Ferrari have admitted that there is a slight “concern” over the FIA’s appointment of a former advisor to Toto Wolff.
It was confirmed at the beginning of June that Shaila-Ann Rao would act as the interim replacement for Peter Bayer, who has left his positions as Secretary General for Sport and F1 Executive Director.
He had served in the former role since 2017, and had been F1 Executive Director since 2021.
Mattia Binotto, team boss at the Scuderia, says that he had always enjoyed working with Bayer, but he accepts the FIA’s decision to make changes, which comes after the arrival of new president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
“I think we enjoyed certainly the collaboration with Peter,” Binotto told media, including RacingNews365.com.
“He was always very transparent, fair with the teams, and [he was] rational. He’s got certainly a lot of competencies and experience.
“But, there is a reorganisation within the FIA, and it’s down to the new president to decide his own team.
“We fully respect the choices. We are accepting and, looking at the future, trying to make sure that we’re properly collaborating, and making sure that the FIA becomes stronger and stronger.”
Binotto calls on FIA to manage “concern”
However, when asked if he had any concerns about the appointment of Rao – who previously worked as a legal director of the Mercedes F1 Team and special advisor to Wolff – Binotto acknowledged he does, but that he has confidence in the FIA ensuring that there will be no conflict of interest.
“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 of that.
“It’s a concern, but only a concern. I think it’s down to them to make sure that there will be no conflicts of interest at all, to [do things] properly, and it’s down to the president to ensure it, and [I’m sure] they will do it.
“As Ferrari, it’s a concern, but I am sure [that] through the behaviours, through the decisions, they will prove it’s a wrong concern.”
Wolff believes Rao’s appointment “good news” for all teams
Meanwhile, Wolff is confident that Rao will have a positive impact at the FIA, whom she previously worked for as Legal Director between mid-2016 to the end of 2018.
“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,” Wolff stated.
“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.”
Alpine have “no issue”
Elsewhere on the grid, Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer thinks that Rao’s past experience is a positive.
“She came from the FIA, so she was originally at the FIA,” Szafnauer commented.
“I think the nice thing is that she’s gotten team experience as well as FIA experience, and that’s always good, if you have that double experience.
“But yeah, I’m not concerned. She’s a lawyer. I think she takes an oath to be honest and trustworthy, so I think there’s no issue.”