F1 pundit confused by FIA ‘chest beating’ as investigation rolls on

Michelle Foster
The FIA and Formula 1 logos together.

The FIA and Formula 1 logos together.

As the FIA investigate an unnamed team boss over an alleged leak of confidential information, Peter Windsor has questioned what he sees as “chest beating” from motorsport’s governing body.

The FIA announced on Tuesday that their Compliance Department is investigating the matter, which has been widely claimed in the media to be talk between Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and his wife Susie.

The latter works for F1’s commercial rights holder Liberty Media in her capacity as the head of the all-female racing series, the F1 Academy.

‘I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere’

The allegations were made by BusinessF1 magazine, which claimed Wolff had been privy to information known only by FIA and FOM employees regarding rival teams’ finances during the 2021 budget cap investigations.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem was quick to pounce on it, motorsport’s governing body saying in a statement: “The FIA 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. The FIA Compliance Department is looking into the matter.”

It has since been revealed to PlanetF1.com by a source familiar with the situation that multiple team principals raising complaints. This, though, has been denied by every one of Mercedes’ nine rivals.

It does, however, have Windsor questioning why the FIA have made their investigation public.

“If the FIA again decide that this is a matter that has been brought to their attention and again to refer to their Compliance Committee, why make that public? Why tell people about that? Why beat your chest and say we have a compliance department that’s going to investigate?” he said on his latest YouTube stream.

“Surely if you’re going to do an investigation, it’s better to do it on the QT and then talk about it, isn’t it? Why alert everybody that you’re going to do it? That doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

“I think it’s good that they’re investigating the so-called accusation. I have to say, I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere, but what I tell people about it? It just doesn’t make any sense.”

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‘How can I phrase this without getting into trouble?

And if you ask the former Ferrari team manager, this “mess” is all because of former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone allowing third parties to “wag” their tails when he sold Formula 1’s commercial rights.

Explaining his reasoning, Windsor said: “It’s all a mess and has been ever since Bernie created the commercial rights of Formula 1 that he sold to Leo Kirsch, and that are currently now owned by Liberty.

“Before that the commercial rights didn’t really exist as an entity because they were sort of part of the sport and Bernie was running one of the teams and the teams kind of owned everything.

“And then without the team’s knowing, Bernie had sort of created all these little subdivisions called TV rights, sponsorship rights, travel rights, and those are the things he sold off to Leo Kirsch.

“And the teams were basically left with an income based on the Concorde Agreement that they can sign with the new commercial rights holders and that’s where we are today.

“I’ve always contended that the commercial rights are, how can I phrase this without getting into trouble, it’s better for the sport to be owned and run by its stakeholders rather than third party companies that come in with a massive amount of money and buy the commercial rights. I’ve always maintained that.

“If Bernie hadn’t sold them, we’d still be in a position where we didn’t actually have this sort of third-party wagging the tail, wagging the dog.

“The problem, and the reason that’s never happened, is because most of the F1 team owners at the time when Bernie was putting the whole empire together, were sufficiently inept not to understand what Bernie was doing and not to prevent him taking all the commercial rights out of the sport.

“If the commercial rights were owned collectively by the teams as part of their franchise, I think the sport would be very different. Possibly not as good in some ways because maybe the assets wouldn’t have been there to underwrite all the races that were underwritten say during the COVID crisis or indeed, getting American races on the calendar.

“Although I’m not sure that television rights income would necessarily be any less if we didn’t have a commercial rights holder, a third party commercial rights, so that’s up for debate. So that’s one thing.

“I’m not a fan of commercial rights as an entity, and I don’t think necessarily they’re always in the best interest of the sport. We’re not talking necessarily about Formula 1, I’m talking about sport in general.”

After the investigation was announced, Mercedes released a statement strongly denying the “unsubstantiated allegations from a single media outlet.” Susie Wolff also refuted the allegations as “intimidatory and misogynistic“.

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