I think it is fair to say that Max Mosley’s tenure as president of Formula One’s governing body is coming to an end. Since 1993 the former team owner has ruled over the FIA, making decisions on behalf of the sports they govern in the hope of benefiting the spectacle for all involved. The FIA also raises awareness on related issues to the motor industry such as the environment, mobility and safety and are things Mosley has championed during his reign. But now at the grand age of 67, the former barrister is coming to the end of his fourth term (due in 2009) and will likely, and hopefully, be succeeded by a fresh face in the position. So who would fit the bill as Formula One’s governor? Let’s take a look at some of the popular and maybe not-so-popular candidates.
Formerly the team boss of Ferrari, Jean Todt orchestrated the Scuderia’s revival through a variety of bold moves in the mid-nineties that ultimately led to seven constructors titles between 1999 and 2007. Now taking a step back from the pitwall, Jean has handed his mantle to long-term Ferrari employee Stefano Domenicali, and Todt is now in the senior executive position for the whole company.
Jean has been involved in motor sport for most of his life and in 1984 took up his first management role, running Peugeot’s in the World Rally Championship. As success came Todt’s way the Frenchman soon became frustrated with Peugeot when they refused to enter F1 and eventually switched allegiances to Ferrari. Todt’s successful management of the Scuderia has led to many questions regarding his future, and in 2004 towards the end of Mosley’s third term, it was expected for Jean to run against Max. However, Mosley was left unchallenged and Jean was soon promoted to Ferrari’s CEO before stepping down as team principal. While the media was hyping up the possibility of Todt running against Mosley in 2005, the Briton stated that Jean would make an excellent president, suggesting that if Max could have his way he would choose Todt.
Jean probably would make an ideal president for the FIA, having gained management experience at Peugeot and Ferrari and generally seen as a hard but ultimately fair principal. Ferrari were recently named as the best company to work for in Italy, with reports saying that employees at Maranello feel welcome to voice ideas, concerns and thoughts in an open and receptive manner. Combine this with the Frenchman’s ability to understand motor sport politics inside-out as well as an understanding of road cars and associated issues that concern the FIA, Todt is probably the most qualified of people listed in this post to succeed Mosley.
Perhaps not an obvious choice given the Australians out-spoking criticism of the FIA’s handling of Formula One, but Paul is in with a chance due to his political stance and gaining experience in motor sport. Sponsoring and running teams in various formulae, Paul and his company European Aviation enjoyed fair success in the mid-to-late nineties. And in 2001 his dream was realised when he purchased the Minardi F1 team from its founder Giancarlo Minardi. With a strong passion for the sport he kept Italy’s second squad going until late-2005 when he reluctantly sold out to Red Bull
During his tenure at Faenza, Paul stood firmly against many other team bosses who said that Minardi shouldn’t be competing if they couldn’t really afford to. Stoddart has battled with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and his determination and seemingly unmoving morals deserve admiration. One example of Paul’s sporting code came about when the teams long term technical director John Walton passed away on the evening before the 2004 British Grand Prix. Stoddart ran his cars without sponsor logos for the race which ultimately led to the teams title partner withdrawing their funding, stating they would have liked to have at least been informed about the move. But while having a clean conscience isn’t necessarily a pre-requisite for the presidential role, it shows that Paul can be fair and would likely listen to his advisers, team bosses and fans to ultimately make right decisions for the sport.
However, Stoddart will have to want the role, and currently the former Minardi boss is busy continuing the Italian name in America as well as running his portfolio of businesses, notably European Aviation that reclaim, repair and sell aircraft parts to the aviation industry, as well as running a VIP charter service around the continent and a second airline – OzJet – based in Australia.
Paul has stated in interviews that he thrived on the political battles when he was attempting to keep Minardi in Formula One, and the Australian understands how to run successful organisations. He has charm and charisma as well as passion and dedication, but his dealings with the FIA in the past may count against him if he chooses to stand next year.
