Interesting talk from the Middle East

It has been reported for some time that Mohammad Bin Sulayem, the UAE's representative at the FIA, was largely responsible for Max Mosley's recent victory in a vote of confidence by the FIA General Assembly. Bin Sulayem is now admitting what he did, telling the Gulf News that he organised 41 of Mosley's 103 votes. With 55 delegates voting against Mosley it is clear that Bin Sulayem's influence was considerable as Mosley would have been defeated if the votes had changed sides.

When asked if he had been responsible Bin Sulayem said: "Yes, you are right. I had got him so many votes. Yes, I made the difference. I don't deny it. The vote of confidence was a democratic process and once he has won the vote I think it is unfair to question his future as the FIA President. The very countries which say they are the torch-bearers of democracy seem to be doing just the opposite. If anyone can convince me that he has done wrong to motorsport or during his tenure his decisions have hurt Formula 1 or rallying then we have a case. But not over his personal and private affairs. In fact in one of my speeches I have referred to it as a 'terrorist attack on one's personal life'."

The statement is no real surprise as it was widely known that Bin Sulayem had played a key role, and did not accept the concept that the fact that Max Mosley was exposed in the newspapers has destroyed any credibility he has in dealings at government level. Mosley himself has accepted that his position in this respect is difficult as he argued at the meeting that his public appearances should be done by the two Deputy Presidents, although they have been pretty invisible ever since.

The interesting question is why Bin Sulayem is now talking openly about his involvement and it will probably lead to speculation that he might be a person to succeed Mosley. Rumours have long suggested that Jean Todt was Mosley's choice, but it is clear that the Frenchman has a lot of enemies and the F1 world has made it obvious that they do not to be governed by Todt. They do not really get a choice in the matter because teams do not have a vote in the elections but the knowledge that F1 is against Todt is nonetheless significant as the last thing the FIA needs in the long term is more fighting in F1. Mosley's abrasive way of doing business has kept him in the spotlight, but there are many inside the FIA who believe that a change of style is necessary for everyone to get out of the limelight an do some much-needed repair work.

Mosley has said he will stand down in October 2009 but there s no doubt that he is planning a Putin-like operation in which he will probably move to become head of the FIA Senate, which will give him power without profile.

Bin Sulayem is 46 and has dominated Middle Eastern rallying since 1986. He has won more FIA regional championships than any other driver in history, racking up 14 Middle East titles. His success at world level has been less dramatic but sixth place on the 1993 Rally of Argentina was no mean achievement. With motorsport booming in the Middle East, Bin Sulayem may be seen by Mosley as a man who could replace him.

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