Lewis Hamilton: I have never backed FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem

Lewis Hamilton speaks with Mohammed Ben Sulayem
Lewis Hamilton with Mohammed Ben Sulayem at the Dutch Grand Prix in 2022 - Zuma Press/Florent Gooden

Lewis Hamilton says he has “never backed” Mohammed Ben Sulayem as FIA president, adding that he supports Susie Wolff’s “brave” decision to file a criminal complaint against the head of motorsport’s world governing body.

Wolff, who runs the all-female F1 Academy series, revealed on Wednesday that she had lodged a complaint in the French courts on March 4 against Ben Sulayem. It relates to the FIA’s short-lived conflict-of-interest probe into her relationship with husband Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal.

Hamilton said he was “incredibly proud” of Susie, describing her actions as “brave”.

The seven-time world champion also appeared to link the case directly to the ongoing saga at Red Bull regarding the allegations of controlling behaviour made against team principal Christian Horner by one of his female employees.

Hamilton said Formula One was “still a male-dominated sport” and one in which “the message is if you file a complaint, you will be fired”. Horner’s accuser was suspended after her grievance case was dismissed. She is appealing the result of the investigation, which was carried out by Red Bull’s parent company in Austria.

Asked for his thoughts on Susie Wolff’s criminal action, Hamilton, 39, said: “I’m incredibly proud of Susie. I think she is so brave, and she stands for such great values. She’s such a leader, and in a world where often people are silenced, for her to be standing up sends such a great message.

“I love that she’s taken it out of this world [the Formula One paddock], because there is a real lack of accountability here, within this sport, within the FIA, things that are happening behind closed doors. There is no transparency. There is really no accountability. And we need that. I think the fans need that.

“How can you trust the sport and what is happening here if you don’t have that? Hopefully this stand that she’s taking now will create change, will have a positive impact, and especially for women.

“It is still a male-dominated sport, and we’re living in a time where the message is: If you file a complaint, you will be fired. And that is a terrible narrative to be projecting to the world, especially when we’re talking about inclusivity here in the sport. We need to make sure we stay true to our core values.”

Wolff announced her case against Ben Sulayem on her social media just hours after the FIA said that its president had been cleared of interfering in last year’s Formula One races in Saudi Arabia and Las Vegas following a “robust” investigation. The Wolff case and the allegations of interference are the latest controversies to blow up around the Emirati who took over from Jean Todt in December 2021.

Christian Horner speaking with Mohammed Ben Sulayem at the Bahrain Grand Prix
The ongoing saga at Red Bull adds to a growing sense of crisis within the sport - Getty Images/Peter Fox

Asked whether he was confident Ben Sulayem was still “the right man to be president of the FIA” and still “had his backing”, Hamilton replied quietly: “He never has.”

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell also called for “accountability and transparency” in Formula One in general in an apparent reference to both the FIA and the Red Bull controversies.

“I think it’s a really important moment for Formula 1 right now, and to see the right outcomes, truth and transparency with any case that is presented,” said Russell, who is president of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.

“As drivers, we have a role within the teams, and you trust that the leaders in this sport have the best interests as their heart rather than their own interests. I think it goes back to the transparency side of things. If things are transparent and we see the outcome of these cases, we all have a chance to judge for ourselves with all of the facts and figures in front of us. But when we don’t have the facts and figures, and there is no transparency, you always think there’s something being hidden.

“That’s why I think it’s so important for the sport now, as Lewis said, to send the right message to everybody who is supporting Formula One, watching Formula One, wants to be involved in Formula 1, that things aren’t just swept under the carpet.”

Hamilton ‘felt compelled’ to post about Palestine

Hamilton was also asked about his Instagram post on Thursday in support of “all the people in Palestine who are spending this holy time facing danger, loss and heartbreak”, and calling for a “permanent ceasefire and return of hostages”.

Asked about his post, Hamilton said: “I mean, you can’t miss it. You see it every single day. You hear it on the news every single day. It’s hard to believe that we’re living in a time like this. It almost seems like as humanity we have not learnt from the past.

“But just to know that children and women, particularly children, are being killed every day, and our leaders are not really doing anything about it. It’s just… I just can’t compute it.

“It’s not been an easy time to utilise your platform. If you post something that’s not going to change the way governments go about their business.

“I don’t know, I just really felt compelled to do something. It’s a conversation that we continuously need to be having. Why is there not a ceasefire? We need a ceasefire now. This cannot continue on. But the powers that be obviously don’t want that to happen.”