FIA president clashes with Christian Horner on stage in awkward moment at awards ceremony

The FIA’s Prize Giving gala brought about a toe-curling exchange on stage between president Mohammed Ben Sulayem and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner as he collected the constructors’ championship trophy.

Horner and Red Bull racers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were among the special guests in attendance at the ceremony in Bologna on Friday. The annual event is traditionally where the winners of FIA racing series collect their trophies.

Having won both the drivers’ and constructors’ crowns in 2022, it was sure to be an enjoyable night for the Red Bull delegation. But it also brought a bizarre moment on stage as the FIA’s president appeared to take issue with a comment made by Horner.

Collecting the constructors’ trophy for Red Bull, Horner spoke with pride about the job his team did over the course of the year. particular drivers’ champion Verstappen. But after his speech, Ben Sulayem responded by referring to a joke Horner had made about the Japanese Grand Prix – the Dutchman had made sure of the title after winning at Suzuka, but not without some confusion over how many points would be handed out.

Despite the full race distance not being completed, full points were handed out due to the wording of the rules. The FIA received plenty of criticism for that confusion, but Ben Sulayem grabbed his microphone and made sure he took the opportunity to set the record straight.






Horner appeared taken aback by Ben Sulayem's sudden outburst


Horner appeared taken aback by Ben Sulayem’s sudden outburst
(
FIA)

He told Horner on stage: “Japan, you said, was controversial? No! The FIA was blamed for the points, but it was not the FIA who made the rules – it was the teams who made the rules, and we were implementing them. So thank you for that.”

Horner appeared somewhat taken aback by the timing of that clarification as he simply looked at Ben Sulayem with eyebrows raised. TV cameras showed Sergio Perez sat in the audience with an awkward smile on his face as F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali, also on stage at the time, stepped in.






F1 chief Stefano Domenicali quickly stepped in to make sure Ben Sulayem got back on topic


F1 chief Stefano Domenicali quickly stepped in to make sure Ben Sulayem got back on topic
(
FIA)

“Okay guys, let’s stay focussed!” said the Italian with a chuckle as he put his arm out between Ben Sulayem and Horner. But the president continued: “For me, it’s very very clear about the FIA, so thank you very much.”

Perhaps aware of how awkward that exchange had been, he then went on to congratulate Horner and Red Bull for their successful season, and shook hands with the team boss and declaring: “They deserve the win – everyone who wins deserves it.”

Shortly after, Verstappen arrived on stage to collect his trophy for winning the driver’s championship. As he walked up to the front of the room, his title-winning Red Bull car was wheeled in behind him so it could be on stage next to him as he was handed the trophy.

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