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Toto and Susie Wolff: Formula One's Scapegoats

On Tuesday, BusinessF1 Magazine released its December issue. In it, they alleged that an F1 team had lodged a complaint to the FIA, which runs Formula One, about a potential conflict of interest between a team and someone who works for the FIA, which was later revealed to be Toto and Susie Wolff. Toto has been Mercedes’ team principal since 2013, and he worked in a similar role at Williams beforehand, while Susie, his wife, is a former test driver for Williams and worked as the team principal for Venturi Racing in Formula E from 2018 until 2022; after she departed from Venturi, she took over as managing director of F1 Academy, the FIA's all-female development series.


The issue arises because Susie Wolff works directly for Stefano Domenicali, the CEO of Formula One. If Domenicali and Susie spoke about the upcoming regulation changes in Formula One for 2026 before they were announced, Susie could have told Toto about the specifics of the changes and given Mercedes a head start before any other teams knew what was coming, which is what is being alleged.


After the allegations surfaced, all nine other teams released statements stating that they were not the team that complained to the FIA about the issue. Every team also added in their statements that they supported F1 Academy and would be sponsoring entries in the series next year.


Many on social media seemed to believe that Red Bull was the team that launched the complaint, but team principal Christian Horner put those rumors to rest when he spoke to Sky Sports on Wednesday. In his interview, Horner acknowledged that “we have a big rivalry on track,” but he stated that they “haven't raised any official complaint, either about Susie or Toto or Mercedes, to the FIA.”


Horner later added that “[the team], like others, were quite surprised at the statement that came out [Tuesday] night… It certainly wasn't instigated or required or set off by Red Bull.”


On Thursday, the FIA announced they would not launch an official investigation into the issue. Mercedes then released a statement from Toto Wolff on Friday that stated that the team is “currently in active legal exchange with the FIA” and they “await full transparency about what took place and why, and have expressly reserved all legal rights.”


The question that remains is what actually happened. Given that Bernie Ecclestone’s magazine created the controversy and he has a history of disagreeing with Mercedes and their drivers, there are several possibilities that have been speculated about.


(embed https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2008/nov/07/ecclestone-hamilton-racism-formula-one and https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/motor/formula1/2020/06/27/hamilton-saddened-and-hurt-by-ecclestones-racism-comments/112024784/ (will delete before posting if you're happy with the two embeds).


Chief among those potential situations is the fact that Ecclestone could have created the controversy himself out of a disdain for Mercedes and Hamilton. Nothing has been said by Formula One or anyone else who is involved to suggest that this could be the case, but there hasn't been anything else that has been announced, either. Until the FIA officially announces what happened and what piqued their interest in the matter, there will be almost unlimited speculation as to what has happened over the last three days.


(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

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