F1 pundit blames FIA ‘personality conflicts’ for ‘unprofessional moments’

Jamie Woodhouse
President of the FIA Mohammed ben Sulayem.

President of the FIA Mohammed ben Sulayem.

F1 broadcaster Mark Gallagher believes “personality conflicts” are present under the FIA leadership of Mohammed Ben Sulayem, causing clashes with the likes of Jean Todt and Susie Wolff.

It has not been a quiet F1 off-season for governing body the FIA, an investigation into a potential conflict of interest involving a member of Formula One Management and an unnamed F1 team boss causing quite the stir.

With Mercedes principal Toto Wolff’s name linked as a result of an internal FIA briefing, and his wife Susie Wolff implicated by association, Mercedes issued a statement to announce their surprise and denial, FOM [Formula One Management] also hitting back at the FIA investigation, as did Toto and Susie Wolff.

Susie Wolff owed FIA ‘fulsome public apology’

The FIA investigation was wrapped-up in a matter of days with no breach reported, with teams issuing identical statements in support of F1 Academy managing director Susie Wolff.

A sour taste was left, with Gallagher calling it an “embarrassing episode” which he feels calls for an apology to Wolff.

However, under the “current leadership” of the FIA, he does not expect this to happen.

Speaking on the Flat Chat podcast, Gallagher said: “When I read the two FIA statements, the announcement of the investigation and then the fact that it was wrapped up within a couple of days, then to read Susie’s two statements, this unanimous approach that all Formula 1 teams took, to get behind her, to support Susie, I thought to myself: ‘How unprofessional does the sports governing body look?’

“That’s the only word that can come to my [mind], how unprofessional.

[How can] their relationships with their Formula 1 teams and with the team principals of their Formula 1 teams and with the managing director of the Formula 1 Academy be so poor? Their relationships amongst the individuals concerned be so poor, that they conduct this embarrassing episode via press statements, which have no merit whatsoever?

“It was an appalling sequence of events and it’s so disappointing.

“I think, instead of the FIA simply saying that the case had been wrapped up after a couple of days, it actually begs for a very fulsome public apology to her and that hasn’t happened.

“And I don’t think that will happen because of the current leadership.”

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FIA ‘personality conflicts’ and ‘bitterness’ proposed trigger

In addition, former FIA president Jean Todt recently gave an interview to L’Equipe where he questioned Ben Sulayem’s “character” and countered his talk of financial shortfalls facing the governing body.

And Gallagher believes these clashes are “quite telling” in regards to the FIA’s leadership.

“Something that I haven’t seen a lot of commentary around, but I think is very noticeable, is that in the wake of the Susie Wolff-FIA debacle you then had Jean Todt, the former president, giving an interview in L’Equipe that I never thought Jean Todt would give,” Gallagher continued.

“Where he basically counters the criticism that has been made of him by the current president of the FIA.

“And the fact that you have a current president and a past president, who clearly don’t see eye to eye, and that the current president has kind of criticised his predecessor is again quite telling.

“So there’s a feeling that we’re now in a time where there are personality conflicts. There’s a degree of bitterness and it’s then manifesting itself in some of these unprofessional moments.”

Ben Sulayem took over as FIA president in December 2021, succeeding Todt.

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