Mohammad Bin Sulayem speaks to Gulf News Image Credit: Alaric Gomes/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: One of the region’s top drivers has found himself in the running for the topmost post of FIA President when elections are next held in less than two years’ time.

Frenchman Jean Todt, who landed on Saturday in the UAE capital for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, heads the world governing body for motorsport till his stipulated third and final four-year term concludes in December 2021.

The UAE’s Mohammad Bin Sulayem, who currently doubles up as one of the seven FIA Vice-Presidents and as President of the Emirates Motor Sport Organisation (EMSO), believes that the diversity factor in the sport may see him being pushed forward as a serious candidate for the topmost post in the near future. During a chequered career spanning more than two decades, Bin Sulayem went on to win the FIA Middle East Rally Championships a record 14 times.

While Todt is scheduled to leave immediately after the Abu Dhabi race to be in time for the FIA General Assembly scheduled in Paris from December 2-6, Bin Sulayem has been absent here due to his commitment in attending the FIM general assembly in Monaco.

“I have been overwhelmed after some of the members told me that I should seriously consider my candidature for the FIA President’s post. Of course, in more than three decades of my association with motorsport I have had numerous countries across the world support me on various issues. And now, many of these member nations feel I can be a genuine contender to take over,” Bin Sulayem told media ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Bin Sulayem, who missed the season-ending F1 race for the first time in 11 years after he was required to attend the FIM general assembly in Monaco, was all praise for the changes brought in by FIA supremo Todt. “He [Jean] has lifted the image of the FIA,” Bin Sulayem added.

“During Jean-Marie Balestre or his successor Max Mosley’s times, things were totally different. They are different now as well. I think we’ve got to consider the fact that times have changed and will continue changing, and we need to embrace these changes,” he added.

“I believe I can be the one if I know I can bring in a change. I am convinced that this a job that is enjoyable, merely from the fact that I have spent more than half my life in this sport. Many of the members who have spoken to me have impressed on me that a member from the FIA family and from this region would be an asset to take our sport forward,” he related.

The tilting of the diversity scales is heavily weighing in Bin Sulayem’s favour led by the dominance of six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and the emergence of promising talent like Alexander Albon of Thailand.

In fact, Bin Sulayem went on to narrate a conversation with Argentina’s FIA member who gave the example of current Pope Francis sitting in Rome even though he’s Argentinian, after Barack Obama had bucked the trend while becoming the first black president of the US. “We don’t mind you as the president of the FIA my Argentinian friend told me,” Bin Sulayem recounted.