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Ethics committee clears FIA President of wrongdoing in pair of whistleblower complaints

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, center, who qualified for pole position, speaks with FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem after qualification ahead of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, March 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

The ethics committee for Formula 1's governing body has cleared Mohammed Ben Sulayem in a pair of whistleblower complaints that alleged the FIA president twice interfered in competition last year.

The FIA earlier this month said its compliance officer received two complaints against Ben Sulayem. The first alleged he intervened to overturn a penalty given to Fernando Alonso at last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. The second report from the same whistleblower also claimed Ben Sulayem told officials not to certify the Las Vegas circuit for its high-profile race last November.

“After reviewing the results of the inquiries, the Ethics Committee were unanimous in their determination that there was no evidence to substantiate allegations of interference of any kind involving the FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem,” the committee said in its Wednesday ruling.

The ethics committee, which operates independently from the FIA, said it conducted a wide-ranging review that spanned 30 days and 11 witnesses were interviewed.

“Allegations against the FIA President were unsubstantiated and strong evidence beyond any reasonable doubt was presented to support the determination of the FIA Ethics Committee,” the statement said. “The President's complete co-operation, transparency, and compliance throughout the process during this investigation was greatly appreciated.”

The ethics committee has also received a complaint from a Red Bull employee who has accused team principal Christian Horner of misconduct. Horner was cleared of wrongdoing by Red Bull's parent company and the employee has been suspended.

The employee has appealed Red Bull's ruling in favor of Horner and last week filed a formal complaint with the FIA's governing body. The drama surrounding Red Bull and Horner follows F1 into this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, the third race of the season.

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AP Formula 1: https://apnews.com/hub/formula-one