Mercedes and F1 hit back hard against FIA claim over leak of confidential information

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The FIA’s admission it is investigating a potential leak of confidential information has provoked strongly-worded rejections from Formula 1 and Mercedes.

Reports elsewhere claimed Mercedes’ team principal and the managing director of F1 Academy – husband and wife Toto and Susie Wolff respectively – were the recipients of the information. However all three parties have issued statements denying the claims.

An FIA spokesperson announced on Tuesday its Compliance Department was investigating a report a Formula 1 team principal received confidential information from a member of Formula One Management. It did not identify the person involved.

However Mercedes claimed an “off-record briefing… has linked it to the team principal of Mercedes-AMG F1.”

FOM added it was “confident that no member of our team has made any unauthorised disclosure to a team principal.”

In a social media post, Susie Wolff said she was the subject of “baseless allegations” which “seem to be rooted in intimidatory and misogynistic behaviour.”

In its original statement, the FIA stated it “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.”

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“The FIA Compliance Department is looking in to the matter,” it added.

FOM indicated its frustration the FIA had made the story public and insisted it was not correct.

“We note the public statement made by the FIA this evening that was not shared with us in advance,” it said in a statement. “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.”

Mercedes said it had received no communication from the FIA’s Compliance Department regarding any investigation, and claimed the subsequent media coverage of the story had cast aspersions on Wolff.

“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,” said Mercedes’ statement.

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“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.”

Susie Wolff said she was “deeply insulted but sadly unsurprised by the public allegations that have been made this evening.”

“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,” she continued.

“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 Fl Academy.

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“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.”

The FIA Code of Ethics states confidentiality is one of its four key commitments. It notes: “The FIA parties and third parties shall also treat as confidential or secret any information, which is not public, communicated to them in the exercise of their duties. Any information or opinion shall be divulged only in accordance with the principles, directives and objectives of the FIA and its members.”

The FIA’s Compliance Department previously handled an investigation into Lance Stroll’s conduct at the Qatar Grand Prix, where he was seen apparently shoving a fellow team member after being eliminated during the first round of qualifying. He was eventually given a formal warning over the incident, for which he apologised.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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79 comments on “Mercedes and F1 hit back hard against FIA claim over leak of confidential information”

  1. Rumour mill suggests that it is Toto, and in relation to the budget cap last year.

    1. Not just Toto, but also Susie. Apparently Toto leaked to Susie, who then went to Stefano and spilled the tea.

      1. But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation?

      2. So, this exerpt sounds like a well studied Mercedes PR talk

    2. ‘rumour mill’ ‘was also said’ etc etc is just made up by one person with a lot of accounts, posting all night :)

      1. @zann One that, presumably, must also be linked to the Business F1 magazine, because it seems that, if you post anything that is even slightly critical of that publication, it gets deleted.

        Once again – why is it that, whenever somebody mentions the libel cases that the Business F1 magazine has been involved in, a post instantly disappears? Keith – be honest about whether you’re being threatened with legal action by that publication if anybody mentions that it has been repeatedly sued for libel, and lost cases, due to being unable to provide evidence in court for their claims.

  2. Was also said that Susie told Toto something about an upcoming subject in the team leaders meeting and everyone was surprised that he had a speech about the subject but none of the others did.

    It’s very clear information flows between them and her position shouldn’t of been allowed or at least restricted.

    1. Coventry Climax
      6th December 2023, 1:44

      Why her position and not his?

      1. Because she is employed as part of the F1 company structure, he works for a team competing in the competitions the F1 company operates.

        Toto being a shareholder, Team Principal & CEO or Mercedes F1 Team is exactly the reason is should have been a conflict of interest for her to be involved in a company owned by the Formula 1 operator. To avoid just this!

        1. *of the Mercedes F1 Team

        2. Coventry Climax
          6th December 2023, 12:10

          I know all that alright.
          All I’m saying is it would also have been solved with him resigning from his function.

          That’s what we’ve been discussing here for some time, and it was actually made an FiA spearhead: inclusiveness, discrimination, gender, macho culture if you will, the whole shebang.

          I thought that would be obviously clear from that (my) one sentence, but apparently not.

    2. It’s very clear information flows between them and her position shouldn’t of been allowed

      I don’t know why people think that close family automatically know what each other know in the way of confidential information.
      My wife doesn’t automatically (or otherwise) know the details of any celeb visiting the establishment I work for.

