Toto Wolff in ‘legal exchange with FIA’ over alleged conflict of interest row
Wolff’s wife Susie is the managing director of the F1 Academy and the FIA launched, and subsequently dropped, a controversial probe this week.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he is an “active legal exchange with the FIA” after the governing body launched an investigation into claims of an alleged conflict of interest with his wife, Susie.
The FIA has since dropped the controversial probe, which arose after a report in Business F1 magazine claimed that other team principals were concerned Wolff was benefiting from information shared by his wife, who is the managing director of the F1 Academy.
A day after the FIA announced its compliance inquiry, the sport’s other nine teams said they had not complained about the relationship between the Wolffs and, on Thursday night, the FIA said there is “no ongoing investigation”.
But on Friday the saga took another twist, when Wolff, who has overseen six of Lewis Hamilton’s record-equalling seven world championships, said Mercedes are considering legal action.
“We understand that there is significant media interest in the events of this week,” said the Austrian, 51.
“We are currently in active legal exchange with the FIA. We await full transparency about what took place and why, and have expressly reserved all legal rights.
“Therefore we ask you for your understanding that we will not be commenting officially for now, but we will certainly address the matter in due course.”
Forty-eight hours after the FIA said its compliance department was “looking into” the allegations, the federation said on Thursday that it “can confirm that there is no ongoing investigation in terms of ethical or disciplinary inquiries involving any individual”.
But Susie – who had already vehemently denied the allegations – calling them “intimidatory and misogynistic” – took another swipe at the FIA shortly before her husband’s statement.
Susie, who, in her role as boss of the all-female series, reports to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, said: “When I saw the statement issued by the FIA yesterday evening, my first reaction was: ‘Is that it?’
“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.
“We have come a long way as a sport. I was extremely thankful for the unified support of the Formula 1 teams. I have worked with so many passionate women and men at F1 and the FIA, who have the very best interests of our sport at heart.
“However, this episode has so far taken place without transparency or 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.
“What happened this week is simply not good enough. As a sport, we must demand, and we deserve, better.”
Mercedes driver Hamilton is due to face the media later on Friday at the FIA’s prize-giving gala in Baku.
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s press conference did not take place after the governing body said he was hospitalised with concussion.
An FIA spokesperson said: “Several days ago the President took ill and suffered a fall and concussion. He received care in hospital and will make a full recovery.”