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Formula 1

FIA's swift, unsatisfactory end to controversial Wolff/F1 saga

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

The FIA’s ‘look into’ allegations that confidential information was passed to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff from F1 Academy head Susie Wolff has already ended, with no investigation ongoing.

It was only on Tuesday that the FIA announced its compliance department had been spurred into action by “media speculation”, which appeared to only be one source.

The FIA never specified it was about the Wolffs but they were immediately named in other media reports that Toto Wolff’s Mercedes team claimed was the result of off-record briefing.

Mercedes, the F1 organisation and Susie Wolff all issued statements rejecting the allegations and, in the case of Mercedes and F1, criticising how the FIA had handled the matter too.

Then on Wednesday all 10 teams issued identical statements in a coordinated effort widely seen as a dismissal of any grounds the FIA might have to seriously suspect any misconduct from the Wolffs, and underlined a feeling that the governing body had acted too hastily.

A formal complaint from an F1 team would not be necessary for the FIA’s ethics and compliance division to get involved.

However, given the original speculation was rooted in the assertion that team principals were concerned by the Wolffs’ relationship and respective jobs, the public denial from all teams that they had not made any complaint was extremely significant.

Now the FIA has issued another update, this time attempting to draw a line under the matter.

It said it has reviewed Formula One Management’s code of conduct and conflict of interest policy and following “confirmation that appropriate protective measures are in place to mitigate any potential conflicts”, 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,” it said.

Whether this will be enough to placate the Wolffs, the Mercedes F1 team, or F1 itself remains to be seen. They are keeping their options open for now, The Race has been told, given the reputation damage caused - so the matter may not yet be finished publicly or otherwise.

Susie Wolff said she was “deeply insulted but sadly unsurprised” by the allegations and felt her “integrity is being called into question" by something that "seems to be rooted in intimidatory and misogynistic behaviour, and focused on my marital status rather than my abilities".

It is unlikely that there will be a satisfactory public resolution given the FIA has not issued any detail about what sparked its initial action beyond "media speculation", or responded to what the teams communicated.

To justify the surprise media announcement and the decision to make this a public issue, having blind-sided those involved, this merited a thorough process, not one completed in a day or two. The outcome confirms it was a nothing issue, and the resolution is vague.

There was no issue with the principle of the FIA looking into the matter as an act of due diligence, but it was clearly ill-handled, caught the parties involved needlessly off guard, and created a completely avoidable public spectacle when the original subject matter has proven to be unreliable anyway.

Instead of that being acknowledged and the instigators accepting that this may have been an ill-judged overreaction, the FIA unsurprisingly states it was simply doing its job.

“As the regulator, the FIA has a duty to maintain the integrity of global motorsport," it said.

"The FIA reaffirms its commitment to integrity and fairness.”

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