      BTW. The phase is “shouldn’t have” a contraction of “should not have” – origin of the mistake is, I believe the phrase “should have” contracted to “should’ve” and then mispronounced and written as “should of”

  3. This is another favour from Ben S to Horner with his cosy relationship because Horner got found out and didn’t like the media attention or punishment which is a running joke. How about investigating Masi Jean Totd and Horner over the rigged race in AD21? No of course not this is total deflection.

    1. 🤦‍♂️ I hate Horner and most of RBR, but come on. Team LH is getting more delusional by the day.

      1. Nope its got favours to Horner all over it, trying upset the apple cart, probably information about Mercedes new car they don’t like. Horner and Ben S are snakes and slime and i wouldn’t put anything past them, look at Ben S and his sexist comments about women so this is aimed at Suzie Wolf, she has already dismissed the claims as mysonigstic. Disgusting behaviour by the FIA based on one media outlets rumour but this is how the FIA roll under Ben S. Corrupt as they come.

        1. Baseless claims to support your agenda, this website deserves better than such comments.

        2. Alan S Thomson
          6th December 2023, 16:40

          This site deserves better than the paranoid rantings of a madman. You, Four Four Seven, are truly mad.

          1. You my opinion you don’t like! Get used to it.

    2. Ben’s cosy relationship with Horner?

      Name a Red Bull that got a job within the FIA, or name a spouse of a Red Bull employee that got a job within the F1 company structure, especially one with numerous links to partners of that team across many years? Susie has enough links with Mercedes, Mercedes’ customers and direct Mercedes partners such as HWA to bar her from any job within a organisation that has Mercedes as a competitor, that is before you factor in she is the spouse of a shareholder in, the CEO of & the Team Principal of the Mercedes F1 Team.

      Todt, Brawn & Domenicalli all had to shed their roles within teams to get roles with either the FIA or F1, whilst team members have to go through gardening leave if they switch teams to stop information being shared. Susie should never have been given the job to avoid exactly this situation!

      1. Why get upset over an opinion? You beleive F1 and the FIA are all sweetness and light? Please…..

        1. @fourfourseven
          Some opinions are worth getting upset about. And voicing it. I hope more people chime in, to show delusional people they’re alone in their ideas. And not only that, to show the delusional person that the hate spreading bile is not appreciated on the public boards and if those people wish to engage with others, they should behave

          1. Hate is just your way of showing contempt for not seeing clearly enough, open your eyes! And you think I’m delusional? Lol good one

          2. @fourfourseven
            You’re showing everyone you are, what I think is irrelevant.
            We all see your messages and we don’t even have to look further than this current topic. There is plenty from you for us to see you’re not here for engaging with others or exchanging ideas. You’re here to try and aggravate as many people as you can by being rude and contentious. And any retort towards you have you draw the victim card. Like we’re upset, we’re angry, we’re hateful yada yada yada.

          3. Bla bla bla yeah thats all you got wake up!

    3. I don’t see any reason why Ben should or would do Horner a favor. I do see a reason why the FIA would investigate communications around internal processes to be made public before they themselves get a chance to do it, as it directly influences their credibility and authority of being the sports regulator. I understand there is still pain around a single race some seasons ago, which sometimes makes emotions cloud perception and opinion, but this is more structural than disagreeing with a referee over a single match.

    4. Depending on the day, the conspiracies are favouring Ferrari or Red Bull or Mercedes or Max or Lewis. Seems like everyone and no one is favoured. This is so childish. Again, I think 2021 broke some peoples brains.

  4. Sounds like Toto outed himself in a classic case of, “I can’t comment on that, but yes.”

    Bit sloppy on the part of the F1 Academy, too. They should have foreseen this relationship was a potential issue and hired someone else. It’s a bad look for both the people involved and the series.

    Good to see the FIA make some moves on this issue. Ben Sulayem is clearly not intimidated by the F1 bigwigs who fancied themselves untouchable under the presidency of Jean Todt who – for his own reasons, some quite understandable – kept a pretty big distance from the day to day affairs of F1.

    1. MichaelN,
      Wolff has been desperate to secure access to both F1 and the FIA, aiming to enhance his political influence and potentially exert a complete control over the sport.

      Initially, Toto himself was running for the top job in the sport but faced a veto from Ferrari, an outcome he continues to grapple with. Subsequently, he strategically placed his legal advisor, Shaila-Ann Rao, as part of a deal with Ben Sulayem in the FIA following the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP controversy. After Shaila’s dismissal due to involvement in controversies, Toto successfully brought Susie on board.

      Casual fans can easily discern Toto’s recent desperation to access F1, as evidenced by his ubiquitous presence at every social event involving Stefano Domenicali.

      While I never fully supported Ben Sulayem as the FIA president, I must acknowledge his resilient stance against bullying from the arrogant factions within F1 and their allies, particularly the influential Mercedes PR machine. There are already indications of a strategic move to position their strawman, David Richards, as the upcoming FIA president.

  5. BusinessF1 is reporting that Toto “clearly had advance information about a topic that came up” in a recent team principals meeting. Alongside last year’s budget cap stuff.

    Supposedly tensions have been bubbling since Susie Wolff’s appointment with F1 Academy and that Sulayem has been hesitant to act to sour the relationship between FIA and F1, but now it’s come to a head.

    Who knows though…

    1. Yup. F1 is already defending Toto and so is Merc. One thing that intrigues me, either Toto and Susie thought they weren’t doing anything wrong by sharing information beyond the household or they were being a bit cheeky (or downright arrogant) and took a gamble, thinking they would get away with it – all for the benefit of doing some damage to Red Bull. Seems strange to me.

      1. either Toto and Susie thought they weren’t doing anything wrong by sharing information beyond the household or they were being a bit cheeky

        Or they really didn’t do anything and the rumour mill is being fed from its usual source at RBR.

        Seems strange to me

        Probably because you forgot to list all the scenarios and totally missed the obvious one. If you’re too close to the source, you can often miss the obvious.

  6. Probably get a 5 second penalty.

    1. And 2 penalty points?

    2. @nullapax OK, I have now had to unplug my external keyboard and is forced to use the built-in one on my laptop. Once the splurge of ejected coffee has dried from said keyboard, I shall carefully test it, and let you know if you owe me a new one.

    3. black and white flag for going over the limits

  7. How to keep the media busy with F1 news 101

  8. I absolutely don’t believe it! Mercedes, Wolff and Hamilton are shining examples of honesty and fairness and they absolutely wouldn’t go as far as having confidential information about, for example, the next engine regulations well in advance before other teams and budget cap details or demanding grid penalty for their rivals, who had misfortune of one of their cars destroyed by a loose drain cover.

    1. This isn’t about Hamilton so why bring him into it? Didn’t mention Russell remember him? Deluded.

      1. clearly an allusion to McLaren spygate.

    2. having confidential information about, for example, the next engine regulations well in advance before other teams

      That would be Renault, who were involved in creating the specification.
      NB. Hamilton wasn’t anywhere near a team that used Renault engines, he did at one time have a colleague who may or may not have some connection with spygate, and crashgate.

  9. So basically, if Wolff did not leak anything about the budget cap, nobody would have found out that Red Bull violated the rules?

    1. @krichelle that sounds like a massive non sequitur. How is that your takeaway from this story?
      The FIA was doing its report on the budget cap regardless of Wolff spilling the beans about it. The report was the origin of where Wolff got it in the first place.

      1. @fourfourseven so first of all, you don’t know me, and making gratuitous comments like that without knowing who you are talking to is about as bad as the behaviour of fans you are targeting with that very same comment. Do better.
        Second, I have been watching all of F1 with a passion since mid eighties, so aside from your comment being subpar, it’s also plain wrong.
        Third, I welcome all arguments going against my opinion (this is part of the “doing better” I mentioned in my first point). What exactly would you say is clueless? The part where Wolff got his info from the FIA looking into the team spends of fiscal year 21? Where else would you think he got the info from?
        Or is it the part where I say they were doing the report and were going to publish the findings? Why would you feel they weren’t going to do that? This is literally a process that was described well in advance so should be nothing new to anyone.
        Neither of these things seem contentious to me, but you are free to give your substantiated opinion. Let’s raise the level in these comment sections.

