Toughness, discipline, and determination are characteristics that helped Mohammed Ben Sulayem carve out a niche for himself as one of the greatest Arab drivers in motorsport history.
Now the 14-time Middle East Rally champion aims to imbibe the same attribute into his acumen as FIA President, an office that he hopes to modernize since he took control in December 2021.
Ben Sulayem, who boasts an eye-popping collection of luxury cars worth over $150 million that includes a Ferrari Enzo, Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR AMG, Porsche Carrera GT, Jaguar XJ220, and Bugatti Veyron SS, clearly loves the good life but at the same time has high respect for rules.
Which explains why he is taking a tough stance against the use of jewelry by Formula One drivers during races.
The Emirati entrepreneur is currently in the eye of the storm following his decision to enforce a long-standing rule that disallows drivers from wearing bling when competing.
The rule, which forms Article 5 of the governing body’s International Sporting Code, was instituted in 2005 to protect drivers in the event of a crash.
However, Ben Sulayem has had to deal with some negative press because it is perceived that he is specifically targeting seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who is a big fan of bling.
“I am simply saying the rules are there. It’s not for me to decide the merits of the science — it’s for the medics,” he told the Daily Mail.
“It’s up to him. There are fines that apply. It’s like if someone speeds on the roads — you can’t stop them from doing it but they get fined, even if it was accidental.
“I would like Lewis to be a role model, an ambassador, to send the right message to all the young drivers to prevent a tragedy. We should be using him in that good cause.”
Although he initially refused to accede to the FIA rule, the Mercedes star ditched his earrings before the Miami GP which was won by Max Verstappen, but still wore his famous nose stud.
The FIA has given him an exemption for two races to dump the stud before the Monaco Grand Prix on May 29. “This is such a small thing. I’ve been in the sport for 16 years and I’ve been wearing jewelry for 16 years,” the British superstar told GQ.
“In the car, I only ever have my earrings on and my nose ring, which I can’t even remove. It seems unnecessary for us to get into this spat. I’m here to be an ally of the sport. There’s bigger fish to fry.”
Meanwhile, fellow F1 driver Pierre Gasly joined the debate by saying that he wore a religious item when racing, which was important to him.
“I don’t feel comfortable not having that (medal) in the car. I do feel like it’s personal; we should have the freedom to do what we feel is right for us,” the AlphaTauri driver told ESPN.
“At the end of the day, we have the responsibility to go out there and put our lives at risk. It should be a personal choice.”
Grand Prix Driver’s Association chairman Alex Wurz has backed Ben Sulayem’s move and insists that the jewelry ban is in the best interests of the drivers.
“We need to work together,” the former Benetton, McLaren, and Williams pilot told Sky Sports.
“It is a rule for the right reasons.”
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