Hamilton praises F1 Academy director Susie Wolff over legal action against FIA

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain gestures to fans as he arrives at the Albert Park circuit ahead of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, March 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain gestures to fans as he arrives at the Albert Park circuit ahead of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, March 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Lewis Hamilton criticized FIA while supporting Susie Wolff’s “bravery” for filing a criminal complaint against auto racing’s governing body in the French courts.

Wolff, who is married to Mercedes Formula 1 team boss Toto Wolff, and director of the all-female junior racing series F1 Academy, on Wednesday said she had begun legal action “in relation to statements made against me” by the FIA.

The Wolffs were the subject of an FIA investigation last December which sought to determine if the couple shared confidential information. It followed allegations of a conflict of interest published in BusinessF1 magazine.

But FIA closed the investigation after just 48 hours, following near identical statements from the remaining nine teams denying they’d lodged the complaint required to commence it. Susie Wolff began legal action on March 4.

Hamilton firmly backed Wolff during a media session Thursday at Albert Park ahead of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, in which he lamented the lack of accountability in the series.

“I’m incredibly proud of Susie Wolff,” Hamilton said. “She’s so brave, and she stands for such great values. She’s such a leader. And in a world where often people are silenced, for her to be standing up sends such a great message.

“I love that she’s taken it out of this (F1) world to fight it from the outside because there is 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 clearly no accountability.”

Hamilton indicated Wolff’s stance was especially important in the “male-dominated” world of F1.

“It is still a male-dominated sport. And we are living in a time where the message is: ‘If you file a complaint, you will be fired,’” he said. “And that is a terrible narrative to be projecting to the world, especially when we’re talking about inclusivity.”

Asked if FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem still had his confidence, Hamilton said: “Never has.”

The FIA said Wednesday its ethics committee cleared Ben Sulayem over “interference of any kind.” He had been the subject of two reported complaints. The first alleged he intervened to overturn a penalty given to Fernando Alonso at last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. The second report from the same whistleblower also claimed Ben Sulayem told officials not to certify the Las Vegas circuit for its high-profile race last November.

On the grid, Hamilton said he was confident his Mercedes team can improve pace from his W15 car to challenge for podiums and races this year. The seven-time world champion last climbed the podium’s top step at the 2021 Saudi Arabian GP. The British driver is a two-time winner of the Australian GP, the last time in 2015.

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