FIA ends controversial conflict of interest inquiry into Toto and Susie Wolff

Formula 1
Susie Wolff and husband Toto Wolff on the red carpet

Formula 1’s governing body has ended its compliance inquiry into Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and his wife, the F1 Academy director Susie Wolff.

But on Thursday the FIA said it was “satisfied” F1 had measures in place to protect against such issues.

The statement added that there was “no ongoing investigation” into the matter.

A Mercedes spokesperson said the company had “taken note of the statement” but declined to comment further, while Formula 1 did not comment.

Mercedes could yet move to seek redress from the FIA for the reputational damage its actions have inflicted on the company this week.

The FIA’s statement said: “Following a review of Formula 1 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 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.

“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 governing body’s statement comes after an extraordinary sequence of events which have left senior figures in F1 questioning the judgement of FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

Neither Mercedes, the Wolffs nor F1 were contacted before the FIA announced it had referred an “allegation of information of a confidential nature being passed to an F1 team principal from a member of FOM personnel” to its compliance unit.

The statement followed an article in Business F1 magazine claiming a number of team principals had raised concerns with the FIA about the potential for confidential information passing between Mercedes and F1 through the Wolffs.

In her position as head of F1’s junior category for aspiring female drivers, Susie Wolff reports directly to F1 president Stefano Domenicali.

The FIA’s decision to launch the compliance inquiry led to robust statements from F1 and Mercedes rejecting the accusations and making clear their frustration with the FIA’s handling of the matter.

Susie Wolff said she was “deeply insulted but sadly unsurprised” by the claims, and described the allegations as “intimidatory and misogynistic” in a social media post.

The following day, all nine other F1 teams issued co-ordinated, identically worded statements clarifying they had made no complaints to the FIA about the Wolffs’ relationship and were “pleased and proud to support F1 Academy and its managing director”.

The F1 team statements seemed to undermine the basis for both the article and the FIA’s investigation.

The controversy has been interpreted by senior figures in F1 as the result of a power struggle between Toto Wolff and Ben Sulayem.

Insiders have said Ben Sulayem has not appreciated Wolff’s interventions in recent months on a number of key F1 matters, both publicly and in private.

And it comes against a backdrop of worsening relations between F1 and the FIA on a number of fronts.

There is unease both inside the FIA and elsewhere in F1 about the direction of the governing body under Ben Sulayem.

Ben Sulayem said in February he was stepping back from direct involvement in F1, a move that came after a series of controversies since he was elected president in December 2021, including the unearthing of sexist remarks he made in the past.

But he has remained active behind the scenes and teams have viewed a series of incidents in recent months as being directly linked to him.

These include the decision to launch a second investigation into Lewis Hamilton crossing the track during the Qatar Grand Prix when he had already been fined and disciplined for it during the race weekend, and the decision to call Wolff and Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur to the stewards at the final race of the season for swearing in a news conference.

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