Ferrari express ‘concern’ over ex-Mercedes advisor’s FIA role

Jon Wilde
Mattia Binotto talking next to Toto Wolff. Baku June 2022.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has admitted it is a “concern” that a former Mercedes advisor has been appointed to a key position at the FIA.

However, Binotto is confident there will be no “conflicts of interest” arising from Shaila-Ann Rao joining the governing body on an interim basis after Peter Bayer left his role as secretary general, head of single-seater matters and F1 executive director.

Rao had been the legal director for the FIA from 2016-18, and then joined Mercedes as general counsel and special advisor to team principal Toto Wolff.

Speaking about Rao’s interim appointment at an Azerbaijan Grand Prix press conference in Baku, Binotto told reporters: “We enjoyed certainly the collaboration with Peter.

“He was always very transparent, fair between teams and rational in the way he was moving on with the topics and the subject. He had certainly a lot of competencies and experience.

“But I think there is a new organisation or reorganisation within the FIA. It’s down to the new president to move on to decide his own team. And we fully respect the choices.

“We are accepting and looking at the future, trying to make sure we are properly collaborating and making sure the FIA [is] becoming stronger and stronger.

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

“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.”

Carlos Sainz in the wet with Lewis Hamilton in testing. Barcelona February 2022

Wolff, meanwhile, says “transparency” is one of the attributes Rao will bring to her role.

“The FIA is changing its structure and organisation and then the president has to make his decisions and we certainly shouldn’t interfere into any of the decisions,” said the Austrian.

“I think he has a vision about where he wants to have the FIA and if part of that is a change of organisation, we need to respect it.

“For Shaila-Ann, she was at the FIA before she joined us. She was chief executive officer 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.”