Teams ‘concerned’ after FIA gives former Mercedes employee and Toto Wolff confidante pivotal role

Many cynics have pointed to an uncanny level of assistance for Mercedes when it comes to FIA rulings and the latest change in the governing body has further fuelled this notion.

FIA recently appointed Shaila-Ann Rao as its interim secretary general for motorsport. However, a closer look at her past experience in the sport may be seen by some as questionable.

FIA president Mohammed bin Sulayem announced Shaila-Ann’s position in June, but she has previously been involved with Mercedes and some believe this could lead to favouritism.

Rao was part of Mercedes’ team between 2018 and 2022, where she worked as the general counsel for the team as well as special advisor to team boss Toto Wolff.

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto was quick to raise concern over this recent appointment and felt it wasn’t in the best interest of the sport.

“On the concern of Shaila-Ann, yes, certainly, it’s a concern,” Binotto said.

“She’s a great person, she’s got a lot of experience. She will certainly be capable of doing the job. I’m pretty sure on that.

“It’s a concern, but only a concern. It’s down to them to make sure there will be no conflicts of interest at all, to behave properly. And it’s down to the president to ensure it. I’ve got the trust they will do it.

“As Ferrari, it’s a concern. I’m pretty sure that through the behaviours, through the decisions, they will prove it’s a wrong concern.”

Rao has denied any such favouritism or bias and said that she is not focusing on such rumours as it may distract her from her job.

“Before I worked for Mercedes I was director of legal affairs at the Federation,” Rao said.

“The world of F1 is like that – you go from one team to another. It is full of exes of something, even [F1 president] Stefano Domenicali is ex-Ferrari.

“But I don’t worry about certain rumours, I move on and continue to do what I have always done – work.”

Tricky time for Rao to join FIA

Mercedes W13. Credit: sportskeeda.com

It is a tricky time for Rao to join FIA.

The governing body’s new rules with regard to bouncing of next year’s cars will be under the scanner.

FIA, however, does have the power to implement any changes if they are in the best interest of safety, regardless of whether teams are convinced.

This inevitably creates grey space and may cause further allegations of bias.

For Rao, safety is of utmost importance and she reiterated that she will focus her decision-making with this as a top priority.

“At the moment it is only a proposal and has not yet been finalised,” she said.

“And in any case, we work for the safety of the drivers. Always. What would happen if we did not intervene when safety is at stake?’”

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