FIA releases white paper to combat ‘deplorable’ online hate speech in sport

FIA releases white paper to combat ‘deplorable’ online hate speech in sport
Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile President Mohammed Ben Sulayem says that “Sustained online toxicity has reached deplorable levels.” (FIA)
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Updated 06 March 2023
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FIA releases white paper to combat ‘deplorable’ online hate speech in sport

FIA releases white paper to combat ‘deplorable’ online hate speech in sport
  • FIA campaign has support of European Commission and fellow sports governing bodies

BAHRAIN: A significant milestone in the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’s mission to stamp out online abuse was reached over the weekend with the launch of a white paper on the issue that has become a blight on the global sport.

The white paper, produced as part of a research program under the auspices of the FIA University, has been presented to the FIA’s 241 Member Clubs. It was also shared at the World Motor Sport Council Strategy Meeting in Bahrain.

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem said: “The release of our white paper further underlines the FIA’s commitment to confronting online abuse. With the support of the European Commission and other sporting governing bodies, we are emboldened by a combined determination to bring about meaningful change through concrete action.

“Sustained online toxicity has reached deplorable levels. We will no longer tolerate FIA volunteers, officials, employees and drivers being subjected to this extreme abuse. It has no place in our sport and if it continues, it could destroy it. We will take a collaborative approach in combatting this scourge on our sport and others.

The document, entitled, “A Strategic Response to Online Hate Speech in Sport,” has been informed by industry experts, government institutions and the FIA’s academic partners. Dr. David Hassan, an academic, writer and associate dean of the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences (Global Engagement) at Ulster University, a member of the FIA’s Online Abuse Working Group, is the document’s author.

The white paper sets out the sustained and collaborative approach the FIA will adopt in confronting online toxicity.

The FIA recognized that online abuse of its participants, officials and volunteers had reached intolerable levels, and the president first revealed details of its pledge to address the matter in a speech at the Annual General Assembly Week in Bologna in December last year.

The document reveals that across the EU, almost 80 percent of people surveyed had encountered some form of online hate, with 40 percent of respondents claiming that they had been either left frightened or threatened by postings they had read online.

It also reports that the FIA will invest significant funding to support research via the FIA University and become the first governing body of sport to launch its own, dedicated research center into online hate.

In terms of addressing the issues on the FIA platforms, the white paper states that after five months of its collaboration with Arwen.ai, the number of toxic comments being posted on the FIA’s social media profiles has been reduced by 66.6 percent.

Across all social media profiles, 92.73 percent of comments were considered safe in September 2022, but within five months that figure had risen to 97.57 percent.

In the coming months, the federation will reveal further details of an action plan that will leverage the power and reach of its global member network.

“We want everyone, the teams, drivers, media and fans to play their part,” Ben Sulayem said. “Only through collaborative action, can we bring about behavioral change. This journey has only just begun.”

He added that the FIA’s aim is to ensure the sport remains fully accessible and welcoming to all by promoting and safeguarding a respectful environment.

Jorge Viegas, president of the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme, said: “The FIM is fully supportive of the FIA’s efforts in launching this campaign to drive out online abuse in sport. We will work together along with a number of other sports governing bodies to tackle abuse and harassment and create a safer environment for competitors and fans.”

Mike Riley, managing director of Professional Game Match Officials, said: “PGMOL is hugely supportive of the progressive steps taken by the FIA in addressing the issue of online abuse across the wider sport ecosystem — something we all feel strongly about. During recent discussions, we have together identified that common challenges are shared around the abuse of our officials, and we look forward to further collaboration with the FIA to bring about change for good.”


Sharjah rookie grabs dramatic win as Team Abu Dhabi get top 10 finish

Sharjah rookie grabs dramatic win as Team Abu Dhabi get top 10 finish
Updated 03 March 2024
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Sharjah rookie grabs dramatic win as Team Abu Dhabi get top 10 finish

Sharjah rookie grabs dramatic win as Team Abu Dhabi get top 10 finish
  • Rusty Wyatt makes perfect start at Grand Prix of Indonesia, the opening race of the 2024 UIM F1H2O World Championship

ABU DHABI: Sharjah rookie Rusty Wyatt recorded a dramatic victory in the Grand Prix of Indonesia today as Team Abu Dhabi battled through a tough start to the 2024 UIM F1H2O World Championship.

