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Ben Sulayem's remarkable Tweets: this is what you read between the lines

Ben Sulayem's remarkable Tweets: this is what you read between the lines

23 January - 19:31


Mohammed Ben Sulayem is an intriguing man. During Grand Prix weekends, he is prominent in the paddock, sometimes in western attire, often in traditional dress. Interviews he does not often give. Much rather, he seems to prefer to air his opinions via Twitter. At times when Ben Sulayem does, the Tweets are also highly explosive.

Suddenly they were there on Monday afternoon. Three Tweets, from which the annoyance dripped. For those who missed it for a moment, this is what the main man within the international motorsport federation wrote, divided on the Tweets:

FIA the conservator

"As the custodians of motorsport, the FIA, as a non-profit organisation, is cautious about alleged inflated price tags of $20 billion being put on F1. Any potential buyer is advised to apply common sense, consider the greater good of the sport and come with a clear, sustainable plan – not just a lot of money. It is our duty to consider what the future impact will be for promoters in terms of increased hosting fees and other commercial costs, and any adverse impact that it could have on fans."

It is interesting to philosophise why Ben Sulayem sent this series of Tweets into the world? Namely, he was responding to a report by news agency Bloomberg, which claimed that Saudi Arabia was looking to buy the ownership rights of Formula 1 from Liberty Media for $20 billion through the state fund PIF. The FIA and Liberty Media had nowhere confirmed the accuracy of the reporting, but it is now clear that the story is true.


Would it be unintentional for Ben Sulayem to confirm Bloomberg's story? Probably not. The FIA boss is certainly not stupid, who does not make statements by accident. Would it be then that he wants to tell that Formula 1 is actually for sale at the moment? If you read between the lines, it looks very much like it. This is a message mainly to push the price further: 'Twenty billion? It must be more'.

Also noteworthy: As an Arab, Ben Sulayem lashes out hard at Saudi Arabia, without mentioning it by name, by the way. Would the authoritarian rulers there appreciate this kind of writing? But Ben Sulayem can't do otherwise. Indeed, Ben Sulayem no doubt realises that Formula 1 in the hands of Saudi Arabia - a country that does not take human rights very seriously - will go down anything but well with drivers, teams, fans and sponsors. Making F1 a Saudi toy is tantamount to writing the death sentence (sorry for the apt phrasing in this case) for the royal class of motorsport.

No doubt we are going to read more stories about parties wanting to own Formula 1 in the near future. Just as Ben Sulayem previously opened the door wide for new teams on the grid, he has now done so for interested buyers. Investors must have got the message. So these are going to be interesting times, that's for sure.

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