FIA reject suggestion of Mercedes bias in Red Bull penalty decision-making

President of the FIA Mohammed ben Sulayem. Credit: Alamy
President of the FIA Mohammed ben Sulayem. Credit: Alamy

The FIA have denied that they show any favouritism to Mercedes, with some suggesting an ex-Silver Arrows staff member a the FIA may play a biased part in their decision-making.

The person in focus is FIA interim secretary general for motorsport Shaila-Ann Rao, who worked for Mercedes before she moved to the sport’s governing body.

Rao spent more than three years at Mercedes between 2018 and 2022 when she worked as general counsel for the team as well as a special advisor to team principal Toto Wolff.

Before that, she had worked as legal director for the FIA from 2016 to 2018 but her appointment back at the federation was a cause for concern for some in the paddock.

She dismissed any claims of favouritism in July but following the Red Bull cost cap breach, and the leak that occurred before it, suspicions have again been raised.

In her capacity as a higher-up at the FIA, Rao will have played a part in deciding what punishment was given to Red Bull and the team’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko suggested to German TV it was ‘strange’ how the information got out.

Christian Horner also said in November that the leak was “hugely worrying” and that it was something the team would “follow-up.”

The FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has batted away Marko’s suggestions and said that Rao was one who said the punishment was too harsh.

“Her position is interim secretary general, and the interim, what does interim mean?” Ben Sulayem asked, as reported by Motorsport.com.

“Shaila-Ann has been supportive a lot to me. You see her intelligence when it comes to setting big decisions for me.

“I’ll be very honest with you, and I’ll defend my opinion, but when it comes to Shaila-Ann, there were accusations that she is mainly a supporter of Mercedes.

“But actually, when the [cost cap] penalties were there with both teams, she said that’s a bit harsh from me.

“I looked and said: ‘My god, there is someone who is accusing her of being with Mercedes, and she’s saying to me that it’s harsh on Red Bull.’”

Ben Sulayem also stated that he was confident the leak did not come from within the FIA as they were attending the F1 Commission meeting when the news broke.

“On the leak, we were in Austria, we were having the F1 Commission meeting, and while we were talking about it, it was already in the news,” he said.

“It’s frustrating sometimes, because before you’ve finished your meeting, something has got out.”

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