Reigning world champion Jonas Andersson looked poised for a record fifth race win in a row but dropped to third place as Wyatt and Victory Team’s Erik Stark both passed him in a sensational finish.

Making his Team Abu Dhabi debut and starting down the field after a broken engine in qualifying, Alberto Comparato climbed seven places on the day to finish inside the top 10.

The young Italian will now be aiming for a big improvement on his ninth place when the second round at the end of this month introduces Vietnam as the latest new championship venue.

His Abu Dhabi teammate, Thani Al-Qemzi, will equally be looking for a change in fortunes next time out. Starting his 153rd Grand Prix in ninth spot following a disappointing qualifying run, the veteran Emirati driver reached the finish in seventh place. He later collected a one-lap penalty for a start infringement and dropped to 12th.

After a false start caused by a technical issue, Stark looked to have grabbed an important advantage over Andersson as he squeezed past his fellow Swede on the first lap before the race was halted when Ferdinand Zandbergen crashed out.

Andersson regained control from the re-start and shrugged off several attacks by Stark before the final lap saw them tussling for the win down the last straight, both boats slowing with technical issues.

As the Victory driver squeezed ahead, Wyatt powered his way through on the outside right at the finish to become the first rookie to win a Grand Prix. Sharjah’s Canadian driver takes an immediate lead in the championship from Stark, and Al-Qemzi and Comparato will be determined to ensure that the UAE has three teams challenging for honors as the season progresses.

Team Abu Dhabi have secured 17 world championship titles since Guido Cappellini took over as team manager in 2015, and the Italian racing legend is determined to deliver more success to Abu Dhabi Marine Sports Club.

His meticulous planning and attention to detail will be aimed at giving Al-Qemzi and Comparato a significant boost to see them challenging for podium places in Vietnam.


Max Verstappen cruises to ‘unbelievable’ Red Bull one-two in Bahrain Grand Prix

Max Verstappen cruises to ‘unbelievable’ Red Bull one-two in Bahrain Grand Prix
Updated 02 March 2024
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Max Verstappen cruises to ‘unbelievable’ Red Bull one-two in Bahrain Grand Prix

Max Verstappen cruises to ‘unbelievable’ Red Bull one-two in Bahrain Grand Prix
  • Verstappen delivered the 12th ‘hat-trick’ of his career leaving only the seven-time champions Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton ahead on 22 and 19 trebles respectively

SAKHIR, Bahrain: Three-time world champion Max Verstappen began his title defense in flawless fashion on Saturday when he guided his Red Bull team to a crushing one-two triumph, ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez, at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
In a statement of emphatic superiority, the 26-year-old Dutchman came home 22.5 seconds clear of Perez, who started from fifth, to ease some of the pressure on team boss Christian Horner.
Pole sitter Verstappen held off the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc to lead into the first corner, and it was business as usual from there to the flag as he enjoyed the perfect start to his quest for a fourth consecutive title.
By claiming the 33rd pole of his career, fastest lap and race win, Verstappen delivered the 12th ‘hat-trick’ of his career leaving only the seven-time champions Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton ahead on 22 and 19 trebles respectively.
It was Verstappen’s eighth successive win, his 55th race victory and 99th podium finish as Red Bull dominated an uneventful race on a cold evening at Sakhir’s Bahrain International Circuit.
it also extended his run as championship leader to 40 races since the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix.
“Unbelievable!” said Verstappen.
“I think today went better than expected and we had a lot of pace. It was super-enjoyable to drive and we stayed out of trouble. It’s a good start to the year — it couldn’t be better.
“It was a lot of fun. And it’s very special to have days like today as it doesn’t happen often, when everything is all ok with the car. It felt great today.”
Team-mate Perez praised the team.
“The team definitely had good momentum. We’ve got to keep it up now for the coming weekends,” he said.
“It was the maximum we could achieve — a tricky race with the tire management and plenty to learn from the race.”
Carlos Sainz, whose seat at Ferrari is to be taken by Hamilton next year, finished a pugnacious third ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc, who profited from a rare error by Mercedes George Russell in the closing laps.
“I felt really good today and had good pace. We had a clear plan and it worked well,” said Sainz.
“I managed my tires and then I could overtake a few cars on the way to the podium. A good step forward compared to last year.”
Russell finished fifth ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris, Hamilton in the second Mercedes, Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren and the Aston Martin duo two-time champion Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll.
After days of speculation, Red Bull boss Horner arrived hand in hand with his wife, former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell — a show of unity following the release on Thursday of a cache of alleged messages from him to a female member of staff.
That had come just 24 hours after he had been cleared by Red Bull’s internal investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior.
On track, the team showed no apparent distraction as Verstappen topped qualifying to secure his 33rd pole position — and lead the pack when the lights went out in cold, dry conditions in the desert.
The Dutchman made a clean start and led from lights to flag.
When he came in for his final set of new softs at the end of lap 37, he re-joined with a 17-second cushion ahead of Perez.
It was a commanding performance from the champion, decorated with a fastest lap of 1:32.608 as he cruised through the final 16 laps: a lap that was fully 1.5 seconds quicker than any other.
“Look, it’s been the best possible start to the season,” said Horner afterwards.
“Very clinical from the team and a well-executed race. The perfect start.”
Asked about his own position and the confidence that Red Bull’s owners have in him, Horner was bullish.
“Do I have their backing? Absolutely, yes,” he said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.”


