Lewis Hamilton hopes Susie Wolff’s legal action against FIA will ‘create change’ in F1

MELBOURNE, Australia — Lewis Hamilton wants Susie Wolff’s decision to take legal action against the FIA to “create change” in Formula One, calling out the lack of transparency and accountability “within this sport” and “within the FIA.”

On Thursday, the FIA announced that its president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, had been cleared by its ethics committee after an investigation found that allegations of sporting interference made against him were “unsubstantiated.”

Hours later, Wolff, the managing director of the all-women F1 Academy series, revealed she had filed a criminal complaint against the FIA.

This legal action, lodged in France on March 4, is related to statements made by the FIA in December after a short-lived probe into an alleged conflict of interest involving Wolff and her husband, Toto, the Mercedes team principal, and the potential passing of sensitive information.

Speaking on Thursday in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton, the seven-time F1 world champion who drives for Mercedes, said he was “incredibly proud” of Susie Wolff and that “for her to be standing up sends such a great message.” He then called out “a real lack of accountability here, within this sport, within the FIA.”

“Things that are happening behind closed doors, there is no transparency, there is really no accountability, and we need that,” Hamilton said.

“I think the fans need that. How can you trust the sport and what is happening here if you don’t have that?

“Hopefully, this stand that she’s taking now will create change, will have a positive impact, and especially for women. It is still a male-dominated sport, and we’re living in a time where the message is if you file a complaint, you will be fired, and that is a terrible narrative to be projecting to the world, especially when we’re talking about inclusivity here in the sport.

“We need to make sure we stay true to the core values.”

Shortly after the FIA announced it had closed the December investigation after Mercedes’ nine rival F1 teams issued identical statements giving Susie Wolff their support, Hamilton said it had been “disappointing” to see the FIA question her integrity “without questioning, without any evidence,” and that its handling of the matter had been “unacceptable.”

On Thursday in Melbourne, when Hamilton and Mercedes teammate George Russell were asked if Ben Sulayem had their backing, Hamilton replied: “He never has.”

Calls for transparency continue

Speaking two weeks ago in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Hamilton said F1 was facing a “pivotal moment” as a sport amid the controversies facing the FIA and the continued aftermath of allegations made against Red Bull team principal Christian Horner by a female employee.

The grievance against Horner was dismissed after an external King’s Counsel conducted an investigation. The complainant was suspended with pay by Red Bull two weeks ago, with a source briefed on the matter telling The Athletic this was related to the investigation’s findings.

The complainant has appealed the ruling of the investigation with Red Bull GmbH, according to a source briefed on the matter, and has lodged her own complaint with the FIA’s compliance department.

The FIA said last week that the “strict confidentiality” of the compliance process meant it could not confirm the receipt of any specific complaint or provide comment on complaints it receives.

A number of figures in the sport have continued to call for greater transparency in recent weeks, including Toto Wolff and McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown.

Russell, who serves as a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, said in Melbourne that it was “a really important moment for Formula One right now to see the right outcomes, truth and transparency with any case that is presented” to the sport.

“If things are transparent and we see the outcome of these cases, we all have a chance to judge for ourselves with all of the facts and figures in front of us,” Russell said. “But when we don’t have the facts and figures, and there is no transparency, you always think there’s something being hidden.

“That’s why I think it’s so important for the sport now, as Lewis said, to send the right message to everybody who is supporting Formula One, watching Formula One, wants to be involved in Formula One, that things aren’t just swept under the carpet.”

(Photo of Lewis Hamilton: Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

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