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Formula 1

Unified F1 team response undermines FIA's Wolff action

by Jack Cozens
5 min read

A joint statement issued by nine Formula 1 teams represents a clear undermining of the FIA and its investigation into the allegation of "information of a confidential nature" being shared between a team principal and a member of Formula One Management.

It it also, indirectly, a show of solidarity with Toto and Susie Wolff - the two at the centre of the allegation - a day after stinging responses to not just the claim but the FIA's conduct were issued by Mercedes, F1, and F1 Academy director Susie.

The nine teams - with the Mercedes team Toto Wolff heads up the exception, having released its own statement on Tuesday night - all issued identical statements on Wednesday evening insisting they had not complained to the governing body.

It comes following the FIA's announcement in its own statement on Tuesday that its compliance department is looking into the aforementioned allegation, without identifying the team principal or the member or personnel from FOM - F1's commercial rights holder.

Though this referenced "media speculation" without specifying what that amounted to, this has since been indirectly acknowledged as referring to the Wolffs, with Mercedes, F1 and Susie Wolff all issuing stinging statements of their own.

The near-identical statements, released by the nine teams all within 40 minutes of one another, also underlined each team's support of the F1 Academy series that Susie Wolff heads up.

"We can confirm that we have not made any complaint to the FIA regarding the allegation of information of a confidential nature being passed between an F1 Team Principal and a member of FOM staff," it read.

"We are pleased and proud to support F1 Academy and its managing director through our commitment to sponsor an entrant in our liveries from next season."

The Race says

Scott Mitchell-Malm

The coordinated release of identical statements from all the F1 teams is a spectacularly damning (and fun to watch) development in the FIA/F1/Wolffs saga.

It is a very public middle finger to the original allegations and makes the FIA look like it has overreacted. Because the legitimate reason to act the way it did was by receiving a serious concern or complaint raised by a team boss, as was alleged.

Now we’re told no team did such a thing, does it mean the governing body has acted on hearsay from a less relevant or reliable source? Maybe a team is just publicly lying. But it would be surprising and risky with an FIA investigation potentially in motion.

It would be prudent for the FIA to act swiftly and transparently now and explain its rationale. From the start this has smacked of interference from president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, in the same way many believe he was behind the FIA’s rushed (and ill-handled) reassessment of Lewis Hamilton crossing the track in qatar and the sweary press conference comments from Toto Wolff and Fred Vasseur.

Even if he is acting in sincere interest of protecting the integrity of the FIA and F1 or not, the president is misjudging things. And remember, he was meant to be backing away from day to day F1 matters. Not meddling as much, if not more.

Whether it was being sucked in by gossip, a low-level social media furore, or even some paddock politicking that is now being denied, he or someone else in the FIA has been tempted into a rushed reaction.

There’s no harm in taking allegations seriously but this needed a more delicate touch if it was considered worthwhile to be dealt with at all.

While the FIA chose not to name either of the Wolffs and made reference only to "speculation", there had only been one unsubstantiated media report relating to the matter, which implicated both in the same behaviour referred to in the generic FIA statement.

Both Mercedes and F1 itself made it clear in their statements on Tuesday that the FIA’s original declaration was unexpected.

Mercedes said it was “highly surprising to learn of the investigation” this way and received “no communication from the FIA compliance department on this topic” while F1 said the statement “was not shared with us in advance”.

Susie Wolff, who in her F1 Academy role reports to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, said she was “deeply insulted but sadly unsurprised” by the allegations made and rejected them “in the strongest possible terms”.

The Race says

Edd Straw

What is clearly a co-ordinated, en masse response is an emphatic message to the FIA to back off. That’s significant amid the rising tensions between the teams/Liberty Media and the regulator.

The wording of the statement not only stresses none of the teams made complaints but also backs Susie Wolff’s role. Effectively, they have collectively sided with Mercedes and are very publicly expressing their disapproval of the investigation the FIA has announced.

As is an increasingly common story, there’s every chance the FIA could have avoided this had it bothered to communicate the fact it was launching the investigation to those involved before announcing it. That high-handedness isn’t going down well.

And the teams publicly stating they haven’t raised complaints is a clear broadside to the FIA amid the escalating political battle.

Speaking to Sky Sports News before the nine teams' unilateral statement, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner denied either this year's title-winning team or its sister outfit AlphaTauri had made an official complaint about either of the Wolffs or Mercedes.

In line with the teams' statement he also underlined Red Bull's commitment to the F1 Academy, insisting it was "the team that has got most involved with Formula 1 Academy from its inception, to the point that between the two Red Bull-owned teams we'll be entering three cars [in 2024]".

"We've been working closely with Susie, who's been doing a great job on Formula 1 Academy," he added.

"So I think we, like others, were quite surprised at the statement that came out last night but it certainly wasn't instigated or required or set off by Red Bull."

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