Susie Wolff files criminal complaint against FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem

Mohammed ben Sulayem, FIA President, looks on in parc ferme after qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 01, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain
The pressure has been raised again on FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem - Getty Images/Mark Thompson

Susie Wolff says she has filed a criminal complaint in the French courts against FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem following the governing body’s controversial and short-lived conflict-of-interest inquiry last year.

Wolff, who runs the all-women F1 Academy series, and is married to Mercedes team principal Toto,  revealed the news on social media on Wednesday, hours after the sport’s governing body announced its president had been cleared of interfering in last year’s Formula One races in Saudi Arabia and Las Vegas following a “robust” investigation.

Wolff’s actions will once again raise the pressure on Ben Sulayem, the Emirati who was elected in December 2021, succeeding Frenchman Jean Todt, and whose presidency has been marked by regular clashes with Formula One, and with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. Susie Wolff’s criminal complaint dates back to December when the FIA announced that it had launched an inquiry into a magazine’s claims that rivals believed her relationship with her husband presented a conflict of interest in the sport.

Susie Wolff of the F1 Academy and wife of Toto Wolff during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 8, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Susie Wolff was previously a test driver for Williams - Getty Images/Qian Jun

As managing director of F1 Academy, Wolff reports directly to F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali. The investigation was swiftly dropped when all nine of Mercedes’ rivals issued identical statements saying they had made no such complaint. But not before it became clear that neither Mercedes, the Wolffs nor F1 had been contacted before the FIA announced its probe. There was also a suspicion from Mercedes that certain media had been briefed that the probe was about to be announced.

‘No transparency or accountability’

At the time, Susie Wolff said she was “deeply insulted but sadly unsurprised” by the claims, and described the allegations as “intimidatory and misogynistic” in a social media post. In the statement on her social media, Susie Wolff said: “There has still not been any transparency or accountability in the relation to the conduct of the FIA and its personnel in this matter.

“I feel more than ever it is important to stand up, call out improper behaviour and make sure people are held to account. While some may think silence absolves them from responsibility – it does not.”

Wolff said she had lodged the case in France on March 4. Hours earlier, in the middle of the night in Australia, where most F1 personnel are preparing for this weekend’s race, the FIA announced that Ben Sulayem had been cleared of interfering in last year’s Saudi Arabian and Las Vegas grands prix.

The Emirati had faced accusations from a whistleblower that he sought to prevent circuit approval ahead of the inaugural Las Vegas race and had allegedly interfered in the outcome of the Saudi round in Jeddah. The FIA said that its compliance department, supported by external advisers, had carried out “a robust and wide-ranging independent review, which included interviews with 11 witnesses”.

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