Dec.8 (GMM) The Mohammed Ben Sulayem-led FIA has performed a humiliating back-down after opening an investigation this week into a scandal implicating Toto Wolff and his wife Susie.
The investigation into an alleged conflict of interest and an exchange of confidential information between Mercedes boss Wolff and his wife Susie, who is now managing director of the F1-run F1 Academy series, followed a single media report in Business F1 magazine.
“There is not even any circumstantial evidence,” insisted Michel Milewski, a correspondent for the major German newspaper Bild.
“So why the investigation? The trigger is was a single report in Business F1 – a magazine that has been considered dubious in the paddock since its publication, with a questionable reputation,” he added.
“It was an unprecedented event that suggests more of a political agenda by the FIA and its president.”
After Ben Sulayem instigated the investigation, every single rival team rallied around the Wolffs and Mercedes, denying they played any part in calling for the investigation.
Simultaneously, Mercedes’ nine team rivals signalled their support for the Wolffs by posting an identical media statement on social media.
“What sounded like a boring press release was actually a unique event that will go down in Formula 1 history,” Bild correspondent Milewski continued.
“The teams’ support for Wolff was a resounding verbal slap in the face for Mohammed Ben Sulayem. And he and his federation deserved it, too.”
Reports hinted that Mercedes and the Wolffs may even be considering legal action against the controversial FIA president for reputational damage.
And in a shock twist, the FIA called off the investigation altogether.
In a new statement, F1’s Ben Sulayem-led governing body said it is confident that “appropriate protective measures are in place to mitigate any potential conflicts” and “any unauthorised disclosure of confidential information”.
“The FIA can confirm that there is no ongoing investigation in terms of ethical or disciplinary inquiries involving any individual,” the FIA added.
Bild newspaper says it’s a humiliating climb-down for the FIA and its chief.
“Too often, the FIA under this ex-racing driver makes itself the laughing stock of the motorsport world,” Milewski continued in his Bild editorial.
“President Ben Sulayem must realise that it is time to pull over and give up the wheel.”
Another respected journalist, Mario Salvini of Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, agreed that the Ben Sulayem investigation had backfired spectacularly on the FIA’s embattled president.
“The unanimous reaction of the nine teams must have shocked the FIA,” he wrote.
“What is true is that someone must have made Ben Sulayem believe the (Business F1) story. But with the statement of the nine teams, the FIA had no choice but to backtrack.”
Salvini continued: “It will be interesting to see the body language between Stefano Domenicali, representing Liberty and FOM, and Ben Sulayem at the annual FIA awards in Baku tomorrow.”