By Stefan Kristensen
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February 16, 2022
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Who Is The FIA?

If you watch F1 or the World Rally Championship, chances are you’ve heard of the FIA. This organization seems to get mentioned whenever there’s a discussion of rule enforcement or changes. However, you might wonder what their purpose is and what they do.

The FIA, or Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, is the governing body for numerous racing competitions worldwide. The organization doesn’t own F1 outright but does organize the racing events. In addition to arbitrating competitive disputes, the FIA also handles safety regulations.

Who Are the FIA?

The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile is the sanctioning body in charge of many prominent motorsport leagues. While headquartered in France, they oversee events internationally in 145 countries. As of this writing, the current president is Mohammed bin Sulayem.

The FIA has several crucial responsibilities, such as setting racing guidelines and enforcing competitive integrity. Additionally, they ensure that all events are carried out safely and responsibly.

Even in non-French-speaking countries, the association is known as the FIA. However, they’re sometimes also referred to as the International Automobile Federation. While based in France, the FIA employs people from all over the world.

Initially, the FIA was founded to forward the interests of motor car enthusiasts as well as oversee racing events. And today, they’ve grown to be the leading authority for motorsports competitions.

However, this sanctioning body doesn’t limit itself to competitive racing—they also engage in life-saving activism. 

Their “Action for Road Safety” program is an initiative to improve the quality and safety of roads globally. Such as by paving streets in underdeveloped regions and encouraging responsible driving. They work with organizations like the U.N. and World Health Organization to accomplish these goals.

What Does the FIA Do?

Who is FIA in charge of, and what do they do? To put it simply, the FIA directly oversees racing competitions, such as Formula One and the World Rally Championship. 

The FIA not only runs the events. They also determine the rules and the consequences for those who break them.

Below are some of the crucial things the FIA handles:

  • Safety - The FIA sets safety standards and requirements. Such as in 2018, when they approved the implementation of halo technology in F1.
  • Rules and guidelines - The FIA determines the rulesets of various competitions. They also set guidelines for tracks, cars, and drivers.
  • Settling disputes - The FIA mediates and arbitrates competitive disputes within sports, such as between teams. They also review incidents during races and assess possible fouls.
  • Punishment for rule-breaking - The FIA gets the final say on when rules have been broken and the severity of punishment. This can range from verbal warnings to competitive disqualification.
  • Fees and prizes - The FIA oversees the collection of fees from teams. Additionally, they generally handle the disbursement of prize money for victorious competitors. 

How Is the FIA Structured?

The structure of the FIA is complex. Instead of being a single body, it consists of over 240 member organizations that form a General Assembly. 

The General Assembly convenes annually but may hold additional meetings in extraordinary circumstances. Their agenda is mostly items brought forward by the two world councils: World Motor Sport Council and World Council for Automobile Mobility and Tourism.

Additionally, appointments of important FIA officials must go through the assembly. 

At the top of the association is the president, which is currently former rally driver Mohammed bin Sulayem. They act as the FIA’s representative to other organizations and as chairman for the General Assembly. 

There are also seven vice-presidents and a deputy who handle specific areas of operation. 

Interestingly, the FIA does notdirect the commercial aspects of motorsports. For example, the Formula One Group (FOM) operates the branding and licensing for F1. 

The History of the FIA

The FIA has had various names but was initially called the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR).

Founded in 1905 in Paris, France, the AIACR intended to help guide the nascent motorsport industry. In the following decades, they coordinated some of Europe’s first grand prix events.

After World War II, the AIACR changed its name to the FIA. And in 1950, they held the first Formula One World Driver’s Championship. 

In the following years, the FIA grew from a single body into a group of member organizations. They also branched out to other competitions, such as rallying and sports car racing.

In 1994, drivers Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger tragically died at the San Marino Grand Prix. This event led the FIA to form a much-needed safety committee. Today, it is known as the Institute for Motor Sport Safety ; Sustainability.

Now the focus of the FIA is primarily to protect drivers. It has instituted numerous life-saving technologies, such as halos and side-impact protection systems.

How the FIA Makes Money

Who is FIA making their money from, and how? As it turns out, the FIA has several sources of revenue.

Here are some of the ways the FIA makes a profit:

  • Team dues - The FIA charges competing teams fees to participate in competitions. In F1, this costs returning teams over $500,000. However, organizations pay more based on how successful they are.
  • Entries and tickets - The FIA collects money from entry fees and gate tickets to racing events. 
  • Calendar fees - Tracks that wish to host racing competitions have to pay the FIA dues. 
  • Driver licensing - Drivers must pay various fees to register and race in FIA events. F1 drivers, in particular, have to annually renew their Super License, which costs more based on their success.
  • Fines - The FIA collects any fines that drivers or teams receive.

While that sounds impressive, the sanctioning body runs on a relatively modest revenue. In fact, it often operates at a loss annually. However, this isn’t surprising considering the FIA is a non-profit primarily focused on safety.

Summary

Who is FIA? To summarize, they’re the sanctioning body of many international motorsports competitions. They enforce safety rules, set guidelines, and arbitrate disputes within their leagues. 

Their most well-known competition is Formula One, but they also oversee the top rallying and karting championships.

(Cover photo license: CC BY-SA 4.0)

Written by Stefan Kristensen
Passionate about motorsports ever since I was a little boy. Back then, I cheered on the racing cars simply based on their colors. Later I fell in love with the many stories behind racing that make it so interesting.
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