It hasn't been a great last few years for the relationship between Formula 1 and its governing body, the FIA. From passive-aggressive remarks to not being on the same page about key matters, diplomacy has suffered since Mohammed Ben Sulayem replaced Jean Todt in late 2021. The latest scandal surrounding a surprise FIA investigation involving Toto and Susie Wolff—and its sudden squashing of it—is amplifying this animosity to new levels.
It all started when the FIA was allegedly tipped off by a report in the Business F1 magazine, and issued a press release Tuesday announcing an investigation into a leak of confidential information. Specifically, the information in question was said to have been divulged "to an F1 team principal from a member of FOM personnel." More specifically, it accused Susie of sharing sensitive F1 (FOM) information with her husband Toto, an F1 team principal.
According to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and most F1 team bosses, they were all blindsided by the announcement and quickly moved to denounce it. Susie, who has held many roles within F1 and currently reports to Domenicali as F1 Academy managing director, promptly issued a statement claiming the FIA's behavior was "intimidatory and misogynistic," adding that she was "deeply insulted and sadly surprised" by the allegations.
Within hours of Wolff's statement, F1 teams began a campaign in support of the influential couple, claiming to not have any involvement in the alleged reporting of wrongdoing to the FIA. By the end of Wednesday, all 10 F1 teams had joined in solidarity in ways that frankly have never been seen before.
The F1 teams' collective agreement and the industry's support for the Wolffs put enormous pressure on the FIA who was already struggling to justify the suspicious investigation. It even struggled to identify the source of the rumor that triggered the events, claiming it was a Motorsport.com report involving Toto, while many outlets pointed back to the Business F1 magazine.
Less than 48 hours after announcing the investigation, the FIA moved to drop the whole deal, claiming that it was satisfied no conflicts of interest were taking place between FOM personnel and a team principal. Just like that, it all went away. Well, specifically, the FIA said this:
"Following a review of Formula One Management's F1 Code of Conduct and F1 Conflict of Interest Policy and confirmation that appropriate protective measures are in place to mitigate any potential conflicts, the FIA is satisfied that FOM's compliance management system is robust enough to prevent any unauthorized disclosure of confidential information. The FIA can confirm that there is no ongoing investigation in terms of ethical or disciplinary inquiries involving any individual. As the regulator, the FIA has a duty to maintain the integrity of global motorsport. The FIA reaffirms its commitment to integrity and fairness."
The original investigation seemed sketchy at best, but the backpedaling of it speaks volumes to the tension between the FIA and Formula 1. In a sport that's already lacking transparency and fair marshaling, and appears to be torn between its commercial rights holder and its governing body, this latest snafu shows that all is not well.
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