FIA President Pushes for More Formula 1 Events in India

According to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, hosting high-profile racing events like Formula 1, combined with extensive work at the grassroots level, is what India needs to revive motorsport in the country.

In an interview with PTI, the inaugural Formula E race in Hyderabad saw the first non-European FIA president speak on issues, such as his plans for a big market like India, women in motorsport, the pressing need to make the sport more affordable, and why he has stepped back from the day-to-day running of the FIA.

Bem Sulayem said, “In my manifesto, I had mentioned how important India is. Not because I am here, not because I am the president. India and China both have the manufacturers, both have the numbers. We have not scratched the surface yet. We are talking about 2.8 billion people in these two countries and we have less than 8000 competitive licenses. We need to grow, but how do we grow? There is no one size that fits all. India is different so we have to listen to people here.”

The Formula E racing event was India’s first world championship status race in 10 years. The Formula 1 Indian Grand Prix was discontinued after three races due to financial and bureaucratic hurdles.

Formula E and a MotoGP race scheduled later this year is seen as a much-needed boost to Indian motorsport, and Ben Sulayem hopes the momentum can continue.

Bem Sulayem said he would push to get more events to India, including Formula 1, but that work at the grassroots level was equally important. He also said he believed that street circuits, like the one used for Formula E in Hyderabad, would help build the motorsport culture in India.

Bem Sulayem added that the cost of racing and rallying has to be lowered, stating, “Motorsport is expensive. I faced it myself. I had to sell two watches, I had two cars. I sold them for a cheaper car, but we can avoid this for the newcomers by building a bridge.”

Furthermore, the FIA last year appointed its first-ever Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisor to promote diversity, double participation, and get more women into motorsport. The governing body also has a female CEO for the first time in its 118-year-old history, and Ben Sulayem said he is focused on getting more women into the sport.

Finally, Ben Sulayem stepped back from overseeing day-to-day operations of Formula 1 earlier this month, clarifying that his stepping back was always part of his long-term plan.

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