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F1 sends incendiary letter to FIA after ‘inflated price tag’ claim

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Formula One bosses have accused FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem of “unacceptable” interference within the alleged sale of the game.

After reports of a $20 billion (£16.3 billion) Saudi Arabian bid to purchase F1’s industrial rights, Ben Sulayem raised concerns on Twitter in regards to the potential consequences of an “inflated” takeover equivalent to higher ticket prices for fans if the brand new owners tried to recoup their investment.

He added that a possible buyer of F1 should “include a transparent, sustainable plan — not only lots of money.”

Sky Sports News revealed on Monday his remarks angered senior F1’s officials and now legal bosses have written to the FIA warning that Ben Sulayem’s tweets had “interfered with our rights in an unacceptable manner”

In a letter first reported by Sky News, but in addition seen by Sky Sports News, F1 general counsel, Sacha Woodward Hill, and Renee Wilm, chief legal and administrative officer of Liberty Media Corporation, F1’s controlling shareholder, have accused the FIA — motorsport’s governing body — of straying beyond its remit.

The letter has also been circulated to all 10 F1 teams. Sky Sports News contacted the FIA for a response but has received no comment.

Ben Sulayem’s comments got here in response to a report last week by Bloomberg News that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund had explored a $20 billion takeover bid for the game in 2022.

Neither F1 nor Saudi’s Public Investment Fund have commented on the report.

The letter, warned the FIA that “Formula 1 has the exclusive right to take advantage of the industrial rights within the FIA Formula One World Championship” under a 100-year deal.

“Further, the FIA has given unequivocal undertakings that it’s going to not do anything to prejudice the ownership, management and/or exploitation of those rights.

“We consider that those comments, constructed from the FIA president’s official social media account, interfere with those rights in an unacceptable manner.”

The response to Ben Sulayem’s comments comes at a time of heightened tensions between F1 and its governing body.

The letter from Woodward Hill and Wilm also said the suggestion, implicit within the FIA president’s remarks, “that any potential purchaser of the Formula 1 business is required to seek the advice of with the FIA is unsuitable.”

It added that Ben Sulayem had “overstep[ped] the bounds of the FIA’s remit,” saying that “any individual or organisation commenting on the worth 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 say potential exposure to serious regulatory consequences.”

“To the degree that these comments damage the worth of Liberty Media Corporation, the FIA could also be liable consequently.”

Contacted by Sky News, an F1 spokesperson declined to comment.

F1 teams query FIA president’s position after latest disagreements

Evaluation by Sky Sports News’ Craig Slater…

Ahead of the 2023 season, this can be a big conflict at the highest of the game.

Formula 1 is owned by an American company, Liberty Media, and is a listed company. If someone of the standing of the FIA president makes an remark into what the suitable value potentially is, that may very well be to the corporate’s industrial detriments.

That is just one in all a lot of issues which over the course of Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s tenure has irked not only F1, but a few of the teams as well.

I actually have been involved with a lot of F1 teams, they usually’ve had various views on what has gone on this week.

One senior figure has said to me there may be a discussion amongst a lot of teams about just how long Mohammed Ben Sulayem can proceed on this job.

There are questions being asked about his tenure because of what is becoming an increasingly fractious (relationship) between the governing body and the industrial rights holder, and by extension the teams.

It is a form of leadership as much as the rest. All of it dates back to an unease, which some people in the game have, of the arrangement by which the FIA (then headed by Max Mosley) over a decade ago sold the lease of the industrial rights for 100 years to an organisation then run by Bernie Ecclestone to take advantage of the industrial rights.

It was felt on the time that it was leased out far too cheaply, and a few people see Mohammed Ben Sulayem publicly signalling that he’s uncomfortable with this arrangement.

This runs quite deep, and it’s an historic issue that the governing body and industrial rights holder need to wrestle with.

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