FIA president to FT: Red Bull boss Christian Horner controversy is ‘damaging the sport’

FIA president to FT: Red Bull boss Christian Horner controversy is ‘damaging the sport’
Updated 02 March 2024
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FIA president to FT: Red Bull boss Christian Horner controversy is ‘damaging the sport’

FIA president to FT: Red Bull boss Christian Horner controversy is ‘damaging the sport’
  • Mohammed Ben Sulayem said any complaint lodged with its compliance officer would be investigated

SAKHIR, Bahrain: The president of Formula 1’s governing body told the Financial Times the controversy around Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is damaging the sport, but that the FIA won’t conduct its own inquiry unless it receives a complaint.
Ahead of Saturday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Horner arrived at the F1 paddock holding hands with his wife Geri Halliwell, who is better known as Ginger Spice of the pop group the Spice Girls.
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem said any complaint lodged with its compliance officer would be investigated but it had not received one related to Horner’s situation and would not “jump the gun,” the Financial Times reported.
“It’s damaging the sport,” Ben Sulayem told the newspaper, which added that he was speaking Friday after a meeting with Horner. “This is damaging on a human level.”
On Wednesday, the team’s parent company dismissed a complaint of alleged misconduct by Horner toward a team employee. A day later during practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix, a file alleged to contain evidence against Horner was emailed to nearly 200 people in the F1 paddock, including Liberty Media, F1, the FIA, the other nine team principals and multiple media outlets.
The authenticity of the files has not been verified by The Associated Press; the file came from a generic email account.
Horner has denied wrongdoing and said in a statement issued Thursday that he would not “comment on anonymous speculation.”
Three-time defending champion Max Verstappen said after qualifying on pole position Friday that Horner was “fully committed to the team” but that his team principal was also “probably a little bit distracted.”


Verstappen’s Bahrain pole delivers relief to Red Bull and Horner

Verstappen’s Bahrain pole delivers relief to Red Bull and Horner
Updated 01 March 2024
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Verstappen’s Bahrain pole delivers relief to Red Bull and Horner

Verstappen’s Bahrain pole delivers relief to Red Bull and Horner
  • Verstappen clocked a fastest lap of one minute and 29.179 seconds to beat Leclerc by 0.228 seconds in the final seconds of the session
  • “It was a lot of fun,” said Verstappen

