Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and his wife Susie Wolff, F1 Academy managing director, are understood to be under investigation by the FIA: the sport's governing body is looking into "allegation of information of a confidential nature being passed" between the couple
Wednesday 6 December 2023 17:15, UK
F1 Academy boss Susie Wolff has branded allegations that she and her husband, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, have exchanged confidential information as "misogynistic".
The FIA, F1's governing body, announced an investigation into the pair's conduct on Tuesday and stated its compliance department was looking into the matter.
Susie Wolff is employed by F1's commercial rights holder Formula One Management (FOM) as the managing director of its all-female series, reporting directly to F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali.
The FIA has rejected any notion that the launch of its investigation has been prompted by misogyny, stating that it is following due process.
Sources within the governing body have suggested to Sky Sports News that more than one F1 team principal raised a concern about the Wolffs.
But senior figures within the sport have disputed this claim, indicating they are not aware of any team boss who has raised complaint about Susie Wolff's position, or any issue around confidential information.
Both Mercedes and F1 strongly deny accusations of impropriety against the pair.
Discussions on the matter between the FIA and FOM are understood to have taken place on Wednesday. But while F1 is believed to have received a letter on the matter, Mercedes have not yet received correspondence on the investigation from the governing body.
A report published in Business F1 magazine had suggested a comment Mercedes boss Wolff made in a recent meeting of team principals triggered concerns among rivals he was receiving confidential information.
The FIA statement said: "The FIA is aware of media speculation centred on the allegation of information of a confidential nature being passed to an F1 team principal from a member of FOM personnel. The FIA Compliance Department is looking into the matter."
In the hours after the FIA's press statement on Tuesday evening, both F1 and Mercedes released statements, with the former claiming the FIA investigation was based upon "imprudent and serious allegations without substance".
Wolff, who was the last woman to drive in an F1 practice session and was appointed managing director of F1 Academy in March 2023 ahead of the all-female series' inaugural season. then used her Instagram account to directly address the allegations.
"I am deeply insulted but sadly unsurprised by the public allegations that have been made this evening," she wrote.
"It is disheartening that my integrity is being called into question in such a manner, especially when it seems to be rooted in intimidatory and misogynistic behaviour, and focused on my marital status rather than my abilities.
"Throughout my career in motorsport, I have encountered and overcome numerous obstacles and I refuse to let these baseless allegations overshadow my dedication and passion for F1 Academy.
"As a woman in this sport, I have faced my fair share of challenges but my commitment to breaking down barriers and paving the way for future generations to succeed remains unwavering.
"In the strongest possible terms, I reject these allegations."
Lewis Hamilton shared her statement in support on his Instagram Story.
Toto Wolff has become one of the most powerful figures in the sport since taking charge of Mercedes in 2013, guiding the team to eight successive constructors' titles between 2014 and 2021.
Mercedes, who are understood to feel that the episode has been mishandled, said in their statement: "We note the generic statement from the FIA this evening, which responds to unsubstantiated allegations from a single media outlet, and the off-record briefing which has linked it to the team principal of Mercedes-AMG F1.
"The team has received no communication from the FIA Compliance Department on this topic and it was highly surprising to learn of the investigation through a media statement.
"We wholly reject the allegation in the statement and associated media coverage, which wrongly impinges on the integrity and compliance of our team principal.
"As a matter of course, we invite full, prompt, and transparent correspondence from the FIA Compliance Department regarding this investigation and its contents."
Both Mercedes and Formula 1 appeared to be frustrated by the fact they had not been contacted by the FIA before the release of the statement.
An F1 statement said: "We note the public statement made by the FIA this evening that was not shared with us in advance.
"We have complete confidence that the allegations are wrong, and we have robust processes and procedures that ensure the segregation of information and responsibilities in the event of any potential conflict of interest.
"We are confident that no member of our team has made any unauthorised disclosure to a team principal and would caution anyone against making imprudent and serious allegations without substance."