FIA axe head executive and appoint Toto Wolff’s ex-special advisor amid F1 bosses’ fury

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The FIA have parted ways with head of single seaters and executive director Peter Bayer amid rising tension and rumours of discontent between themselves and F1 bosses. Bayer will be replaced by Shaila-Ann Rao, formerly special advisor to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. 

Since 2017, Bayer has overseen the FIA’s sporting department across the board, stepping up to executive director in 2021 prior to the controversial season finale that saw FIA race director Michael Masi sacked. 

Bayer oversaw the investigation that led to Masi’s dismissal, judging that the Aussie failed to properly implement F1 regulations. With the FIA under pressure from F1 bosses over public rows, namely with Lewis Hamilton over jewellery regulations being enforced by president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, they clearly saw fit to make a change. 

An FIA statement read: “The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile announces the departure of Peter Bayer, who served as Secretary General for Sport since 2017 and also as F1 Executive Director since 2021.

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“Holding up a race in anticipation of incoming weather is not necessary.

“We have virtual and real safety cars, red flags, pit stop crews who can change tyres in two seconds, and two types of wet weather tyres to cover those challenges. That’s what Formula 1 racing is all about.

“A couple of reliable sources tell me that there were heated arguments in race control during the impasse as we all looked on unsure of what was happening.

“This presumably explains the periods of inaction and lack of information, and the reason why the safety car was not out exploring track conditions as usual.”

“The FIA warmly thanks him for the achievements he has contributed to the development of motor sport over the last five years. In particular, he has supervised, with the entire Sport Division, the building of the single-seater pyramid from Karting to F1, the creation of the new World Rally-Raid Championship, as well as improving safety and sustainability in all disciplines. The FIA wishes him all the best for the future.

“Peter Bayer will be replaced on an interim basis by Shaila-Ann Rao, who has just returned to the FIA. Shaila-Ann Rao previously held the position of FIA Legal Director from mid-2016 to end 2018, before spending the past three and a half years with Mercedes Grand Prix Limited as consecutively General Counsel and then Special Advisor to their CEO & Team Principal Toto Wolff.”

Hamilton and Mercedes are not the only ones dissatisfied with recent FIA decisions. Red Bull were left unhappy that an investigation into allegations that Aston Martin had copied elements of their design did not fall their way, before launching an investigation of their own. Fast forward to Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix and Ferrari were left baffled that neither Max Verstappen nor Sergio Perez were punished for pit-lane infringements. 

Many people were critical of the lengthy delay that put off the race start in Monaco after heavy rainfall scuppered the original start time. Rumours of heated arguments between new FIA race directors Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas have since been substantiated by Martin Brundle, raising questions over whether the governing body have appointed the right people to replace Masi. 

“Holding up a race in anticipation of incoming weather is not necessary,” Brundle wrote in his Sky Sports column. “We have virtual and real safety cars, red flags, pit stop crews who can change tyres in two seconds, and two types of wet weather tyres to cover those challenges. That’s what Formula 1 racing is all about.

“A couple of reliable sources tell me that there were heated arguments in race control during the impasse as we all looked on unsure of what was happening. This presumably explains the periods of inaction and lack of information, and the reason why the safety car was not out exploring track conditions as usual.”

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