When Damon Hill retired from competitive racing in 1999, the Briton stated that he would be moving away from Formula One, choosing instead to focus his efforts on a variety of businesses he owns and operates. But in 2006, ten years after claiming his only world championship, Hill succeeded Jackie Stewart in becoming the president of the BRDC. The organisation currently owns the Silverstone circuit and are in charge of safe-guarding its future as the venue of the British Grand Prix.
Damon has contacts within the road car industry; as well as running a luxury car club he also owns a successful BMW dealership in Warwickshire. The ’96 champion has a good core group of people around him and the next logical step from the BRDC is surely the FIA.
Although Hill is perhaps an unusual choice for the FIA presidency, his role in the BRDC leads me to think that he may run in 2009. His announcement to the Drivers Club came as a surprise to many, but it shows Hill has a taste for the political side of motor sport. And despite Bernie Ecclestone’s threats, the British Grand Prix does remain in the calendar for now, suggesting Damon is enjoying reasonable success in his position. Again, it comes down to whether Hill would want to run, but with his other business ventures ticking along smoothly, he clearly has some time on his hands. And although he would have to step down from looking after Silverstone, the call of the greater good may be enough to lure the famous name further up the motor sporting ladder.
Like Hill, Ross Brawn is perhaps not the most obvious of choices for the FIA president, but over the last ten-plus years we have seen Ross flourish in Formula One, gaining respect from all quarters of the paddock. Brawn’s fame came from his success at Benetton and Ferrari, but even before working in Formula One, the qualified machinist and engineer worked for Jaguar in their sports car department and has enjoyed working in a variety of roles from technical director to aerodynamicist.
Brawn’s political experience may work against him as he doesn’t have much dealings with this side of the presidential job. Instead, Ross seems to happily blend into the background and let the key decisions be made by others, letting them run the battles while he quietly works away behind the scenes. This lack of authoritative diplomacy may lose him confidence, as well as his previous shenanigans at Benetton and Ferrari which saw the sport being brought into disrepute through the decisions of the team to openly control races.
Also working against Brawn is his loyalty to previous teams. Ross spent a decade at Maranello before moving away, and during this time the rumours of the FIA favouring the Italian team strengthened immeasurably. From Brawn’s point of view, these bias thoughts are solved by him taking the team principal position at Honda. This move, while lucrative for Brawn, could quash any feelings among people that Brawn would be bias towards Ferrari should he become the next president. With ongoing criticism of the body for possibly siding with Scuderia, I imagine the FIA would want to put this behind them and move forward into the next decade with a clean slate. Appointing Ross would naturally draw a lot of skepticism, but by his allegiance to Honda – particularly if they can return to their competitive form – would certainly ease the initial pain.
Having said that, I doubt Brawn would want the role as he seems to prefer to stay behind the pitwall, headphones firmly over ears. This may change in 2008 as his more public role at Honda will require ever more PR pressures, but I struggle to see Brawn in charge of the FIA and enjoying it – a factor that is clearly important to Ross.
Who Is Likely To Succeed Mosley?
Ultimately, it will probably be neither of these people. Perhaps that is for the better as all appear to still be very much involved with their respective teams and organisations. I guess if one person were to receive a unanimous thumbs-up, it would likely be Todt as he is probably the best qualified person for the position, particularly after already receiving encouragement from the current president. Maybe Jean’s move from team principal to company CEO was just a way for Ferrari to progress with new management while keeping Todt from signing on in the twelve month gap?
Thankfully the FIA have decided that after Mosley, the presidential role may only be kept by one person for two terms, which will help keep a fresh perspective on the sport. Although it goes without saying that whoever takes over needs to be intelligent enough to listen to all views concerning the sports and interests that fall under the FIAs control. They need to understand that it is the fans who ultimately decide the fate of Formula One, and the decisions made in Paris and Monaco have huge ramifications right down the grid, through the grandstands and across the world. Rules need to be unambiguous, penalties need to be consistent and changes to the sport need to made with full and open consultation.
I don’t have much respect for Max, but I don’t envy his job either.