Formula 1 has always been a world of intrigue, whose excesses often entertain, amuse or horrify fans of the sport. Depending on which driver or team you support or what perspective you take. But in the latest villainous act that Formula 1 performed after the end of the season, the distribution of roles was clear. The world motorsport association Fia took on the role of the villain on stage, the opponents were Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and his wife Susie Wolff, who were supported by an alliance of all teams - and in the end left the battlefield victorious. What remained was a disgraced world association and FIA President Mohammed bin Sulayem, whose already tarnished reputation suffered further damage.
In an interview, he emphasized how violently Wolff felt the "attack": "But when you attack my family, it's a different level. An absurd accusation was created out of nothing. That was a personal attack, in which a red Line has been crossed," he said.
On Tuesday last week, an article appeared in the industry journal "BusinessF1" in which it was speculated that Susie Wolff, as head of the women's racing series F1 Academy, would have access to confidential information from Formula 1 management (Fom) and pass it on to her husband should have. Conversely, Toto Wolff is said to have informed his wife about confidential conversations between the team bosses, which led them to the Formula 1 management. Apparently other team bosses complained to FIA President Mohammed bin Sulayem. The information therefore came from an anonymous source from the Fom.
Miraculously, contrary to its custom, the FIA immediately went public and announced a compliance investigation. The uproar was huge, not just among the Wolffs and the Mercedes team, but throughout Formula 1. Susie Wolff later reported "online insults about my work and my family" that had been triggered by the speculation. But then something happened that had never happened before. The other nine racing teams showed solidarity and declared in unison that no one had complained about any information leaks. The allegations were also rejected by the FOM.
The massive resistance quickly had an effect: two days later, the FIA stopped the investigation, in time for the big gala on Friday evening in Azerbaijan's capital Baku. The world association issued a winding statement: "After taking another look at the rules of conduct at FOM and the F1 policy in cases of conflicts of interest, it has been confirmed that appropriate measures are in place to avoid possible conflicts. The Fia is therefore satisfied that the FOM compliance management system is robust enough to prevent unauthorized disclosure of confidential information."
In other words: the Fia pulled its tail back and walked away. On Friday, the association in Baku received a message from seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton: It was a “disappointing week,” he said. The FIA tried to "question the integrity of one of the most incredible female leaders we have ever had in our sport, Susie Wolff." His Mercedes team announced that it would consider legal action.
In the end, the main question remains: Why did the world association act like this, against all better judgment, and antagonize the entire Formula 1? The assumption is that FIA President Mohammed bin Sulayem wanted to weaken one of its strongest representatives, Toto Wolff and the Mercedes team, in the power struggle with FOM boss Stefano Domenicali and the entire Formula 1.
Since the former rally driver from Dubai became president of the world association, there have been regular conflicts. Bin Sulayem wanted to allow an eleventh team in Formula 1. So far, the entry of the US team Andretti has failed due to resistance from the other racing teams, who do not want to accept any financial losses and are afraid of a potent competitor. Andretti would also be a serious competitor because the car company General Motors is behind Andretti and therefore has a lot of money. GM wants to provide the new team with its own engine by 2028. What Bin Sulayem also got the teams excited about was his public speculation about selling the racing series to Saudi Arabia - that didn't go down too well.
So if Bin Sulayem is actually behind the attack on Susie and Toto Wolff, the Emirati has speculated heavily and achieved something that has never existed before: unity among the ten racing teams. This is a setback in the fight for supremacy in Formula 1.
Quellen: "Süddeutsche Zeitung", "Motorsport total", "Motorsport Magazin", "Auto Motor Sport"