Angry F1 chiefs call out Ben Sulayem for 'unacceptable' remarks

© XPB 

Grand Prix racing's chiefs have reacted to Mohammed Ben Sulayem's comments on the potential $20 billion valuation of F1, calling the FIA president's remarks "unacceptable" and accusing him of "interfering" with the sport's commercial rights.

Last week, a report from Bloomberg alleged that Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund had held talks last year with Liberty Media regarding a potential takeover of F1, with a $20 billion valuation supposedly assigned to the sport.

The report claimed that while Liberty Media had rebuffed the offer, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund remained interested in acquiring F1.

On Monday, Ben Sulayem addressed the report on Twitter, expressing his skepticism over the alleged valuation of F1, which he called an "inflated price tag", but also his worry over a potential suitor's money being put before a "sustainable" plan that would consider the greater good of F1.

"As the custodians of motorsport, the FIA, as a non-profit organisation, is cautious about alleged inflated price tags of $20bn being put on F1," he wrote.

"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."

Ben Sulayem's public remarks did not go down well with F1's chiefs who, in a letter sent by the sport's legal department and circulated to the teams on Tuesday, have expressed their anger with the FIA president's meddling.

"The FIA has given unequivocal undertakings that it will not do anything to prejudice the ownership, management and/or exploitation of those rights," stated F1.

"We consider that those comments, made from the FIA President's official social media account, interfere with those rights in an unacceptable manner.

"Any potential purchaser of the Formula 1 business is required to consult with the FIA is wrong".

In short, the letter is a clear and very direct reminder to the FIA that it must steer clear of commercial matters involving F1 as its role is limited to regulatory issues only, per an agreement dating back to 2000 and agreed upon at the time by then FIA president Max Mosley.

The letter is a serious warning to the FIA and it concludes by calling out Ben Sulayem and suggesting that the FIA could be held accountable if Formula 1's valuation takes a hit as a consequence of the president's public remarks.

Ben Sulayem "overstep[ped] the bounds of the FIA's remit, saying that 'any individual or organisation commenting on the value of a listed entity or its subsidiaries, especially claiming or implying possession of inside knowledge while doing so, risks causing substantial damage to the shareholders and investors of that entity, not to mention potential exposure to serious regulatory consequences.'

"To the degree that these comments damage the value of Liberty Media Corporation, the FIA may be liable as a result."

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter