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'No option but to trust FIA' amid criminal complaint, interference claims - F1 team bosses

Formula 1 teams ‘don’t have another option’ other than to trust the FIA amid the governing body investigating its own president and being the subject of a criminal complaint.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President, FIA

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The FIA Compliance Department looked into allegations from a whistleblower, who claimed president Mohammed Ben Sulayem attempted to influence officiating at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix plus delay homologating the Las Vegas circuit.

He was ultimately unanimously cleared of wrongdoing, with the FIA stating there was “no evidence to substantiate” the accusations while they “greatly appreciated” Ben Sulayem’s “complete co-operation, transparency and compliance”.

Ahead of this weekend’s Australian GP, F1 Academy managing director Susie Wolff confirmed that she has personally filed a criminal complaint in the French courts against the FIA after it started to look into a potential conflict of interest between her and husband Toto.

Supposedly, rival F1 team bosses complained that confidential information was shared between them. But all teams denied this and came out in strong support.

The FIA is also the channel through which a female Red Bull employee has lodged an official complaint against team principal Christian Horner.

With this backdrop, Ferrari F1 boss Fred Vasseur says there is no option other than to trust the FIA. He said: “I don't think we have another option than to be confident.

“We don't know who is the whistleblower; we don't know what was the goal of the whistleblower. Don't ask us to have an opinion at the end. We have to be confident with the system.”

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

He also suggested that F1 fans had little interest in the FIA’s handling of recent events and that it was instead the media responsible for keeping the allegations in the headlines.

Asked by Autosport about the incidences, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown stressed a need for “total transparency” from the governing body.

“All the items that have come to light in recent times are very serious situations,” he said. “We're living in 2024, not 1984, which means total transparency.

“The three situations are different, but all very serious. We need to make sure that things are done in a transparent, truly independent manner. I think everyone should welcome transparency.”

However, RB CEO Peter Bayer - formerly F1 executive director at the FIA - warned that some elements needed to remain discrete so whistleblowers still felt empowered to come forward.

Bayer clarified: “[The FIA] are capable because there's elected people who have roles, there's an independent ethics committee. Since when I was there, we've established the compliance officer, whistleblowing hotlines.

“One thing that we see is the sport has grown massively in a very short amount of time. A lot of people are asking for transparency.

“I guess we will have to try and understand where we can have transparency because, when it's about individual topics or complaints coming through a whistleblowing hotline, you have to make sure there is absolute guarantee and protection of the people doing the whistleblowing.

“When it's about employment contracts, those are anywhere on the planet not meant to be shared with anyone. So, it's difficult. But as a sport, we have to learn and grow through these processes and hopefully can come back and focus on racing…

“We have to have confidence in the organisation. It's the same when we have a stewards’ decision or other. Sometimes we might not like the decisions but, ultimately, we have to be happy with the process.”

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