Toto Wolff’s ex-Mercedes aide leaves FIA after Red Bull raise eyebrows
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Toto Wolff’s former Mercedes colleague Shaila-Ann Rao will leave the FIA at the end of this year after her presence within the organisation was reportedly questioned by Red Bull during last month’s budget cap saga. Rao was appointed as the FIA’s interim secretary-general back in June shortly after leaving Mercedes, where she established herself as one of Wolff’s trusted confidantes by serving as his advisor for a period of three-and-a-half years.

She initially worked for the Austrian as his general counsel before taking up the role of his special advisor, with a number of senior figures in F1 having questioned her move to the FIA over the course of her short-lived spell working for motorsport’s governing body. Her position was further scrutinised by Red Bull after they were found to have breached the budget cap in 2021 earlier this year, with De Telegraaf reporting at the time that Rao’s role at the FIA raised plenty of eyebrows within the Austrian team due to her history with long-time rivals Mercedes.

It was confirmed on Wednesday by the FIA that Rao will be leaving the organisation in advance of next season, with a statement reading: “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 One season. The FIA thanks Shaila-Ann for her support during this period.”

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FIA president Mohamed Ben Suleyam also spoke of his appreciation for Rao’s efforts over the course of this year, adding: “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 One, always acting with professionalism and integrity.”

Rao found herself at the centre of Red Bull’s budget cap storm earlier this year amid accusations that she was responsible for leaking confidential information to Mercedes, who had suggested that at least one team had broken the FIA’s strict financial rules before the news was made official. Ben Suleyam was quick to deny the claims earlier this month, though, by insisting that Rao had instead been calling for the FIA to take a softer approach to the situation regarding how Red Bull would be punished.

“Shaila-Ann has supported me a lot, you can see her intelligence when it comes to making big decisions for me,” he said. “Actually, once the penalties were in place for the teams, she said that was a bit harsh of me.

“I looked at her and said my God, there’s someone accusing her of being on Mercedes’ side and she’s telling me I’m too tough on Red Bull. We had a meeting in Austria and while we were still talking about something, it was already in the news.”

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