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There has been widespread dissatisfaction within F1 this year about the way the governing body has administered the sport.

And the actions of race directors Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas have been under scrutiny after a series of incidents and interventions that have angered drivers and teams.

Ben Sulayem said that he was in a “restructuring” process.

He said he had instigated a programme aimed at improving F1 race direction that was put in place after Abu Dhabi.

He said “phase one” of this programme would finish “soon – hopefully at the beginning of next year we will have something if not before”.

He insisted his relationship with the drivers was good, and said the same about that with F1, after repeated claims from insiders that the commercial rights holder was unhappy with the FIA’s actions this season.

“It’s a marriage,” Ben Sulayem said. “It’s going to last, and strongly.”

Pointing to his decision to delay F1’s plan to increase the number of ‘sprint’ events to six from three next year, he said: “People assumed when I said about the three sprint races that there was a split. I laughed about it.”

Sources have said Ben Sulayem initially asked for extra funding for the FIA from F1 in return for his agreement. But he said he had merely wanted to investigate whether it would impose an extra load on FIA officials.

“People don’t understand sometimes the pressure that goes into the officials of the FIA,” he said.

That process took six months, and Ben Sulaymen said: “I am in a very good professional and personal relationship [with F1].”

Meanwhile, a meeting of the F1 Commission on Friday agreed to “undertake a comprehensive review of the sporting regulations for 2024”.

It also started a study aimed at reducing the spray from cars in wet weather, potentially with the use of removable wheel arches that would be fitted in extreme conditions.

Leclerc is competing for second place in the drivers’ championship with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who was fifth quickest from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

The pair are tied on points so whoever finishes the grand prix ahead will clinch the position.

It seems a meagre prize for Leclerc after his early season promise collapsed in a torrent of Ferrari errors and reliability failures, but two separate team orders disputes last weekend in Brazil revealed that both cared.

Ferrari decided against swapping their cars on the final lap in Brazil after they had agreed they would on race morning.

But Leclerc’s disappointment about that was nothing compared to the eruption at Red Bull when Verstappen refused an order to let Perez by for sixth place.

Verstappen’s refusal, and his subsequent admission that he acted in that way bay because of “something that happened in the past”, has dominated the race weekend in Abu Dhabi so far.

Verstappen continues to refuse to say what his problem is, but multiple sources have said that he believes Perez crashed deliberately in the closing stages of Monaco Grand Prix qualifying.

That prevented the Dutchman improving his time and securing a place on the front row, leaving him fourth on the grid behind Perez, who went on to win the race.

The situation has created an internal crisis at Red Bull. Verstappen says he made his feelings clear at the previous race in Mexico, and the team have admitted to mistakes in handling the race in Brazil, in a statement that included factual inaccuracies about the events of the race.

One of those mistakes was not to discuss with Verstappen before the race that they wanted him to help Perez, which he says he will do this weekend if the situation arises.

Sources within Red Bull say that Perez has admitted he crashed deliberately in Monaco to team management. But the Mexican himself says that information is “wrong”.

The two men insist the situation is behind them and Perez said he regretted some of the things he had said about Verstappen after the race

 

There has been widespread dissatisfaction within F1 this year about the way the governing body has administered the sport.

And the actions of race directors Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas have been under scrutiny after a series of incidents and interventions that have angered drivers and teams.

Ben Sulayem said that he was in a “restructuring” process.

He said he had instigated a programme aimed at improving F1 race direction that was put in place after Abu Dhabi.

He said “phase one” of this programme would finish “soon – hopefully at the beginning of next year we will have something if not before”.

He insisted his relationship with the drivers was good, and said the same about that with F1, after repeated claims from insiders that the commercial rights holder was unhappy with the FIA’s actions this season.

“It’s a marriage,” Ben Sulayem said. “It’s going to last, and strongly.”

Pointing to his decision to delay F1’s plan to increase the number of ‘sprint’ events to six from three next year, he said: “People assumed when I said about the three sprint races that there was a split. I laughed about it.”

Sources have said Ben Sulayem initially asked for extra funding for the FIA from F1 in return for his agreement. But he said he had merely wanted to investigate whether it would impose an extra load on FIA officials.

“People don’t understand sometimes the pressure that goes into the officials of the FIA,” he said.

That process took six months, and Ben Sulaymen said: “I am in a very good professional and personal relationship [with F1].”

Meanwhile, a meeting of the F1 Commission on Friday agreed to “undertake a comprehensive review of the sporting regulations for 2024”.

It also started a study aimed at reducing the spray from cars in wet weather, potentially with the use of removable wheel arches that would be fitted in extreme conditions.

The cost cap and other matters

In the wake of criticism of the FIA’s handling of Red Bull’s breaching of the budget cap last season, Ben Sulaymen said a “big review” was being undertaken into what had happened this season.

“If you don’t have the manpower to police it, what is the use of having this regulation?” he said.

“We learned a lot. Who knows in the first year what is going to be the outcome? The other teams will say we have been light on them, some of them want them to be hanged. Where do you draw [the line]? Do we want to get rid of them or straighten up and not do it?

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“What we did in September/October, it should be earlier, but as the first year we learned a lot from it and we are still learning.

Ben Sulaymen’s appointment of former Mercedes employee Shaila-Ann Rao as the FIA’s interim secretary general for sport has angered Red Bull this year.

Sources have told BBC Sport that Rao will lose her position in the coming days.

Ben Sulayem did not directly address a question on her future but said: “Her position is interim secretary general. What does interim mean? Shaila-Ann has been supportive a lot to me and I see her intelligence on big decisions. I will defend my people.”

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