Red Bull ‘raising eyebrows’ about ex-Mercedes employee within FIA

Thomas Maher
Lewis Hamilton is overtaken by Max Verstappen at the restart. Netherlands September 2022

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton is overtaken by Max Verstappen at the restart. Netherlands September 2022

A report in Dutch media has suggested the presence of an ex-Mercedes employee within the FIA is giving Red Bull cause for concern.

According to the report, Red Bull have “raised eyebrows” about the appointment of Shaila-Ann Rao as their interim secretary-general to replace Peter Bayer.

Rao previously worked as a legal adviser for Mercedes, working directly alongside team boss Toto Wolff.

According to De Telegraaf, Red Bull have questioned Rao’s appointment following the recent budget cap furore in which Wolff acknowledged the “paddock secret” that Red Bull had committed a breach of the Financial Regulations.

Wolff’s apparent knowledge of the situation led Red Bull team boss Christian Horner to question how personnel within the F1 paddock appeared to have knowledge of another team’s spending, given the financial returns to the FIA were confidential.

Toto Wolff waves off other team concerns

Earlier this season, Ferrari also expressed some misgivings about the appointment of Rao to the FIA position, while former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone labelled her new position as “bloody dangerous”.

Speaking about Rao’s appointment earlier this summer, Wolff welcomed the move from the FIA.

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

Christian Horner , Toto Wolff and Mattia Binotto on the grid. Monza September 2022
F1 team bosses Christian Horner, Toto Wolff and Mattia Binotto on the grid. Monza September 2022

“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.”

De Telegraaf report Adrian Newey not cause of Red Bull overspend

The same report from De Telegraaf also claims Adrian Newey is not the cause of Red Bull’s budget overspend, as the team’s chief technical officer was suggested to have been the reason for the grey area of interpretation.

According to the budget cap rules, the top three paid employees of Red Bull Racing are exempt from the financial restrictions – Newey is technically a contractor, rather than an employee, leading to confusion over whether his salary is the issue behind their financial breach.

De Telegraaf suggest Red Bull believe catering issues have caused the overspending (less than $7.25million), such as providing free meals at their Milton Keynes headquarters.

As it stands, there has been no update from the governing body regarding the breach of the Financial Regulations, as they engage Red Bull in negotiations regarding the interpretation of their finances.

Read More: Haas announce new title sponsor for F1 2023 season and beyond