The motor racing governing body’s recent announcement that Shaila-Ann Rao, former special adviser to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, would temporarily take over as general secretary for sport, has sparked some unease among the teams.
The fear was that his previous experience with the Mercedes team would lead to greater influence from the German automaker in the matter.
Binotto was an early skeptic of the situation, saying at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix that he had “concerns” about Rao’s nomination.
But concerns have escalated at the Canadian GP in the wake of the controversial technical directive issued by the FIA to get rid of the porpoises and help the Mercedes team.
It was suspected that Rao had played a key role in accelerating the move, and questions have been raised about how Mercedes was able to react so quickly and add second floor support to its car so soon after the release of the TD.
Speaking after a weekend where the TD was challenged on legal grounds because teams claimed the FIA had not followed the correct procedure, Binotto said he hoped the governing body could address his concern about Rao’s influence.
“This is a question that was also put to me in Baku during the press conference, and I can only repeat what I said back then: it is a concern, no doubt,” did he declare.
“But I also have every confidence in the FIA that they will prove that they are obviously a professional, that they are lawyers and that they have integrity.
“I have confidence for the future that they will prove that my concern is not a concern.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, Helmut Marko, Consultant, Red Bull Racing
Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images
Binotto did not want to fuel conspiracy theories that Rao informed Mercedes of the second stay before the TD was released, but stressed that Ferrari would not have been able to react as quickly as its rival.
“Toto said they did it overnight,” he said.
“What I can say is that Ferrari wouldn’t be able to do it. And I’m probably surprised that a team is so strong to do that overnight. Maybe we can only trust what he says…”
Ferrari aren’t the only team to have questioned how quickly Mercedes was able to secure a second stay on their car, amid suspicions they may have had advance warning of what was happening. .
Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko said his team was surprised Mercedes had raced with the second stay just a day after being told all was well.
“We were very surprised to see this second stay on the ground,” Marko told UKTN.
“It was clear that after the release of the technical directive, there was not enough time to make such a piece.”
When asked if he thought Mercedes had early knowledge of what the FIA was doing, Marko replied “Otherwise you can’t explain what happened.”
Red Bull didn’t want to get drawn into the controversy over Rao’s appointment, however.
When asked if the team had any concerns about this, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: “I would prefer not to comment on this.”
However, not all teams were so worried about Rao’s position, with Alpine chief Otmar Szafnauer believing his experience at Mercedes was not necessarily a bad thing.
“She was originally in the FIA, so I think what’s good is that she also has team experience now,” he said. “It’s always good if you have that double experience.
“Yeah, I’m not concerned. I think she’s a lawyer. I think she takes an oath to be honest and trustworthy. So I think there is no problem.”
Additional reporting by Ronald Vording and Adam Cooper