Owners of Formula 1 accuse the head of the FIA of making "unacceptable" comments about the worth of the championship

Owners of Formula 1 accuse the head of the FIA of making "unacceptable" comments about the worth of the championship

The owners of Formula 1 claim that the president of the organization that governs motorsports made "unacceptable" comments about the importance of the championship.

On Monday, FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem referred to $20 billion (£16 points 2 billion) as an "inflated price tag being put on F1.".

The remarks "overstep the bounds of both the FIA's remit and its contractual rights," according to a letter sent to the FIA by F1 and its owner Liberty Media.

It also stated that the FIA "may be liable" for any loss of value to Liberty.

Sacha Woodward Hill, F1's chief legal officer, and Renee Wilm, who serves in the same capacity for F1's owner Liberty Media, are co-authors of the letter, which was sent on Tuesday and has been seen by BBC Sport.

A 100-year lease agreement signed by the FIA at the beginning of this century gives F1 the commercial rights to the category. F1 was acquired by the US organization Liberty Media in 2017.

The letter is a fiery response to tweets made on Monday by Ben Sulayem in response to a Bloomberg report claiming that Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) attempted and failed to purchase Formula One for that sum.

Ben Sulayem called the price tag an "alleged inflated price tag" and advised any prospective buyer to use common sense, take the sport's overall welfare into account, and bring a clear, sustainable plan—not just a lot of cash. ".

"It is our responsibility to take into account what the long-term effects will be for promoters in terms of increased hosting fees and other commercial costs [in the event of any such sale]," he continued. ".

To the FIA Executive and its World Motorsport Council, the sport's governing body, was addressed in the letter from Woodward Hill and Wilm.

The strained relationship between F1 and the FIA, which has been apparent throughout Ben Sulayem's 13-month presidency, has dramatically worsened as a result.

According to the letter, F1 has "the exclusive right to exploit the commercial rights in the FIA F1 World Championship" as a result of the 100-year contract.

The FIA has made it clear that it won't take any actions that could jeopardize the ownership, oversight, or exploitation of those rights, the statement continues. ".

According to the statement, Ben Sulayem's comments "interfere with our rights in an unacceptable manner" and were "made from the FIA president's official social media account.".

The conditions under which the FIA would play any part in a change of control of the F1 group are extremely limited, according to Woodward Hill and Wilm.

"It is untrue that any potential buyer of the F1 business must contact the FIA; this or any suggestion or implication to the contrary is false. ".

The letter continues, "Commenting on the value of a listed entity, especially while claiming or implying possession of inside knowledge, risks causing substantial harm to the shareholders and investors of that entity, let alone potential exposure to serious regulatory consequences.

The FIA could be held accountable if these remarks reduce Liberty Media Corporation's value. ".

F1 and Liberty state in the conclusion that they "hope and trust that it will not be necessary to address this issue again.".

The FIA has chosen not to respond.

What was Ben Sulayem doing?

The assertion that the Saudi PIF has attempted to acquire F1 has been contested by senior sources in the sport.

Saudi Arabia is a participant in Formula One, with its national oil company Aramco serving as a corporate sponsor and the nation hosting a race with one of the highest hosting fees. However, BBC Sport has been informed that the PIF of Saudi Arabia has not yet attempted to acquire the sport.

The reason Ben Sulayem felt the need to intervene in a business matter that is outside of his purview raises a number of questions in light of his intervention.

A more than 20-year-old agreement between the FIA and the European Commission mandates that it refrain from interfering with F1's business affairs.

The FIA and F1 and the teams continue to be at odds with each other over how the sport is being run, and this is the context in which Ben Sulayem's statement is made.

F1 was acquired by Liberty in 2017 for $8.5bn, and since then, its popularity around the world has significantly risen.

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