FIA joins forces with FIM in coalition against online abuse

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem and FIM President Jorge Viegas sign a charter to counter online abuse in sport. (Supplied)
FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem and FIM President Jorge Viegas sign a charter to counter online abuse in sport. (Supplied)
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Updated 30 July 2023
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FIA joins forces with FIM in coalition against online abuse

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem and FIM President Jorge Viegas sign a charter to counter online abuse in sport. (Supplied)
  • Presidents of FIA and FIM sign charter pledging cooperation to stop hate speech in sport
  • FIA-led campaign underpinned by research programme with six global scholarships

BRUSSELS: The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile announced on Sunday the signing of a charter for collaboration with the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme as part of the global coalition to counter online abuse in sport. 

The signing between FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem and his counterpart at FIM, Jorge Viegas, took place at the Francorchamps circuit ahead of the Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix. 

Under the pledge, the FIA and FIM will contribute to the fight against online hate speech in sport, which is a major challenge for sport and society. 

The pledge includes upholding and promoting best practices in relation to the prevention, spread and removal of online hate speech in sport in all its forms. 

It also includes maintaining an open dialogue with stakeholders including athletes, volunteers, officials, fans, online platforms, technology businesses, government and regulatory bodies in the campaign to remove online hate speech from sport.

Sharing knowledge and research on online hate speech in sport to help eradicate its harmful effects and keep sport social is also included, as is fostering a collaborative approach between sporting bodies, online platforms, technology businesses, government and regulatory bodies to promote a transparent, positive and inclusive sports environment that helps to counter the effects of online hate speech in sport. 

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, FIA president, said: “The signing of the Charter by FIM is part of our mission to build a global coalition to stop hate speech in sport. We are grateful for the support of Jorge Viegas and his team as we take steps to drive out online abuse, which has become a blight on all sport. Sustained toxicity has reached deplorable levels and we must take collaborative action. Only through collaborative action can we bring about behavioural and regulatory change.”

Jorge Viegas, FIM president, said: “By signing the charter today, FIM gives its support to the FIA’s United Against Online Abuse campaign alongside the sporting bodies, online platforms, governments and regulatory bodies. Sport is a fantastic platform to teach values such as fairness, teamwork, equality, inclusion and respect. Together we must do everything possible to promote a transparent, positive sports environment to change attitudes and tackle hate speech and online abuse in sport.”

The charter is a central pillar of the FIA’s United Against Online Abuse campaign — a collaborative mission between national governments, regulatory institutions and fellow sporting bodies — with the objective of building a “global coalition to stop hate speech in sport.” 

The FIA is in advanced discussions with the IOC and FIFA, as well as representatives from the governing bodies of athletics, rugby, a number of other sports and the Peace and Sport Organisation.

Support for the campaign has also come from Prince Albert of Monaco, the rulers of Malaysia and Spain, the British minister for trade, and the prime minister of Slovenia, among others. 

The FIA is taking a knowledge-led approach to the campaign, which includes the launch of six scholarships. These scholarships will invite researchers worldwide to collaborate against online hate speech in sport while earning a master’s by research.

The scholarships fall under the auspices of the FIA University and are backed by the FIA Foundation. The FIA is partnering with Dublin City University, one of the world’s leading centres for research in the field of online hate speech, on the initiative. 

It will be a distance-learning programme spanning two years part-time and starting in January 2024. The FIA scholarship covers all academic fees and costs. The scholarship programme is part of the FIA’s equality, diversity and inclusion commitment. 


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.”


Jaguar’s Mitch Evans optimistic of form return at Sao Paulo E-Prix

Jaguar’s Mitch Evans optimistic of form return at Sao Paulo E-Prix
Updated 29 February 2024
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Jaguar’s Mitch Evans optimistic of form return at Sao Paulo E-Prix

Jaguar’s Mitch Evans optimistic of form return at Sao Paulo E-Prix
  • The New Zealand driver has been frustrated with his start to the Formula E season

DUBAI: Formula E driver Mitch Evans admits he has been frustrated with his performances this season but is optimistic he can bounce back, beginning with next month’s Sao Paulo E-Prix.