        1. I was making an observation genius

    2. What is FIA thinking however by making public the accusations?? The way FIA and FOM bicker nowadays is not healthy and good for the sport. They should better get their act together

      1. The way I read it is that the FIA was responding to reports that had already been published in the media. They didn’t name anybody in their statement – the Wolffs (Wolvves?) have outed themselves as the target of the investigation.

    3. Yes similar to how we still dont know how Ferrari cheated with rocket powered oil / mass airflow. And got no real penalty in season.

  10. Having recently watched the Brawn GP documentary, the idea that the other team bosses are always paragons of virtue who respect confidentiality seems… less than certain.

    Possibly the issue here is the bosses’ fear that someone is sharing their conversations with formula one management. Less about leaks, and more about who the leaks were to… that’s often a tense relationship.

  11. “…rooted in intimidatory and misogynistic behaviour” of course, the boiler plate response from a guilty woman.

    1. @jb784 the original publication, the Business F1 magazine, had previously posted an article on the W-Series that suggested the women involved should have done more to “sex up the series”.

      That included suggestions that Susie Wolff, amongst others, should have done erotic photo shoots to promote the series – it is with the background knowledge of those previous articles written about her in an overtly sexualised manner that she is making that complaint.

      1. Jeez, wow. Thanks Anon for that important bit of background to it. So who is behind this “business F1 magazine”? I hadn’t ever heard of it before.

        1. @bascb it is produced by Tom Rubython – an individual who has a rather poor reputation in the world of journalism, to put it mildly.

    2. Based on what has been published, it’s the relationship that Wolff has with someone who was appointed to an influential role when he was already Mercedes’ team principal that’s led to the alleged issues. Predictably so, one might argue. It was just not a good idea, and everyone involved should have seen this.

      That said someone happens to be a woman has nothing to do with this. If the events were the other way around, people would have asked questions about Wolff’s appointment. And it doesn’t even have to be that high level. There was quite a bit of grumbling about the role Jean Todt’s son played as a manager of certain drivers. And plenty of other stories about potential conflicts of interest have no familial aspect at all, but reigate to previous employers.

      For their sake, I hope they come up with a better story. The “but I’m a woman” angle is undermining the whole aspirational idea behind that F1 Academy series.

  12. I wondering about how information circles within the FIA offices when a director of a feeder series like F1 academy has access to information of a sensitive nature in regards of F1.
    Because if that is the case that would mean there will always be a conflict of interest for any FIA employee with relations in F1.
    At that point absolutely nobody with any form of relations in F1 can work for the FIA.

    “seem to be rooted in intimidatory and misogynistic behaviour.”

    And ofcourse the primary defense is to claim something along these lines. Until Abu Dhabi one held the Wolff’s in higher standing. Since Abu Dhabi nothing is a surprise of how low they are willing to go.

  13. Funny part is: it’s always been a conflict of interest issue having one as head of team and other working in FIA. They don’t even need to commit any offenses for it to be an issue (-8

    1. This! I don’t care what the specific topic at hand is, the whole structure was wrong from the beginning. And let’s not forget about Toto’s legal advisor Shaila-Ann Rao before that, who also happened to have a role at the FIA, no less than secretary general. This needs to stop.

  14. Its almost like Bernie Ecclestone never left…

    1. Toto is one weird version of Bernie

    2. Its almost like Bernie Ecclestone never left…

      Isn’t his wife still there?

  15. Coventry Climax
    6th December 2023, 1:57

    Weren’t there some issues some time ago about Mercedes lawyers going to work for F1, which raised doubts about their integrety and Mercedes having an information foot between the door?
    And now this. Is this a fully separate thing? Even if it is, do both still spring from the same brain?

    “But what I always say in this sport, I like the ‘honesty’ [of racing]. The spectacle follows the sport. And the sport – this is a meritocracy. Whoever is doing the best job wins.”

    Time to get the rules clear for this side of the ‘job’, I’d say.

    1. One former Mercedes employee working for the FIA, another former works Mercedes DTM driver, former Team Principal & CEO of a supplier to the works Formula E team, working for a FOM subsidiary whilst being being married to the current shareholder, CEO & Team Principal of the Mercedes F1 Team, I honestly don’t know what your problem is…

      Meanwhile the shareholder, CEO & Team Principal of the Mercedes F1 Team had a cosy relationship with the FIA race director prior to his sacking, following a season where numerous questionable decisions were made in Mercedes favour!

