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Formula 1

Hamilton/Russell slam transparency in F1 after Wolff FIA action

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have slammed the lack of accountability and transparency in Formula 1 after Susie Wolff filed a criminal complaint against the FIA.

Last December, F1 Academy boss Wolff and her husband Toto, the Mercedes F1 team principal, were the subjects of an FIA probe into a claim of "information of a confidential nature being passed to an F1 team principal from a member of FOM [Formula One Management] personnel".

They were not named by the FIA explicitly but were identified in media reports that Mercedes claimed emanated from an off-the-record briefing that led to more specific allegations about them being detailed too.

After the FIA backtracked two days later by claiming there was no investigation, Susie Wolff made it clear that she was not satisfied with the response from the governing body.

Ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, when she revealed her criminal complaint filed on March 4, Wolff said she was targeting a lack of "transparency and accountability in relation to the conduct of the FIA and its personnel in this matter".

This came on the day that FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem was cleared of alleged interference into the running of two events last season, following an investigation by the FIA Compliance Department and a subsequent report review by the FIA Ethics Committee.

The words ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’ featured heavily when Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Russell were asked about Wolff’s action on Thursday in Melbourne.

A cautious initial response from Russell, in which he stressed the desire for the “right outcomes, the truth and the transparency within any case that is presented”, led into biting criticism from Hamilton.

The seven-time world champion praised Wolff by saying “in a world where often people are silenced, for her to be standing up sends such a great message”.

“I love that she's taken it out of this world, because there is a real lack of accountability here, within this sport, within the FIA, there are things that are happening behind closed doors, there is no transparency,” Hamilton said.

“There is clearly no accountability. And we need that. I think the fans need that; how can you trust the sport and what is happening here every day if you don’t have that?

“So hopefully this stand that she's taking now will create change, it will have a positive impact.

“And especially for women, you know, it is still a male-dominated sport.

“And we're living in a time where the message is, if you file a complaint, you'll be fired, and that is a terrible narrative to be projecting to the world.

“So especially when we're talking about inclusivity here in the sport, we need to make sure that we’re staying true to the core values here.”

The final points show how Hamilton’s criticism was aimed at wider behaviour in F1, not just the FIA.

F1 is currently gripped by an ongoing controversy involving Red Bull boss Christian Horner, who remains under scrutiny following allegations of misconduct against him.

An investigation ordered by Red Bull’s parent company ended with the grievance against Horner being dismissed, and soon after his accuser was suspended with pay.

She has not been fired yet, is reportedly appealing Red Bull’s initial decision based on the investigation, and has filed a complaint with the FIA.

That is likely to force the FIA to get involved in the Horner matter one way or another, having previously avoided any meaningful public comment. Ben Sulayem has been criticised for that given he reportedly attempted to get Red Bull driver Max Verstappen to publicly back Horner and remarked that the issue was damaging for F1.

Ben Sulayem is often at the heart of such issues and there have been a collection of controversies during his presidency, with the handling of the Wolff matter last year widely considered one of them.

“You trust that the leaders in this sport have the best interest at their heart rather than their own interests,” said Russell when asked if Ben Sulayem is the right person to lead the FIA.

“It goes back to the transparency side of things.

“If things are transparent and we see the outcome of these cases, we all have a chance to judge for ourselves, with all of the facts and figures in front of us.

“But when we don't have the facts and figures and there is no transparency, you always think there's something being hidden.

“That's why I think it's so important for the sport now, as Lewis said, to send the right message, to everybody who’s supporting Formula 1, watching Formula 1, wants to be involved in Formula 1, that things aren't just swept under the carpet.”

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