushed for Max to get that Red Bull seat almost 8 years ago to the month, over Danill Kvyat. Again, I’m spitballing here, but if I wanted to stage a coup against my old boss and oust Horner from his post, the last bullet in the chamber, coated in silver, would be the future of Max. He still has four years left on his current contract but if you could make a compelling argument to Max that he’s the reason for the teams’ success and not Red Bull’s infrastructure, maybe that confidence could be used to spearhead a move elsewhere. Like Mercedes’ open seat, perhaps.

Now, in my opinion, I don’t think it’s as simple as that argument that so many have laid out on social media. Strictly from a performance standpoint, Christian Horner is one of the best team principals ever. He turned a midfield Jaguar team and amassed a juggernaut. Used the talent of Adrian Newey and pushed for youth investment to develop two all-timers in Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel. Seven drivers and constructors titles in total, with likely at least one more of each on the way. All that in less than 20 years of existence. That’s a remarkable record.

And unless Horner has the ego of a small planet, he must know Verstappen is a talent he can’t afford to lose – The man’s got half a second on the field, including his teammate. Or keeping Newey, one of the sport’s greatest creative minds. But in the court of public opinion, we as fans are always going to back the driver in the fandom of the sport, over the manager. Ask Chelsea fans about that one.

This is a hell of a lot of speculation for just one man’s public sentiment. Beyond that, we’re all just guessing. But in any case, the first shot’s been fired. And as everyone knows, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. Thank goodness there isn’t a Grand Prix this weeken- oh.

PS: You know what’s shit about all this? Losing Max Verstappen could be what ends up costing Christian Horner his job, not the alleged allegations levelled against him. What does that say about us as a sport?

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Somehow can now call himself a Production Coordinator at the Motorsport Network, coming off the back of being part of the awkward Johto Era at WTF1. All off a University Project that went massively out of hand. Weird huh?

Motorsport101 uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Click here to read more.


What are you looking for?