FIA official reacts to cheating concerns after being accused of Mercedes favouritism

Shaila-Ann Rao also served as Toto Wolff's special adviser.

Recently appointed interim FIA secretary general, Shaila-Ann Rao, simply allows criticism of her position to roll off the shoulder.

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto conceded that he was ‘concerned’ when the FIA replaced the departing Peter Bayer with Rao who, prior to re-joining the FIA, had been special adviser to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

An astute lawyer, Rao observed, in conversation with Corriere della Sera, that so much has happened in Formula 1 recently, that she could easily have believes half a year has gone by since she took up her role with the motorsport governing body.

“A few weeks have passed since the beginning of my assignment but it seems to me that six months have already passed,” she said.

READ: Toto Wolff unbothered by Mattia Binotto’s concern about FIA hiring ex-Mercedes advisor

The reason for the fears about her new position is that Mercedes are pushing for regulation changes to be introduced both this year and for 2023, as they seek to eradicate “porpoising.”

The view, naturally, from the Red Bull and Ferrari camps is that the German side are trying to influence the FIA to change the rules and help them back to the front following a poor first half of the 2022 season.

This, in the Italian publication’s words, makes her the “most feared woman” in Formula 1, which amuses her given that F1 CEO, Stefano Domenicali, used to be team principal of Ferrari, while FIA president, Mohammed ben Sulayem, has ties to Red Bull from his rallying days – but barely anybody mentions that.

“But before I worked for Mercedes, I was the Federation’s director of legal affairs,” explained Rao.

Article continues below

“The world of F1 is like this, you go from one team to other assignments, he is full of ex of something, even Stefano Domenicali is an ex of Ferrari. 

“But I don’t worry about certain voices, I go ahead and continue to do what I’ve always done: work.”

Next year, changes have been proposed that would ease “porpoising” and bouncing, but would also mean that the teams would have to change their design due to a decrease in downforce.

READ: Wolff claims ‘everyone has been against me’ as he responds to fresh cheating allegations

Red Bull and Ferrari are said to be among six teams that are unhappy about having to make changes to their car because of the eight-time champions’ performance struggles.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner described Mercedes’ push to change the rules as “scary,” but Rao asserted that the new regulation changes proposed for 2023 are by no means set in stone yet.

Furthermore, she would not be doing her job if she did not consider the safety implications that “porpoising” and bouncing have.

“At the moment it is only a proposal and that it has not yet been finalized,” she stated.

“And anyway, we work for the safety of the drivers all the time, what would happen if we didn’t intervene when safety is at stake?”

Mercedes have also affirmed that they looked for a compromise when asking for the rule changes, and that there is no telling if the new regulations, aimed at safety, would even work in their favour.