A little more than 24 hours lasted the scandal that had been unleashed in Formula 1 around a suspicion of trafficking in confidential information, which threatened to turn the paddock of the premier class upside down. In the late hours of Tuesday, it emerged that Toto Wolff, executive director of Mercedes, and his wife Sussie, director of the F1 Academy,were being investigated by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) for possible leakage of confidential information from Formula One Management (FOM), and that the owners of the other teams had requested such an investigation. But hours later, nine teams released identical statements to deny that they had filed a complaint with the FIA. And on Thursday, that body announced that it was convinced that no conflict of interest had occurred, so the matter was shelved.
"Following a review of Formula One Management's Code of Conduct and Conflict of Interest Policy and confirmation that appropriate safeguards have been taken to mitigate any potential conflicts, the FIA is convinced that the FOM compliance management system is robust enough to prevent any unauthorised disclosure of confidential information." explained in a statement.
Toto Wolff and his wife, Susie, are under investigation by the FIA
The conflict stemmed from a publication in Business F1 magazine, which claimed that the Mercedes boss had been one of the first to learn that Red Bull had exceeded the 2021 budget cap. It is worth remembering that for this inconvenience the Austrian team had paid a financial fine of 7 million dollars.
According to some specialized media, that would have upset the bosses of other teams, who had asked the FIA to act on it, as they consider that the data that Toto Wolff had accessed was illegal because it was not available to everyone. And the international federation had then begun its investigation.
Reports said that there were two people who are under scrutiny: Shaila-Ann Rao, acting general secretary of motorsport at the FIA and a former member of the German team, and Sussie Wolff, Toto's wife.
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of the FIA, immediately warned that the body's compliance department was investigating the matter, while both Sussie Wolff and the Mercedes team publicly denied the allegations.
"I am deeply insulted but sadly I am not surprised by the public allegations that have been made this afternoon," said the head of the all-female F1 Academy. "It's disheartening that my integrity has been questioned in such a way, especially when this seems to be rooted in bullying and misogynistic behavior, and is more focused on my marital status than my abilities."
— Susie Wolff (@Susie_Wolff) December 5, 2023
"We completely reject these allegations" about "the integrity and compliance of our principal," the German team said.
But when many expected an earthquake within F1, the FIA averted catastrophe. And shortly after the teams themselves calmed things down a bit by denying instigating the investigation, the international federation confirmed that "there is no ongoing investigation in terms of ethical or disciplinary investigations involving any individual."