      1. Coventry Climax
        6th December 2023, 12:14

        Well, there’s the problem: all breeding within themselves.
        There’s laws for that in the normal world.

        1. In the normal world that is “revolving door politics” and nobody does anything about it. Move between banks, politics and law at great increase of wealth. Nothing to see here.

  16. Susie’s numerous links to Mercedes should have been reason enough to bar her from a position within any organisation responsible for overseeing competitions they are involved in:
    > Married to a shareholder of, the CEO & Team Principal of the Mercedes F1 Team
    > Was formerly Team Principal & CEO of Venturi Formula E Team, a supplier to the HWA Formula E Team that became the works Mercedes Formula E Team
    > Was previously employed as the development driver of the Williams F1 Team because her husband was the a shareholder in the team
    > Drove for the Mercedes works DTM operated by HWA

    I’m not saying in any way she did have access to any information or that she did pass them on, just that these links should have been enough to bar her from holding any position within any organisation linked to F1, least of all one directly linked as a subsidiary of the F1 controlling company.

    The information more likely came from other sources leaking information to Torger, such as his dinner friend Michael, his insider Shaila-Ann or the rest of the corrupt FIA employees that aided them.

    1. FIA is not at its first try, remember Jean Todt?

      1. Coventry Climax
        6th December 2023, 12:18

        Yeah, that’s the one that claimed he wanted less controversy.
        While currently still contributing to it, supporting Massa’s claim.

        But him too, is just one in a long line of fine breed – within themselves.

      2. Yeah, and Dominicali is a previous Ferrari team principal (and Audi board member).

  17. Secrets! lol dishonest people need them. Perhaps Suzie found out who in FOM asked Mohammed to call Masi at Abu Dhabi

  18. Why would a director of a feeder series have inside knowledge of FIA’s F1 department?
    If thats the case, nobody with relations within F1 should ever be allowed to work at the FIA, because it would mean you can’t guarantee the appearance of avoiding a conflict of interest.

  19. “seem to be rooted in intimidatory and misogynistic behaviour.”

    This defence and manner is unbefiting of someone of her stature. If you are going to deny something, confront the allegation head on without the need of making further unsubstantiated and unnecessary misogynistic allegations.

    It is a vile way of argumentation trying to deface accusations of one’s action by attacking the accusers character.

    1. I believe the term is “ad hominem” and the question is why would you feel the need to respond that way?

    2. DAvid DOnaldson
      6th December 2023, 11:27

      To be fair to her, you only need to read many of the comments above which suggested she should have been barred from her role ( despite her expertise ) because she is a “spouse”.

      As for confronting the allegations head on, as many would like Susie to do, perhaps she has to wait to find out what exactly they are, because if I read this correctly there has been no contact with Toto or Susie by the investigators, and so there is rumour and innuendo filling the vacuum where facts ought to be.

      1. Potential conflicts of interests or sharing of confidential information is not a male-female issue. This is something organisations look out for in all manner of relations, be it father and son, brothers in law, former business partners, political friends, anything you can think of. Especially when you’re working in a public or NGO-like context, rather than with your own business, it’s worth being extra careful because any potential issues also affect the wider organisation.

      2. @David, the first thing is a question in general for any FIA employee with relations in specifically F1 but professional motorsport as a whole. Is there an appearance of a conflict of interest and should that be avoided.

        As for the 2nd, she has only a few options the first and most professional is keep quiet, and the second is disprove the allegations even when that should be unnecessary in an innocent until proven guilty society.

        What she should never have done is what she did, fight “baseless” accusations with vile ad hominems. Insinuating that any critique on the actions of a woman are intimidatory and misogynistic. It’s not a good look for her as a person, as a director of the FIA, F1 academy and women as a group (due to her position as a role model).

        The type of rhetoric used by her can be seen as fuel for actual misogyny. Nobody is aided by that, not her, other women or society as a whole.

    3. Coventry Climax
      6th December 2023, 12:21

      Now that’s an opinion I support!

  20. If there’s ever a stink in F1, you can be sure Toto is somewhere near the centre of it.
    I wouldn’t trust anything he says.
    That team under him reminds me of the Star Wars Empire or First order villains … from their behavior, to their underhandedness and even the whole image from their dark paddock motor-home, to the silver black cars, and Storm-trooper team members.

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