The FIA announced on Thursday that it had dropped an investigation into Susie and Toto Wolff after finding F1’s compliance rules to be sufficiently robust to prevent any breaches of confidentiality; Mercedes say they are in “active legal exchange with the FIA” regarding the situation
Last Updated: 08/12/23 12:36pm
Susie Wolff has hit out at the FIA after Formula 1’s governing body launched and then dropped an investigation into the F1 Academy managing director and her husband, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, over an alleged breach of confidentiality.
Shortly after Susie Wolff released a strongly worded statement on Friday, Toto Wolff said that he would not be “commenting officially for now” as Mercedes are in “active legal exchange with the FIA” regarding the situation.
The FIA announced on Thursday that it had dropped an investigation into the Wolffs after finding Formula 1’s compliance rules to be sufficiently robust to prevent any breaches of confidentiality.
The move came 48 hours after the FIA announced its compliance department was looking into allegations against the Wolffs, and 24 hours after Mercedes’ nine rival teams united in coordinated social media posts to deny making any complaints about them.
Reacting to the FIA’s statements, neither of which named the parties involved, Wolff appeared to question why she had not received an apology from the organisation.
In a statement shared on social media, Wolff said: “When I saw the statement issued by the FIA yesterday evening, my first reaction was: ‘Is that it?’
“For two days, insinuations have been made about my integrity in public and through background briefings, but nobody from the FIA has spoken to me directly.
“I might have been collateral damage in an unsuccessful attack on somebody else, or the target of a failed attempt to discredit me personally, but I have worked too hard to have my reputation called into question by an unfounded press release.”
Mercedes and Formula 1, who Wolff works for in her capacity as the managing director of the all-female F1 Academy series, had reacted angrily on Tuesday night to what they described as baseless allegations against the pair and the fact the FIA had not notified them of the investigation prior to releasing a statement to the media.
Wolff, the last woman to drive in an F1 practice session, had said, before the FIA dropped the investigation, that she was “deeply insulted but sadly unsurprised” by the unsubstantiated claims that seemed “to be rooted in intimidatory and misogynistic behaviour” which was “focused on my marital status rather than my abilities”.
In her comments on Friday, Wolff made it clear that she is not satisfied by the FIA’s mere closing of the investigation.
She continued: “We have come a long way as a sport. I was extremely thankful for the unified support of the Formula 1 teams. I have worked with so many passionate women and men at F1 and the FIA, who have the very best interests of our sport at heart.
“However, this episode has so far taken place without transparency or accountability. I have received online abuse about my work and my family. I will not allow myself to be intimidated and intend to follow up until I have found out who has instigated this campaign and misled the media.
“What happened this week is simply not good enough. As a sport, we must demand, and we deserve, better.”
Mercedes in ‘legal exchange’ with FIA
Less than an hour after Susie Wolff’s post, Toto Wolff released a statement of his own confirming that a “legal exchange” between Mercedes and the FIA was under way.
“We understand that there is significant media interest in the events of this week,” Wolff said.
“We are currently in active legal exchange with the FIA. We await full transparency about what took place and why, and have expressly reserved all legal rights.
“Therefore we ask for your understanding that we will not be commenting officially for now, but we will certainly address the matter in due course.”
The FIA’s initial announcement of the investigation on Tuesday evening sparked a dramatic chain of events, with all nine of Mercedes’ F1 rivals uniting to deny having made complaints about the Wolffs.
In a statement on Thursday evening, the FIA said: “Following a review of Formula One Management’s F1 Code of Conduct and F1 Conflict of Interest Policy and confirmation that appropriate protective measures are in place to mitigate any potential conflicts, the FIA is satisfied that FOM’s compliance management system is robust enough to prevent any unauthorised disclosure of confidential information.
“The FIA can confirm that there is no ongoing investigation in terms of ethical or disciplinary inquiries involving any individual. As the regulator, the FIA has a duty to maintain the integrity of global motorsport. The FIA reaffirms its commitment to integrity and fairness.”
The implications of the episode, and the nature in which it developed, appear set to be felt longer-term amid continued focus on the relationship between the governing body and Liberty Media-owned F1, the commercial rights holders of the sport.
Sky Sports News understands that Mercedes felt the episode, including the fact they were not informed of the case before the media, could only be explained by it being designed to cause them reputational damage, and suggested other recent events, such as Toto Wolff being given an official warning for swearing in a Las Vegas GP press conference, showed a trend of hostility towards them and their team boss.
The FIA said it was following due process in the wake of a competitor’s raised concern. The governing body also rejected any notion that its investigation was prompted by misogyny.
Amid this week’s tense backdrop, a number of the sport’s key figures, including FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem and F1 president Stefano Domenicali, are set to be present at Friday night’s FIA prize-giving gala in Baku where Max Verstappen and Red Bull will formally be crowned as 2023’s world champions.
Watch our 2023 Season Review live on Sky Sports F1 at 7:30pm on Friday, featuring exclusive interviews with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and Mercedes technical director James Allison. Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW
Source : Sky Sports