Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto expressed concerns on Saturday about the appointment of Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff’s former personal advisor Shaila-Ann Rao to the role of interim Formula One head at the sport’s governing FIA. Rao, who served as the FIA’s legal director from mid-2016 to the end of 2018 before joining Mercedes as the team’s general counsel and then special advisor to Wolff, was named as the interim replacement for the departed Peter Bayer.
Austrian Bayer, who led the investigation into the controversial title-deciding safety car restart at last year’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, had served as the FIA’s F1 executive director since last year and secretary general for sport since 2017. ‘She is a great person, she’s got a lot of experience, she will certainly be capable of doing the job.
‘It’s down to them to make sure that there will be no conflicts of interest at all, to behave properly and it’s down to the president to ensure it,’ he added. Former rally driver Mohammed Ben Sulayem was elected as the FIA’s first non-European president in December. He has carried out changes to F1’s refereeing procedure in the wake of the Abu Dhabi controversy, appointing Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas to replace Michael Masi in the role of race director.
There was no explanation for Bayer’s departure and no indication that Rao’s appointment was in any way related to events in Abu Dhabi. Sitting alongside Binotto, Wolff gave Rao his vote of confidence. ‘What the positive is about having Shaila-Ann in this position is she’s one about governance and transparency. ‘She’s a lawyer and 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.