SAKHIR, Bahrain: Max Verstappen delivered some much-needed relief for his Red Bull team on Friday when he resisted Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to claim pole position for Saturday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
The defending three-time world champion picked up where he left off last year by topping the times in a closely-contested qualifying session at the Bahrain International Circuit at Sakhir.
His success, which he admitted was “a little bit unexpected” arrived after another day of speculation and pressure for team boss Christian Horner, following the anonymous leaking of a cache of alleged private messages and photographs between him and a female member of the team.
This came 24 hours after an internal investigation led by an independent London lawyer had resulted in Horner being cleared of all claims of inappropriate behavior.
Verstappen clocked a fastest lap of one minute and 29.179 seconds to beat Leclerc by 0.228 seconds in the final seconds of the session, securing his third Bahrain pole and the 33rd of his career.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Verstappen.
“The track had a lot of grip, but with the wind over the last few days, it’s been quite tricky to get a whole lap together and it was the same in qualifying.
“In Q1 and Q2 you go a bit faster, with the track ramping up, but to really get everything out of it in Q3 was a little bit difficult. So I’m very happy to be on pole.”
He added: “To be honest, it was a little bit unexpected, but I think the car came to us and I felt happier with the whole car.”
He forecast a close race on Saturday.
“We look good for the race and that’s the most important, but we will see tomorrow. I’m confident we can have a strong race.”
Ferrari’s Leclerc missed pole by only two-tenths of a second as he finished second ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell, Carlos Sainz of Ferrari and Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull.
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso qualified sixth for Aston Martin, ahead of the McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton ninth for Mercedes and Nico Hulkenberg 10th for Haas.
“I’m a bit disappointed,” admitted Leclerc.
“But we had a good qualifying and this offers us a good start to the year.”
Russell praised Mercedes for producing a car that he could build on. “P3 is a good place to start,” he said.
Qualifying got under way with Horner, who has always categorically denied any wrongdoing, under renewed pressure despite being cleared in Red Bull’s investigation led by a London lawyer.
Horner, who turned up at the track on Thursday to oversee the start of the new season, said: “I won’t comment on anonymous speculation, but to reiterate, I have always denied the allegations.”
Verstappen ensured events on the track went more smoothly and he will be favorite to emulate last year’s result when he won the first of 19 races as he swept to his third title.
The session began in cool conditions as temperatures fell under the floodlights at Sakhir’s International Circuit where Bahrain’s maiden race took place 20 years ago.
The air temperature was 18, the track 21.
The first qualifying segment ended with Sainz on top as the Alpines made an early exit along with both Saubers and Williams’ Logan Sargeant.
After topping Thursday’s opening practice, Hamilton squeezed through in 15th place.
Leclerc topped the times on the second runs of Q2 and Sainz was third, sandwiching Verstappen in second, while Hamilton was fourth with a late lap.
In the final seconds of the top 10 shoot-out Verstappen improved to 1:29.179, enough to resist Leclerc by 0.228 seconds to launch his 2024 season in ominous fashion.
Exceptionally the Bahrain race and next weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix are being staged on Saturdays to accommodate the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.


Alonso feeling great after hinting at retirement

Alonso feeling great after hinting at retirement
Updated 01 March 2024
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Alonso feeling great after hinting at retirement

Alonso feeling great after hinting at retirement
  • “I feel great now, but I know it’s a demanding calendar and in 2026 there are a different set of regulations as well,” said Fernando Alonso
  • “I feel great. I didn’t expect we would be that competitive, to be honest”

SAKHIR, Bahrain: Fernando Alonso on Friday qualified in sixth place for Saturday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and declared he felt “great” two days after hinting at retirement.
The 42-year-old Aston Martin driver said he had not expected to be so competitive, but added that he hoped he might be in contention to repeat his surprise podium finish last year.
The two-time world champion on Wednesday said he would decide his future after the “first few weeks or races” because of the demands of this year’s unprecedented 24-race calendar.
“Well, first of all, I need to decide if I want to keep racing and that will be the first thing that I need to decide — in a few weeks or a few races,” he said when asked if he was interested in joining Mercedes to succeed Lewis Hamilton next year.
“I feel great now, but I know it’s a demanding calendar and in 2026 there are a different set of regulations as well, which maybe are tempting or maybe not, I don’t know.”
After qualifying, however, the evergreen Spaniard, who has adopted a new diet and fitness schedule, said: “I feel great. I didn’t expect we would be that competitive, to be honest.
“Winter testing was ok, but I think we are not in the pace of the leaders.
“Free practice was competitive, but we found also last year that sometimes in free practice we are running in a different engine mode and in qualifying everything is a bit more realistic.
“It’s going to be difficult in the race, very tight in a group which will damage the tires even more when you are in traffic. So, I think it’s going to be a question mark for everyone. Let’s see.”
He made no further comments about his future, having declared that 24 races is “well over the limit.”
“When I started, we had 16 races, then it was 18 and then I think Liberty (the American owners of F1) came and we had 20 in a season and that was the limit, 20 races, but now we are up to 24.
“It isn’t sustainable for the future, I think, not for anyone.”