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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Giles Richards

FIA completes F1 shake-up with Nielsen brought in as sporting director

New FIA sporting director Steve Nielsen
Steve Nielsen has worked under Ross Brawn as sporting director with F1 management since 2017. Photograph: Bryn Lennon/Formula 1/Getty Images

Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, has completed a restructuring of its F1 management with the appointment of Steve Nielsen as sporting director. Nielsen, a veteran of 30 years in F1, will take up the role to address the FIA’s race management, which has been criticised with increasing intensity since the controversial finish to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021.

Nielsen is very well respected within the sport after a career including time at Lotus, Tyrrell, Benetton and Toro Rosso. He has worked under Ross Brawn as sporting director with F1 management since 2017. At the FIA he will be responsible for F1 sporting matters, including race control, the remote operations centre and future sporting regulations.

Crucially the 58-year-old will also oversee and work with the F1 race directors. Since Michael Masi was removed from his post as race director after his interpretation of the rules in Abu Dhabi cost Lewis Hamilton a potential eighth title, the FIA have used two rotating race directors, which proved unsatisfactory and was ultimately dropped at the end of last season, and brought in the remote operations centre to aid their decision-making.

However, last season race control continued to make mistakes, much to the frustration of drivers and teams. The use of a recovery vehicle on track while cars were still circulating in wet conditions and low visibility in Japan last year attracted condemnation from across the paddock. Nielsen will be expected to hone and oversee the operation of race control to eliminate similar errors by working with the race directors.

The appointment comes as part of a restructuring process undertaken by the FIA’s president, Mohammed ben Sulayem, and includes the promotion of Nikolas Tombazis to single-seater director, placing him in charge of the FIA’s F1 management. The former McLaren technical director, Tim Goss, has also been promoted to FIA technical director.

The changes were initiated by Ben Sulayem after he took over as president at the beginning of last year soon after Abu Dhabi. They follow a review of the FIA’s internal procedures leading to a reorganisation of the governing body. The FIA has struggled to restructure since the death of Charlie Whiting in 2019. Whiting was the F1 director and as well as being race director, handling all the technical and sporting management. His responsibilities have since had to be devolved amongst several posts but finding the correct working combination has proved complex.

Nielsen’s appointment was welcomed by F1’s chief executive, Stefano Domenicali. “He is a highly respected professional in our sport,” Domenicali said. “We fully support his move to the FIA. His skills and experience in Formula One will assist the FIA in its ongoing efforts to improve their operations during race weekends.”

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