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Formula 1Sport

Wolff says lawyers talking to FIA after compliance climbdown

file photo: saudi arabia grand prix
Mercedes' team principal Toto Wolff and wife Susie

Toto Wolff hinted on Friday at legal action against Formula One’s governing body after a storm over the integrity of the Mercedes team boss and his wife Susie, one of the top women in motorsport.

The FIA triggered headlines on Tuesday by announcing it was looking into media speculation about the transfer of confidential information between a team principal and a Formula One employee.

The governing body backed down on Thursday, after the Wolffs had been publicly identified as those involved and after Mercedes’ rivals had denied making any complaint against either of them.

“We are currently in active legal exchange with the FIA,” Toto Wolff said in a statement issued by his team.

“We await full transparency about what took place and why, and have expressly reserved all legal rights,” added the Austrian.

The FIA declared on Thursday there was “no ongoing investigation in terms of ethical or disciplinary inquiries involving any individuals.”

The episode was widely interpreted as part of a greater power struggle between the FIA, run by emirati Mohammed Ben Sulayem, and Liberty Media-owned Formula One Management (FOM) and the teams.

Ben Sulayem took over at the end of 2021 and there have been numerous clashes with the commercial rights holder since then, notably the FIA backing U.S.-based Andretti’s bid to be an 11th team in the face of opposition from Formula One and teams.

Ben Sulayem had been due to address the media on Friday ahead of the governing body’s end-of-year prizegiving in Baku but an FIA spokesman said the president had taken ill several days ago and suffered a fall and concussion.

“He received care in hospital and will make a full recovery,” he added.

Susie Wolff, who runs the all-female F1 Academy series and reports directly to Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali, said she had received online abuse and made clear the FIA’s climbdown was not enough.

“When I saw the statement issued by the FIA yesterday evening, my first reaction was: “Is that it?”,” the Scot, a former German touring car racer and ex-Formula E team boss, said in a statement.

“For two days, insinuations have been made about my integrity in public and through background briefings, but nobody from the FIA has spoken to me directly.

“I might have been collateral damage in an unsuccessful attack on somebody else, or the target of a failed attempt to discredit me personally, but I have worked too hard to have my reputation called into question by an unfounded press release,” she added.

Susie Wolff thanked the teams, all of whom are involved in F1 Academy, for their united support.

While recognising the work of the FIA in defending the best interests of the sport, she said the past week had shown a lack of transparency and accountability.

“I have received online abuse about my work and my family. I will not allow myself to be intimidated and intend to follow up until I have found out who has instigated this campaign and misled the media,” she said.

“What happened this week is simply not good enough. As a sport, we must demand, and we deserve, better.”

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