Bernie Ecclestone has added his criticism to the FIA’s appointment of Shalia-Ann Rao. She is a former Mercedes executive and personal advisor to Toto Wolff. Other team principals also questioned this appointment when it was recently announced.
Ferrari Boss Mattia Binotto revealed at the 2022 Canadian GP the appointment was not without question.
“Certainly, it’s a concern,” he told RacingNews365.com.
“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 they will do it.”
Yet the finger was pointed at Shalia-Ann in Canada over a potential FIA leak to her former team.
On the Wednesday before the race in Montreal, on the grounds of safety, the FIA introduced a Technical Directive intended to analyse the causes of porpoising and bouncing with the aim to eradicate this from all teams.
Yet when the W13 rolled out for practice one, the Mercedes car was fitted with an extra floor stay designed to reduce the bouncing.
Clearly this component was the result of Mercedes interpretation of the FIA’s TD, but quickly paddock voices questioned how the Brackley team were ale to manufacture and ship this component overnight across the Atlantic.
The insinuation was Thalia-Ann Rao had tipped of her former team
The Ferrari team boss whimsically observed, “What I can say is that Ferrari would not be capable of doing it,” said Binotto at the time. “No doubt I’m surprised that a team is so strong in doing that overnight. I can maybe only trust what he’s saying.”
Bernie Ecclestone has added his voice to this questioning the independence of the FIA’s new appointment.
“It’s bloody dangerous,” Ecclestone told the Daily Mail.
“Toto started all this nonsense about the cars needing to change. She told them about the new directive, obviously. She worked with Toto for two or three years.
“I wanted to get Luca di Montezemolo as chairman of the [F1] company when I was running things, but the teams went mad because he was Ferrari’s man,” recalled Ecclestone.
“It was seen as a conflict of interest, so how can she do this job?”
Mercedes team principal predictably saw no problem with Rao’s appointment.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Yet given Rao’s brief is transparency, if Mercedes again appear to find an advantage during her remit, calls for her resignation will not be far behind.