Horner, F1 teams, deny triggering Wolff scandal

Dec.7 (GMM) Red Bull, and every other Formula 1 team, have distanced themselves from the exploding controversy surrounding Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and his wife Susie.

The FIA stunned the paddock this week by announcing an investigation into a conflict of interest and the exchange of confidential information between Wolff and his spouse, who is now managing director of the new female-only ‘F1 Academy’ series which is owned by Formula 1.

It was immediately suspected that the team prompting the FIA action may have been Red Bull, whose boss Christian Horner has had an intense on and off-track rivalry with Wolff in recent years.

“We are great rivals on the track, but we have not filed an official complaint,” Horner insists. “Neither about Toto, nor about Susie.”

He points out that Red Bull is actually deeply supportive of F1 Academy, and together with Alpha Tauri will field three Red Bull-owned cars in the series.

“So I think we, like others, were surprised by the FIA statement, but it certainly wasn’t instigated or requested or initiated by Red Bull,” added Horner.

In fact, every single one of Mercedes’ rival Formula 1 teams posted identical statements on social media – denying they complained about Wolff to the FIA and pledging their support for Susie and F1 Academy.

Seasoned analysts, therefore, sense that the saga is the latest escalation in a growing rift between F1 owner Liberty Media and the Mohammed Ben Sulayem-led FIA.

The BBC is not even ruling out the rekindling of a potential split between F1 and the sport’s governing body.

“For two years, the FIA has been engaged in a fight to establish its authority,” L’Equipe correspondent Frederic Ferret reports. “And each decision taken has weakened it (the FIA) a little more vis-a-vis Formula 1 and the teams.”

Auto Motor und Sport’s Tobias Gruner, meanwhile, thinks the FIA’s investigation into the Wolffs “after a single media report” is “extremely unusual”.

“One must therefore ask oneself whether a political agenda is being pursued here,” he added.

Auto Motor und Sport even issued a clarification to an earlier report that suggested Horner and Wolff clashed at a recent meeting about budget caps.

“It seems that was not the trigger for the FIA investigation, as we initially incorrectly suggested,” Gruner explained.

“Neutral observers now fear that the whole issue will end in a mudslinging between the FIA and the Formula 1 organisation, which will reflect poorly on the entire sport.”

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