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Ferrari "concerned" after FIA hires former Mercedes F1 executive

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has admitted to some concerns over the appointment of a former Mercedes Formula 1 team executive to a senior FIA role.

Mattia Binotto, Team Principal, Ferrari, in a press conference

Mattia Binotto, Team Principal, Ferrari, in a press conference

Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Shaila-Ann Rao was named by the FIA last week as an interim replacement for the departed Peter Bayer in the twin roles of secretary general for sport and F1 executive director.

Bayer had held the former job since 2017 and the latter since 2021, and was well respected in the paddock as the main point of contact between the teams and the FIA.

Lawyer Rao previously worked with the FIA as its legal director from 2016 to 2018. She then joined Mercedes, serving as general counsel and then as special advisor to team principal Toto Wolff.

Inevitably, her return to the FIA after establishing such a close relationship with Mercedes has raised a few eyebrows among rival teams.

“Yes, certainly it's a concern,” said Binotto when asked by Autosport. “I think 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 it's only a concern. I think it's down to them [the FIA] 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. I've got the trust that they will do it.

“As Ferrari we are concerned, but I'm pretty sure that that through the behaviours, through the decisions, they will prove it's a wrong concern.”

Wolff insisted that Rao was a good hire for the governing body, and that her presence would actually improve matters for the teams.

“As for Shaila-Ann, she was at the FIA, before she joined us,” said Wolff. “She was the chief executive officer of one of the largest sports agencies before, and the positive of having Shaila-Ann in this position is that she's one about governance, and transparency. She's a lawyer.

“And I think this is something that we have always criticised in the past, that things weren't always as transparent and as clear for the teams. 

"And I think this is one of the key topics that she will be trying to implement. And that is good news for all of the teams.”

Mohammed bin Sulayem, President, FIA

Mohammed bin Sulayem, President, FIA

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Binotto and Wolff agreed that Bayer’s departure was a loss for the sport, but acknowledged that new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has the right to change his team.

“We worked with Peter Bayer for quite some time,” said Wolff. “And he was a rational guy. I personally enjoyed having him as a sparring partner. But the FIA is changing its structure and its organisation, and then the president has to make his decisions.

“And we certainly shouldn't interfere into any of those decisions. 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.”

“I think we enjoyed certainly the collaboration with Peter,” said Binotto. “He was always very transparent, I think, fair between teams in and rational in the way he was moving on with the topics and the subject. He's certainly got a lot of competencies and experience.

“As Toto said I think that then if there is a new organisation or reorganisation within the FIA, it's down to the new president somehow to move on, to decide his own team, and we fully respect the choices.

“So I think that we are accepting and somehow even looking at the future, [and we'll] try to make sure that we are properly collaborating and making sure that the FIA are becoming stronger and stronger now.”

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