Motor racing-Ben Sulayem to step back from day-to-day F1 involvement

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - November 19, 2022 FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has told Formula One team bosses he will step back from the day-to-day running of the sport and leave it in the hands of professional managers instead.

The announcement on Wednesday comes after recent controversies triggered by the 61-year-old Emirati, who has been in office at the Paris-based governing body since the end of 2021.

The BBC and Sky Sports television quoted Ben Sulayem detailing the changes in a letter, seen by them, to the 10 teams.

"My stated objective was to be a non-executive president via the recruitment of a team of professional managers, which has now been largely completed," he said.

"Therefore, going forward, your day-to-day contact for all matters on F1 will be with (head of single seater racing) Nikolas (Tombazis) and his team, while I will focus on strategic matters with my leadership team."

The FIA announced changes to its Formula One structure last month with Steve Nielsen, who has decades of experience with various teams, joining from the commercial rights holder as sporting director.

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

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

The FIA has also appointed Natalie Robyn, an American, as chief executive.

Relations between Formula One and the FIA have frayed during Ben Sulayem's presidency on issues ranging from sprint races to restrictions on drivers' making 'political' statements and his support for an 11th team.

Formula One's top lawyer sent an extraordinary letter to the FIA last month accusing Ben Sulayem of interfering in the commercial rights "in an unacceptable manner" after he questioned a valuation.

Decades-old sexist comments attributed to Ben Sulayem also recently surfaced in the media from an old personal website that had been archived.

The season starts in Bahrain on March 5.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

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