Formula 1

FIA completes F1 management restructuring, appoints Steve Nielsen as sporting director

-With the appointment of Steve Nielsen as sporting director, Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, has completed a restructuring of its F1 management.

Nielsen, a 30-year F1 veteran, will take on the role to address the FIA’s race management, which has been heavily criticized since the controversial finish of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021.

Nielsen is well-known in the sport, having worked for Lotus, Tyrrell, Benetton, and Toro Rosso during his career. Since 2017, he has served as sporting director for F1 management, reporting to Ross Brawn.

He will be in charge of F1 sporting matters at the FIA, including race control, the remote operations center, and future sporting regulations.

Importantly, the 58-year-old will also supervise and collaborate with 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, race control continued to make mistakes last season, much to the chagrin of drivers and teams. Last year, the use of a recovery vehicle on track while cars were still circulating in wet conditions and low visibility in Japan drew criticism from across the paddock. Nielsen will be expected to fine-tune and oversee race control operations in order to eliminate similar errors by collaborating with race directors.

The appointment is part of a restructuring process spearheaded by FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, which also includes the promotion of Nikolas Tombazis to single-seater director, putting him in charge of the FIA’s F1 management.
Ben Sulayem initiated the changes after taking over as president at the beginning of last year, shortly after Abu Dhabi. They are the result of a review of the FIA’s internal procedures, which led to a reorganization of the governing body.

Since Charlie Whiting’s death in 2019, the FIA has struggled to restructure. Whiting was the F1 director, in charge of all technical and sporting management as well as race direction. His responsibilities have since been divided among several positions, but determining the best working combination has proven difficult.

F1’s chief executive, Stefano Domenicali, welcomed Nielsen’s appointment. “He is a well-known professional in our sport,” Domenicali said. “We fully support his decision to join the FIA. His Formula One skills and experience will help the FIA in its ongoing efforts to improve race weekend operations.”