Motor racing-Governing FIA shakes up its Formula One leadership

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Italian Grand Prix - Circuit of Monza, Monza, Italy - August 30, 2018 General view of the FiA logo REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

(Reuters) - The governing FIA shook up its Formula One structure on Wednesday with Steve Nielsen, who has decades of experience with a string of teams, joining from the commercial rights holder as sporting director.

The restructuring follows a review ordered by FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem and will be in place for the season starting in March.

Nielsen joins after five years at Liberty Media-owned Formula One Group, where he reported to recently-retired motorsport managing director Ross Brawn.

Chief executive Stefano Domenicali said he fully supported the move.

"His skills and experience in Formula One will assist the FIA in its ongoing efforts to improve their operations during race weekends," said the former Ferrari team boss.

Team bosses also welcomed the appointment which will help fill a void left by the death of former race director Charlie Whiting in 2019.

"It's fantastic that F1 made him available because he has been in F1 so long, so he knows a lot of history of what happened in different situations," Haas principal Guenther Steiner told the BBC.

"If you try to learn 30 years of history of rule-making, that takes a few years... Steve knows a lot of stuff, what happened when. It's better to have this not to create controversies."

The FIA said Nielsen will be responsible for overseeing all sporting matters including the development of race control and the remote operations centre as well as updates to the sporting regulations.

The governing body said it was increasing investment and resources in its Formula One activities.

Former technical head Nikolas Tombazis takes on the role of director of single seaters with the various sporting, technical, financial and strategy and operations directors reporting to him.

Tim Goss, a former McLaren technical director, moves up from deputy technical director at the FIA to become Tombazis's replacement.

Francois Sicard, previously sporting director, takes a new role as head of Formula One strategy and operations, responsible for long-term strategic planning and key trackside activities and logistics.

"We have dedicated a lot of time and effort to making significant, informed changes to our Formula One team to create the right structure with the right people to oversee the future regulation of the sport," said Ben Sulayem.

The Emirati took over the FIA in December 2021 following a huge controversy involving now-departed race director Michael Masi and safety car procedures at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen took his first title and denied Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton a record eighth championship in that race.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge)

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