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Ben Sulayem denies budget cap leak

NEWS STORY
20/11/2022

FIA president, Mohammed ben Sulayem dismisses claims that former Mercedes lawyer leaked budget cap suspicions to German media.

Other than the actual rights and wrongs of the budget cap breach, when it was first reported that Red Bull had exceeded the cap there was immediate concern over where the details of the media reports were coming from.

The breach was first reported in the German media and consequently from the outset Mercedes was voicing its concern that its main rival had - to use Andreas Seidl's expression - "cheated".

Even when the FIA eventually concluded its investigation and made its findings public, there remained concern at the possibility the breach had been deliberately leaked to the media.

Christian Horner, who, prior to the FIA revealing its findings, had threatened action against those parties claiming Red Bull had exceeded the cap now turned his attention to the source of the original report in the German media.

"Any form of leakage is hugely worrying," said the Briton. "It's something that we expect to be followed up."

As ever, Helmut Marko went that little bit further, the Austrian all but pointing the finger at the FIA's interim Secretary General for Motorsport, Shaila-Ann Rao, former general counsel for Mercedes and special advisor to Toto Wolff.

Following her appointment to the role, in which she was replacing Peter Bayer the man who had led the investigation into the events of Abu Dhabi 2021, Toto Wolff was quick to defend the move, a move which Red Bull and Ferrari had questioned.

"Shaila-Ann, she was at the FIA before she joined us," he said. "She was CEO of one of the largest sports agencies before and the positive of having Shaila-Ann in this position is she's one about governance and transparency.

"She's a lawyer. I think this is something we have always criticised in the past, that things weren't always as transparent and as clear for the teams. This is one of the key topics she will be trying to implement. And that is good news for all of the teams."

Speaking in Abu Dhabi, FIA president, Mohammed ben Sulayem was keen to dismiss speculation of bias, suggesting that Rao had actually been sympathetic to Red Bull.

"I'll be very honest with you, and I'll defend my opinion, but when it comes to Shaila-Ann, there were accusations that she is mainly a supporter of Mercedes," he said. "But actually, when the penalties were there with both teams, she said that's a bit harsh.

"I looked and said: 'My god, there is someone who is accusing her of being with Mercedes, and she's saying to me that it's harsh on Red Bull'." he added.

Nonetheless there has been speculation that she might step down from her role as a result of the saga.

"Her position is interim secretary general, and the interim, what does interim mean?" said ben Sulayem. "Shaila-Ann has been supportive a lot to me. You see her intelligence when it comes to setting big decisions for me."

As for the leak, the FIA president all but said it's the way it is.

"On the leak, we were in Austria, we were having the F1 Commission meeting, and while we were talking about it, it was already in the news," he said. "It's frustrating sometimes, because before you've finished your meeting, something has got out."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by kenji, 22/11/2022 0:06

"@ Superbird...maybe it was. the question still remains as to where 'their' source originated? The fact that EY would've signed off with a letter of compliance as no team would submit a return showing a negative means that the source most likely is either the FIA or an associated entity.Either way 'they' should be exposed."

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2. Posted by Superbird70, 21/11/2022 23:56

"Why can't it just be good investigative journalism, like those guys that found the secret Nazi base on the dark side of the moon?"

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3. Posted by kenji, 21/11/2022 12:10

"@ Mad Matt...It could be any or all of those things but I am one of the original sceptics and I don't believe in coincidences either as a general rule. My interest is in the fact that Red Bull were accused of cheating and that's a bit heavy duty at this level of business considering the not insignificant levels of finance involved. I guess that like many issues this one will die off but it's unfortunate that people are not held to account for defamation...when it occurs as in this case."

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4. Posted by Mad Matt, 21/11/2022 8:27

"Perhaps I'm mistaken but the leak was only the fact that there was an overspend, not details of what Red Bull had spent the money on so their confidential data wasn't leaked.

I'm more inclined to suspect either incompetence, someone said something without thinking.... or possibly someone who was worried the FIA might try to brush it under the carpet.

A couple of less likely scenarios are that either someone at Red Bull spilled the beans to a journalist by accident or that a journalist made an educated guess that was then picked up by the others and then the FIA couldn't deny it so it gained credence.

On the whole I think this has been one sorry saga from the FIA, they didn't define any penalties up front, they took forever to decide what to do and they didn't think that fans wouldn't appreciate the whole thing only coming to light almost a year after the breach occurred."

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5. Posted by ancient70!, 21/11/2022 6:32

"With her appointment at the FIA, there were immediate concerns raised that Mercedes now had a “agent” installed at the FIA. Unless the person in question is totally brain dead, they would surely keep their handling of confidential information scrupulously correct, knowing they would be a prime target for the finger pointing brigade."

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6. Posted by kenji, 21/11/2022 2:05

"Perhaps those who gave me negative downticks may care to posit their own opinons so that we may debate the issue like adults. I would simply love to see Red Bull take this further and see if they can publically unmask the perpetrators...now that would be interesting. When two or more people, acting conjointly, to the detriment of another can be termed a conspiracy..then lets see those people named."

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7. Posted by kenji, 20/11/2022 16:15

"@ Max...The financial data was handed to the FIA, supposedly,in the strictest confidence. The fact that the data pertaining to Red Bull was leaked could only come from the FIA or someone affiliated with the FIA. That then leads to the question....who had the motive and who'd benefit from making the data public? Untgil the facts are made clear we can all speculate...but IMO the answer is quite obvious. "

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8. Posted by Max Noble, 20/11/2022 11:56

"Al Capone had lawyers… seriously. They are human, and prone to bias just the same as all us, ah, “non-lawyers”."

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9. Posted by kenji, 20/11/2022 11:39

"What a weak response...not good enough FIA."

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