Formula One teams on Wednesday denied complaining to the governing body about Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and his wife Susie, who runs the sport’s all-female F1 Academy series.
The paddock’s power couple came under the spotlight after the FIA issued a surprise statement on Tuesday announcing that its compliance department was looking into media speculation about a possible conflict of interest.
According to a report in Business F1 magazine, some team principals had raised concerns about possible leaks of information from private meetings.
Nine of the 10 teams, all but Mercedes who issued their reaction on Tuesday, released almost identical statements via social media that effectively undermined the investigation’s case.
“We can confirm that we have not made any complaint to the FIA regarding the allegation of confidential information being passed between an F1 Team Principal and a member of FOM staff,” they said.
“We are delighted and proud to support the F1 Academy and its CEO through our commitment to sponsor a live participant from next season.”
The F1 Academy aims to help women climb the motorsport ladder in Formula 1 and is supporting seven grands prix next season. All 10 teams each nominate a driver and will have their own car.
Susie Wolff, a former racer who reports to Formula 1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali and is one of the most senior women in motorsport, issued her own statement on Tuesday saying she was “deeply offended” that her integrity had been questioned.
She also spoke of “bullying and misogynistic behaviour” which “focused on my family status rather than my abilities”. Her wording took on particular resonance in light of FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who was embroiled in a controversy last January over decades-old sexist comments attributed to him that appeared on an old personal website.
Mercedes also rejected allegations against Toto which it said “falsely impugn the integrity and compliance of our team leader”. Meanwhile, Liberty Media-owned Formula 1 expressed “absolute certainty that the allegations are false”.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner said his dominant team had great on-track competition with championship runners-up Mercedes but had not made any formal complaint against Suzi, Toto or Mercedes to the FIA.
“In fact, Red Bull has been the team that has been most involved with the Formula 1 Academy since its inception, to the point that between the two Red Bull-owned teams we will be entering three cars,” he told Sky Sports television.
“I think, like others, we were quite surprised (by) the statement that came out last night. It was certainly not instigated, demanded or initiated by Red Bull. This is a matter for the FIA. They have taken this action, but certainly nothing to do with Red Bull,” he added.
Toto Wolff and Horner have had a bitter, and at times almost theatrical, rivalry over the years fueled by the popular Netflix documentary series Drive to Survive.
Formula 1 and the FIA have also been at odds repeatedly since Ben Sulayem took over the wheel at the end of 2021, with the potential addition of US-based Andretti as an 11th team the latest sticking point.
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