FIA announce departure of Shaila-Ann Rao after five-month interim role ends

Henry Valantine
FIA flag on display at the F1 Dutch Grand Prix. Netherlands, September 2022. Budget cap Red Bull

FIA flag on display at the Dutch Grand Prix. Netherlands, September 2022.

The FIA have announced the departure of interim secretary general for motor sport, Shaila-Ann Rao, after five months in the job.

Despite having already spent more than two years with the governing body as its legal director, her appointment to the role vacated by Peter Bayer earlier in the year raised a few eyebrows in the paddock after subsequently spending over three years at Mercedes as general counsel and special advisor.

Given the status she had in her interim role, her former ties with Mercedes made former Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone believe it was a “bloody dangerous” move to have had her in the governing body, with technical directives brought in earlier in the year aimed at reducing porpoising on the 2022 cars – a key problem area for Mercedes.

But despite others voicing their worries, not everyone was concerned about the move. The FIA maintained that no favouritism would be, or was, shown by her towards her former team, and Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer explained that her role as a lawyer would ensure she stayed neutral in decision-making.

“She came from the FIA [already],” he said earlier in the year, as quoted by GPFans.

“The nice thing is she has team experience now as well as FIA experience and that’s always good to have.

“I’m not concerned. She’s a lawyer and she takes an oath to be honest and trustworthy, so there are no issues.”

But now the Formula 1 season has concluded, so has Rao’s interim position with the sport’s governing body, with the news confirmed on Wednesday morning.

A statement from the FIA read: “Shaila-Ann Rao returned to the FIA to assist the new Presidential Team during the transition period as Interim Secretary General for Motor Sport.

“Shaila-Ann successfully managed this transition period, providing valuable support and assistance to the FIA President and the organisation during this period which is now coming to an end.

“Shaila-Ann will now therefore be leaving the FIA following the end of the Formula 1 Season. The FIA thanks Shaila-Ann for her support during this period.”

President Mohammed Ben Sulayem said: “On behalf of everyone at the FIA, I would like to thank Shaila-Ann for her invaluable contribution in her role as Interim Secretary General for Motor Sport during an important transitional phase for the organisation.

“In particular, Shaila-Ann has provided me with great support in respect to Formula 1, always acting with professionalism and integrity.”

Read more: From Lewis Hamilton to Pierre Gasly: Five drivers glad the 2022 F1 season is over