The Jaguar driver has yet to achieve a podium finish after ending fifth in the season opener in Mexico before matching the result in January’s Diriyah E-Prix. The New Zealander closed the Diriyah E-Prix doubleheader weekend with a disappointing 10th, leaving him fifth in the standings and 36 points behind leader and teammate Nick Cassidy.

“It is frustrating and am disappointed to how the season has started as I felt we had one of the quickest cars on average,” said the 29-year-old. “I have just not been able to convert it into a decent result. My best shot was in the first race in Diriyah but we didn’t execute the race properly.

“We still got some good points on the board but I walked away from Saudi that we left some good opportunities from my side of the garage. It’s still early days but it seems we still have the pace which is one of the main things.

“But I do need to ramp up big points and that is the focus. I’m still feeling very optimistic of having a good run in the next phase of the season.”

Evans is disappointed that he has not contributed more to the team’s points tally unlike teammate Cassidy who has enjoyed three podium finishes including his triumph in Diriyah’s round three.

He said: “What the most frustrating this is that we could be one-two in the championship and we’re not. Nick has done a great job in the first three races and has settled nicely into the team. He has transitioned into the team really well so Nick has driven really well in this Gen3 car and not overly surprised. We are leading the teams’ constructors which is good but I feel we could be one, two or three in the championship and that is the most frustrating.

“He’s had a great start and picked up a lot of good points total and he is going to be really competitive and quick. I just need to make some better results on the board.”


Red Bull F1 boss Horner cleared of inappropriate behavior

Red Bull F1 boss Horner cleared of inappropriate behavior
Updated 28 February 2024
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Red Bull F1 boss Horner cleared of inappropriate behavior

Red Bull F1 boss Horner cleared of inappropriate behavior
  • A statement from Austrian energy drinks brand Red Bull, the parent company of the world champion Formula One team, said the “grievance has been dismissed”
  • The complainant has a right of appeal

LONDON: Red Bull team chief Christian Horner was cleared Wednesday of wrongdoing following an investigation into complaints of inappropriate behavior against him made by a female team member.
A statement from Austrian energy drinks brand Red Bull, the parent company of the world champion Formula One team, said the “grievance has been dismissed.”
Horner, who has been team principal since 2005, denied the allegations made against him and was subjected to a lengthy interview by an independent London lawyer acting as investigator, who submitted a report to Red Bull.
The lawyer’s report was delivered on Tuesday and has been considered by Red Bull directors.
In a statement, Red Bull GmbH said: “The independent investigation into the allegations made against Mr.Horner is complete and Red Bull can confirm that the grievance has been dismissed.
“The complainant has a right of appeal. Red Bull is confident that the investigation has been fair, rigorous and impartial.
“The investigation report is confidential and contains the private information of the parties and third parties who assisted in the investigation and therefore we will not be commenting further out of respect for all concerned.
“Red Bull will continue striving to meet the highest workplace standards.”
Horner flew to Bahrain from London on Wednesday, but was not present at the circuit for a media day ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend.
He is expected to be on the pit wall for the opening practice sessions on Thursday.
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported the allegation of “inappropriate behavior” by a female member of staff for the British-based team earlier this month.
Asked about the accusations, Horner, 50, told De Telegraaf: “I completely deny these claims.”
Formula One chiefs had said they wanted the issue resolved at the “earliest opportunity.”
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff described the investigation as “an issue for all of Formula One” and called for transparency.
Under Horner’s guidance, Red Bull have become the dominant force in Formula One, with Max Verstappen winning the past three drivers’ titles.
Horner, who is married to former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, has been in charge of the team since they entered Formula One 19 years ago.
During that time he has overseen seven drivers’ world championships and six constructors’ titles.
Red Bull dominated the 2023 season, winning 21 of the 22 races as Verstappen defended his drivers’ crown.


