Suspected FIA ‘mole’ ousted

The governing body of Formula One has repeatedly made the headlines this season as new President Mohammed Ben Sulayem gets to grips with the running of the organisation. Due to pressure from Mercedes following the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP Ben Sulayem removed the F1 race director from his duties and replaced Michael Massi with Eduardo Freitas and Neils Wittich who operated in rotation. Teams and drivers alike have criticised these appointments believing F1 race control is now too inconsistent.

Following the decision to deploy a tractor at the rain soaked Japanese GP to recover Carlos Sainz car while the track was still live, Eduardo Freitas was sidelined for the remainder of the season.



FIA never far from controversy

The controversies came thick and fast this year for the FIA and the appointment of a replacement for Peter Bayer, the secretary general for motor sport, raised eyebrows in the paddock.

Shaila-Ann Rao had been employed as legal counsel my Mercedes AMG F1 and was a special advisor to Toto Wolff.

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto laerned of the appointment at the Azerbaijan GP where he reflected with the media, “We enjoyed certainly the collaboration with Peter.

“He was always very transparent, fair between teams and rational in the way he was moving on with the topics and the subject. He had certainly a lot of competencies and experience.

“But I think there is a new organisation or reorganisation within the FIA. It’s down to the new president to move on to decide his own team. And we fully respect the choices.



Ferrari boss is suspicious

Clearly Binotto was surprised about the appointment of Toto’s special advisor to F1’s ruling body.

“On the concern of Shaila-Ann, yes, certainly, it’s a concern.

“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 only a concern. It’s down to them to make sure 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 they will do it.

The concern quickly became suspicion when Mercedes rocked up to the Canadian GP with a redesigned floor for the W13. It included a second stay to stabilise roll, something the Mercedes car was particularly vulnerable to.



Mercedes sneak preview of technical directive

Red Bull’s consultant Helmut Marko accused Mercedes of having prior knowledge of a new FIA technical directive issued the night before the teams arrived in Montreal. 

“I was very surprised when I saw their floor with that second stay. When the technical guideline came out it was clear that there would not be enough time to supply such a part, so yes. Otherwise, you cannot explain what happened.”

Marko argued that Mercedes must have been tipped off by someone inside the FIA where solutions to the extreme bouncing were being explored. It would have been impossible for Mercedes to have designed, manufactured and shipped the component between the announcement of the FIA technical directive and the arrival of the teams for the Canadian GP.



Mercedes ex employee as FIA mole?

The finger of suspicion indicated the FIA may indeed have a ‘mole’ at the Singapore GP. Despite Formula One’s ruling body being over 3 months late with its findings over the 2021 cost cap and having made no official announcement, the paddock was awash with the news that Red Bull Racing had been found in breach of the 2021 financial regulations.

Toto Wolff was the most vocal of all over the matter accusing Red Bull Racing of gaining a “massive” advantage and indirectly of cheating.

Christian Horner was incensed by the leak stating, “The accusations made in Singapore were extremely upsetting for every single member of staff, all our partners, everyone involved within Red Bull. Obviously, any form of leakage is hugely worrying. It’s something that we expect to be followed up.”

Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko made a similar point when speaking with Sky Germany. “The FIA says they don’t know how this came out, but it’s weird that certain things from an ongoing process are being exposed,” said the Austrian. 

“That’s defamatory. I just find it amazing that something like this gets public.”



FIA announce Rao to leave her role

Today the FIA announce the departure of Shaila-Ann Rao, after five months in the job.

A statement read: “Shaila-Ann Rao returned to the FIA to assist the new Presidential Team during the transition period as Interim Secretary General for Motor Sport.

“Shaila-Ann successfully managed this transition period, providing valuable support and assistance to the FIA President and the organisation during this period which is now coming to an end.

“Shaila-Ann will now therefore be leaving the FIA following the end of the Formula 1 Season. The FIA thanks Shaila-Ann for her support during this period.”



FIA protests too much

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem added: “On behalf of everyone at the FIA, I would like to thank Shaila-Ann for her invaluable contribution in her role as Interim Secretary General for Motor Sport during an important transitional phase for the organisation.

“In particular, Shaila-Ann has provided me with great support in respect to Formula 1, always acting with professionalism and integrity.”

The phrase, “methinks he protesters too much” springs to mind.

The FIA has a huge task ahead and will be in transition for quite some time. At least for Red Bull and others who were concerned of the appointment of Shaila-Ann, the suspected ‘mole’ has left the field of play.

READ MORE: Hulk makes big admission after F1 return

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