May 26, 2024

FIA under pressure after teams unite behind Mercedes in shock Wolff probe twist

Formula 1 teams have joined forces in support of Mercedes and F1 Academy leader Susie Wolff, rebuking the FIA for launching an investigation into alleged conflicts of interest and the unauthorized sharing of confidential information. The FIA initiated the inquiry based on media speculation about the transfer of confidential information from F1 management to an F1 team principal.

Mercedes, F1 dismiss alleged Toto Wolff confidentiality breach with wife Susie  Wolff as FIA launch investigation | F1 News

Although Mercedes, Toto Wolff, and Susie Wolff were not explicitly named by the FIA, it is widely understood to relate to a BusinessF1 magazine report alleging a two-way information exchange between Toto Wolff and Susie Wolff. The report claimed that this gave Mercedes an advantage not accessible to other teams, suggesting Susie Wolff acted as an intermediary leaking confidential team principals’ meeting details back to F1.

In a surprising turn, all nine rival teams released identical statements denying any complaints to the FIA and expressing support for Susie Wolff in her role at the F1 Academy. Red Bull Racing principal Christian Horner, a longstanding rival of Toto Wolff, also defended them, emphasizing Red Bull’s involvement with the F1 Academy.

Toto Wolff's Mercedes future in Formula 1 cleared up after disappointing  campaign - F1 Oversteer

The unified response from teams, along with strong statements from Mercedes, Susie Wolff, and F1 itself, challenges the FIA’s decision to publicly announce an investigation without sharing details with the sport beforehand. Susie Wolff strongly criticized the allegations against her, highlighting concerns about the focus on her marital status rather than her abilities.

The situation has escalated tensions in the ongoing feud between the FIA, F1, and the teams. The conflict dates back to the election of FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem in December 2021, with increased efforts by the FIA to exert control over the sport and negotiate a more significant share of F1’s revenues.

The broader context includes negotiations on the next Concorde agreement, the commercial agreement binding F1, the teams, and the FIA, set to begin in 2026. The FIA’s push for a more substantial role in the sport’s day-to-day operations and a larger share of revenues has strained relations with F1 and the teams.

This latest incident adds to a series of flashpoints, including disputes over the number of sprint races, commercial interference accusations, and the approval of new teams against F1’s wishes. The tensions could heighten as Concorde negotiations intensify, reflecting the broader challenges faced by the FIA in managing Formula 1.

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