Formula 1’s governing body announced a compliance investigation on Tuesday, prompting a furious response from the sport’s owners, top team Mercedes and one of motorsport’s oldest women.
The storm erupted when the FIA issued a surprise statement saying it was looking into reports that the team boss had received confidential information from an employee of the commercial rights holder.
Although the manager was not named, the media identified him as Mercedes’ Toto Wolff, whose wife Susie heads the all-female F1 academy and reports to Formula 1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali.
“The FIA is aware of media speculation centering on the allegation of confidential information passed to an F1 team principal by a member of FOM staff,” the governing body said in a statement. “The FIA compliance department is looking into the matter.”
Susie Wolff, a former racer who was also previously a team boss in the all-electric Formula E series, said on Instagram that she was “deeply offended but unfortunately not surprised” by the allegations.
“It is disappointing that my integrity is being questioned in this way, especially when it appears to be rooted in bullying and misogynistic behavior and focused on my family status rather than my abilities,” she added.
“Throughout my motorsport career I have encountered and overcome many obstacles and I refuse to let these baseless allegations overshadow my dedication and passion for the F1 Academy. In the strongest possible terms, I reject these allegations. “
Liberty Media-owned Formula 1 said the FIA’s statement had not been communicated in advance. They expressed “full confidence that the allegations are false,” said “no member of our team made any unauthorized disclosures to a team leader” and cited “robust processes and procedures” to ensure information was segregated.
Mercedes said the team had not received any communication from the FIA Compliance Department “and was very surprised to learn of the investigation through a media statement. We completely reject the allegation in the statement and the related media coverage, the which wrongly impugns the integrity and compliance of our team leader.”
The website www.motorsport.com reported that some directors had expressed concern to FIA president Mohamed Ben Sulayem about a possible conflict of interest, although nothing had been said publicly. It said Ben Sulayem asked the compliance department to investigate.
An FIA spokesman was unable to comment on the matter. Formula 1 and the FIA have been at loggerheads over a number of issues since Ben Sulayem took over at the end of 2021.
Some team bosses also raised concerns about a conflict of interest last year when Shaila Ann-Rao, who had worked as a special adviser to Wolff, was appointed interim FIA Formula 1 chief. She quit the governing body less than six months later.
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