What a joke the whole FIA/F1/Wolff saga has become as the FIA launched, executed and concluded a thorough investigation within 48 hours or so of them stirring up a wary Formula 1 world.
Now first things first, Susie Wolff working for an organization in which her husband has business interests or dealings is wrong and, from the sidelines, constitutes a conflict of interest no matter how I look at it, and the fact that she went down the misogynistic path of defence was provocative, if not pathetic..
It’s not about her or who her husband is. If it were the other way around and Toto was in her place; there would still be a conflict of interest. It doesn’t stop at Susie and Toto, the fact that Bernie Ecclestone’s wife Fabiana is a vice president of the FIA is also wrong.
And don’t forget that Nicholas Todt, the son of the former FIA President Jean, managed F1 drivers (he currently manages Charles Leclerc) which was another questionable situation during the Frenchman’s reign.
Remember when Wolff’s advisor Shaila-Ann Rao was hired by the FIA as Interim Secretary General… Well, guess what those words: “conflict of interest”; keep popping up.
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem defended Rao at the time when F1 teams complained but then a few months later she left the FIA amid reports of her being subjected to bullying by the President… Interesting given Susie Wolff’s latest accusations.
These are a few examples that easily spring to mind when looking at the Wolff/FIA debacle from the outside looking in. Are we sure that if the powers that be (the FIA or F1) dig deeper, they won’t find more questionable interests within F1 and motorsport in general?
However, how the FIA handled ‘whistleblower’ claims surrounding Wolff and his wife was amateurish, to say the least and another badly planned battle in the power struggle between Ben Sulayem, Formula 1 and F1’s power couple.
For example, although be assured he is no angel, I agree (along with many) with Ben Sulayem and the FIA that there should be an 11th team in F1. This was not a popular move by the existing teams. Toto is the most vocal of them all.
The type of attacks the federation’s President is under shows the extent F1 and the teams are willing to go as they seek to protect their interests, apparently regardless of what is good for the sport; showing how hard the Emirati has rattled the establishment.
How the saga might have unfolded…
Someone blew the whistle to Ben Sulayem who appeared to jump at the chance of taking a swipe at Wolff. However, it seems he pulled the trigger too soon without prior due diligence which some basic investigation into the allegations should have sufficed – below the radar that is.
Apparently, so excited was Ben Sulayem that a statement followed from the FIA whereafter all hell broke loose. In the blink of an eye, all the F1 teams sent out identical statements claiming they were not the Whistleblower/s targeting the House of Wolff.
So one speculates that either someone actually complained and then shamefully backed off, or someone slyly tipped off Ben Sulayem with toxic info, upon which the President took the bait and was shoved under the bus in this game of Piranha Pool politics.
I am not one to judge Susie or Toto about insider information allegations or even conflict of interest which seems apparent, but if the FIA think they can open such a can of worms with a statement and close it with another is irresponsible. Instead, they have launched a thousand questions.
No proper investigation on such complex issues can be concluded in 48 hours and can be considered reliable, definitive and finite. The FIA have to be transparent, publish their findings and answer to the counter allegations fired by the Wolffs in retaliation to the investigation. Only then will there be true closure.
Otherwise, and which is probably the case, it is another ill-played chapter in the ongoing war between F1, the teams and the governing body, and it was concluded with some kind of deal or a slap behind the scenes; leaving the FIA and its President with black eyes.
This saga might not be over. Tonight the FIA Awards Gala takes place. It’s Ben Sulayem’s show, his huge stage to reward the motorsport’s great Champions of 2023, Formula 1 included. The Wolffs should be there.