FORMULA ONE has raced into a storm after it emerged that payments from the sport are heading to motoring organisations in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iran, Rwanda and Burundi.
The Government has been asked to investigate after it came to light that F1’s regulator, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), made payments to a Syrian auto club that arranges races sponsored by president Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The races have been used as promotion by Syria’s tourism minister, Bishr Yazigi, who is subject to European Union sanctions.
Company documents show that it was funded with fees from a contract with F1’s parent firm, which is being scrutinised by the Serious Fraud Office. The FIA and F1 deny that the contract is corrupt.
In 2016 alone grants worth £2.7million were awarded.
Since 2014 Zimbabwe has received grants to train officials and fire fighters, Sudan and Iran also received training grants, while the money funded a grass-roots karting programme in Burundi and Rwanda.
Maddy Crowther, co-director of Waging Peace, said: “It is very worrying to hear about Sudan’s programme. Its government will have a huge stake in the success of motor sport there as a way of signalling it is open for business, and that it is playing with the big boys in the Middle East. A Government inquiry should determine whether F1 funds benefited Sudan’s despicable regime as a matter of urgency.”
There is no evidence the clubs are owned by their governments or that the projects are illegitimate.
F1, the teams and drivers play no part in awarding the grants and the FIA documents detail the requirements that applicants must meet.
The FIA says improvements were made in December after it requested a compliance analysis from consultancy firm Deloitte which recommended “the strengthening of the monitoring of the use of grants awarded by the FIA”.
A spokesperson added: “All grants are subject to rigorous internal scrutiny. The FIA will continue to lead the way in ensuring compliance. – Sunday Express