Newly elected FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem insisted that the Fabiana Ecclestone appointment was “not because of her illustrious name”.
Fabiana was appointed as vice-president of sport. She is the wife of former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, and after Sulayem was appointed as president was revealed as one of seven regional FIA vice-presidents for sport.
The nomination was not well-received by F1 fans, with some accusing the new president and his officials of nepotism. However, Sulayem insisted that the Fabiana appointment was “not because of her illustrious name”, and that it was entirely based on merit.
“This is history for the FIA, to have the first-ever female nominated in all our history,” he said.
“We’re not talking about commissions: we’re talking about the vice-president (of sport). So when I approached them, I approached them not because of her name, I approached them because of her credibility. And the choice was made on merit.
“She has been involved in mobility in the club of Brazil, and she has been involved in the F1 of Brazil. So she has the sport and mobility side, and she has been in two of the Commissions, so her experience is there.
“Bernie said, ‘You have to convince her. It’s nothing to do with me.’ So that was where his help stopped actually.”
The new FIA president also said that although Bernie had so much experience in the job, his team was more than capable to run the FIA well.
“Bernie is a reference definitely to F1, and always you need the experience and we need the wisdom from people,” he said.
“But I believe we have a good team at the FIA and we have a good World (Motor Sport) Council that we can go back to and ask, and to help grow the sport and F1.”