Investigation into Red Bull boss overshadows new F1 season as Verstappen aims for fourth title

Investigation into Red Bull boss overshadows new F1 season as Verstappen aims for fourth title
Updated 27 February 2024
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Investigation into Red Bull boss overshadows new F1 season as Verstappen aims for fourth title

Investigation into Red Bull boss overshadows new F1 season as Verstappen aims for fourth title
  • The team’s parent company is facing calls from senior F1 figures such as Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and McLaren counterpart Zak Brown for the investigation — conducted by an external lawyer — to be handled transparently
  • On the track, Red Bull again seems to be the team to beat after a season in which Verstappen and Perez won all but one race

MANAMA: A still-unresolved investigation into the boss of Formula 1’s champion team is overshadowing the start of the new season this week at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

It’s been three weeks since Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was confirmed to be under investigation over alleged misconduct toward a team employee. No timeline has been given for a decision on his future.

The team’s parent company is facing calls from senior F1 figures such as Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and McLaren counterpart Zak Brown for the investigation — conducted by an external lawyer — to be handled transparently.

In a letter to the team, Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley insisted on a resolution and said Ford was “frustrated by the lack of full transparency surrounding this matter.” Ford is set to become Red Bull’s engine supplier in 2026.

The Red Bull drinks company said on Feb. 5 it was investigating Horner but didn’t give any details. Horner denies any wrongdoing and has not been suspended from his role. He has continued to be the face of the F1 team, declaring “business as normal.”

Horner has led Red Bull since its 2005 debut in F1, and had a prominent role at the team’s car launch — far more visible than three-time defending champion driver Max Verstappen or his teammate Sergio Perez. Horner was on site for three days of preseason testing in Bahrain last week.

“For everyone, it’s nice, of course, when things are resolved,” Verstappen said Friday at testing.

On the track, Red Bull again seems to be the team to beat after a season in which Verstappen and Perez won all but one race. Verstappen finished with a record 19 wins. While most teams seem to have used the 2023 Red Bull as inspiration for their new cars, Red Bull has evolved, using a slim sidepod design that Mercedes previously tried with little success.

Red Bull was strong throughout the three days of testing, though Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc posted the fastest times on the second and third days. Times set in testing are generally considered a poor guide for racing.

HAMILTON’S SWITCH

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton is going into his last season with Mercedes ahead of joining Ferrari next year.

For the 39-year-old Hamilton, there’s the hope that Ferrari allow him to fight for an eighth title after Mercedes was uncompetitive in the last two years. It’s also making a childhood dream come true. At testing in Bahrain, Hamilton reminisced about driving Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari in a video game as a child.

“We’ve had an absolutely incredible journey together, we’ve created history within the sport, and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved,” Hamilton said of his time with Mercedes. “I’m writing my story and I felt like it was time to start a new chapter.”

The sudden announcement shook up F1 and leaves some leading drivers unsure of their places for next year. Sainz was expecting a contract extension at Ferrari but is making way for Hamilton to partner Leclerc.

The open seat at Mercedes has fueled speculation about drivers ranging from 41-year-old two-time champion Fernando Alonso, still at Aston Martin, to the 17-year-old Mercedes junior driver Kimi Antonelli, who is making his Formula 2 debut this week.

ANDRETTI’S FIGHT

Michael Andretti and General Motors are still developing a car for F1 but they don’t have a spot on the grid yet.

The governing body, the FIA, has approved Andretti’s application to become the 11th team but F1 rejected the proposed US team for 2025 and 2026, arguing it would not be competitive — something Andretti and GM dispute.

In GM and its Cadillac brand, Andretti has the backing of one of the world’s leading auto manufacturers, and GM has applied to be an F1 engine supplier from 2028. “Our joint teams are continuing to develop our car at pace,” GM Racing director Jim Campbell said this month.

The series’ existing American team, Haas, looks to be headed for a difficult season, its first since Guenther Steiner — a star of the “Drive To Survive” series on Netflix — was dropped as team principal last month. Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg were consistently among the slowest over the three days of testing.

SATURDAY START

Don’t tune in on a Sunday to watch the race. The Bahrain GP and the following week’s race in Saudi Arabia are being held on Saturday, with qualifying on Friday.

That’s because the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts on March 10, the Sunday of the race week in Saudi Arabia, and that race was moved forward a day. F1 rules stipulate there has to be a week between races, so the Bahrain Grand Prix had to move up, too.

Last year’s race in Las Vegas set a precedent when it was held on a Saturday to maximize the audience in the US and around the world. That was the first F1 race held on a day other than Sunday since 1985.