Mark Blundell thinks FIA is ‘slightly out of alignment’ with F1 growth: PlanetF1

Former F1 driver and Le Mans winner Mark Blundell believes the FIA ​​has lagged slightly with Liberty Media in recent years.

Perhaps the biggest story of the winter break between the 2022 and ’23 F1 seasons has been the falling out between the FIA’s governing body and the sport’s commercial rights owners Liberty Media.

Liberty bought the rights to the sport more than five years ago, with those commercial rights leased from the FIA, with the Federation retaining ownership of the Formula 1 World Championship itself.

Liberty’s adoption of social media, the commissioning of Netflix series Drive to surviveand his willingness to expand and work in new markets has led to an explosion in F1’s popularity around the world.

In recent months, there have been many hints of behind-the-scenes discontent between the two sides, with the most glaring example being that of FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem who tweeted about the public investment fund’s reported approach to the Saudi Arabia (PIF) to buy the rights from Liberty Media for $20 billion.

“As the custodian of motorsport, the FIA, as a non-profit organisation, is cautious about the alleged $20bn inflated prices being imposed on F1,” Ben Sulayem wrote on Twitter in response.

“Any prospective buyer is advised to apply common sense, consider the greater good of the sport, and present a clear and sustainable plan, not just a lot of cash.”

His comments led to a letter written by F1’s General Counsel, Sasha Woodward-Hill and sent to the teams to comment on Ben Sulayem surpassing his tenure as FIA president commenting on the market value of F1. Soon after, sexist comments posted on Ben Sulayem’s website in 2001 were exposed, adding fuel to the already raging fire of discontent against the FIA ​​boss.

Reports in the German media even suggested that Liberty was angry with Ben Sulayem to the point of wanting David Richards, president of Motorsport UK, to replace the current FIA president. Since then, Ben Sulayem has confirmed his intention to step back from the day-to-day operations of Formula 1, a move that had been planned ever since he took over from Jean Todt as FIA president.

Mark Blundell: The communication between the FIA ​​and F1 has not been clear

Reflecting on the past two months of turmoil between the FIA ​​and F1, former driver and popular broadcaster Mark Blundell believes the two sides are out of sync with each other, partly due to the rapid growth of Formula 1 in the last half decade .

“I would say Liberty has done a great job of growing Formula 1 globally, I think that’s very obvious to everyone,” Blundell told in an exclusive interview.

“No doubt the teams are very, very happy with this side of things. Because maybe that’s just that, four years ago, you were looking at different cars on the grid that were very basic without commercial sponsors.

“Where we are today, I think everyone is clamoring to have their name on the side of a Formula 1 car. So there is tremendous growth in that area. recommends

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“By Netflix Drive to survive he was instrumental in that, and the North American market is growing exponentially. Where the FIA ​​is and where it has gone, for me, has been slightly out of alignment with the growth of the sport. But that’s just Formula 1, bearing in mind that the FIA ​​is found across global motorsport at all levels.

“But, in the end, F1 is the pinnacle. So I just think there was a little mismatch. It’s never a good thing. It’s also quite difficult for people to figure out when there are, in fact, two kinds of governing bodies, a sporting one and a technical and commercial one that are part of a single sport.

“So the communication was not clear. We have had several areas of the FIA ​​as key communicators with things that have been happening in F1 over the past 18 months or so.

Mark Blundell: Difficult for Mohammed Ben Sulayem to understand the inner workings of F1

Amidst all the legal muck that’s going on between the two sides, the possibility of a separation of Liberty Media’s F1 from the FIA ​​isn’t likely given the complexity of starting fresh with circuit promoters and the risk for big-name companies and rowing manufacturers with an unproven brand, which should be the “new F1”.

When asked whether F1 should keep aligned with the FIA ​​to maintain its checks and balances, Blundell said: “It’s a difficult subject, because, if you look at most sports at this level, there’s always a governing body. which is sort of the regulatory framework that surrounds it.

“There is football, there is FIFA, there is the Premier League, the current Premier League which stands above all clubs in terms of organization and organization of the league. Perhaps the Olympics is probably the only one that really doesn’t have anyone supplying outside information to set the guidelines.

“But F1’s break with the FIA, as such, would be an interesting concept. We had some breakaway series discussing many, many years ago, and it’s been a long way to go in many areas. So it’s not unpredictable, but whether or not that’s the right thing to do, I don’t know. I think there are some things that could have been done before it got to that point.

As for whether Mohammed Ben Sulayem is the right man for the role of FIA president, Blundell believes the Emirati, who come from rallying and not F1, should approach F1 as a semi-outsider.

“Whoever heads the FIA ​​is damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” he said.

“But it will always be difficult to get someone to understand the inner workings of something they weren’t a part of. The previous president, Jean Todt, had come out of the Formula 1 pit lane and was very understanding of how F1 worked. So that gave an idea.

“We are talking about Formula 1, but the FIA ​​is much more. So he needs someone who has knowledge of the sport but, at the same time, the picture is much bigger.”

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