The FIA has criticised the way presidential candidate Ari Vatanen suggested last week that the motoring organisation is supporting Jean Todt’s campaign to succeed Max Mosley. Current president Mosley has voiced his backing of the former Ferrari boss, which although widely expected, still sends a slightly dubious message out to those who may not fully understand how the electing of new presidents works.
Mosley is well within his right to support a future presidential candidate, but the FIA cannot be seen to be fully backing one candidate over another until the time comes to vote. The voting system should be private as well, just as it is with other political elections that many of us are familiar with.
Mosley stated that he felt Todt would be the best person to replace him, and it wasn’t the first time Max has spoken highly of the French rally, Formula One team and car manufacturer head. Vatanen, a former rally driver himself, retaliated with concerns that Jean Todt represents an older era, and that he himself would bring a new freshness to the role of president.
But it’s not good that a leader stays in the post for a long time, and when that happens, the best thing is a change. And I represent that change, a new era with more freshness.
On the contrary, Jean Todt represents the old era, and it’s not right that Max wants to impose a new leader, and that he uses the power of the federation to support his campaign. The FIA is not a kingdom; it’s a republic where the leaders are chosen democratically.
At Ferrari they don’t want Todt to be president, and so they have told me, because they think they sport would lose credibility. The same would happen if it was Ross Brawn or Flavio Briatore running. The president of the FIA must be someone neutral. Ari Vatanen.
It is the second paragraph that has annoyed the FIA Foundation, with Vatanen using the phrase ‘using the power of the federation to support Todt’s campaign’. Furthermore, Vatanen also claimed that the FIA were paying for a private jet for Todt to allow him in the running of his campaign. Ari wrote:
At the expense of the FIA Foundation, Jean goes with a private plane with his girlfriend, supposedly as a FIA representative, to various parts of the world, sometimes he has gone to Asia, sometimes to Canada, sometimes to Buenos Aires, whatever. In fact, he is doing a campaign totally supported and paid by the FIA. Ari Vatanen.
In a response letter written by the Chairman of the FIA Foundation to Ari Vatanen, Carlos Macaya refutes the suggestion of the FIA funding Todt’s campaign, and explained that the travel expenses Ari may be alluring to actually apply to Todt’s partner, Michelle Yeoh.
These assertions are totally false. For the last two years Jean Todt’s partner, the internationally acclaimed actress Michelle Yeoh, has served in a voluntary capacity as the global Ambassador for the Make Roads Safe campaign which is co-ordinated by the FIA Foundation. In this role Michelle has travelled all over the world to support the campaign especially in advance of this year’s first ever global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety to be held in Moscow on November 19-20. […]
These activities have nothing whatsoever to do with the FIA, or the recently announced election. It is very disappointing that you have chosen to misrepresent the work of a fellow Trustee in this way and belittle the magnificent contribution being made by Michelle Yeoh. […]
I appreciate that during the forthcoming election for the FIA Presidency there needs to be open and robust debate. However, I would ask that you do not again misrepresent the role of the FIA Foundation in this way. Carlos Macaya.
Macaya also explained that recently, while Michelle Yeoh was travelling to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania for an FIA function, Jean Todt tagged along as he was attending a workshop in the same city helping to promote intelligent vehicle safety systems in his role as the eSafety Aware president.
It would appear that no further sanction will come of Vatanen’s claims and Macaya’s response, and perhaps the former world rally champion was wrong in his accusation. However, it is interesting that Ari has raised the topic, as conspiracy theorists around the world concoct reasons as to why they feel the FIA are still pro-Ferrari and manage their affairs in a deeply private and suspicious manner.
Of course, Todt was the head of Ferrari’s Formula One operation for many years, praised with rejuvenating the team into world champions once again. But in late 2006, Todt resigned this role and took up the position of CEO for the whole company, dealing with the road car division as well. In 2008, Todt resigned this role, although he was still involved with the Maranello company until July 2009, when he completely resigned in order to focus on his campaign to become the next president of the FIA.
Should Jean Todt defeat Ari Vatanen in the election later this year, there will be cries of corruption the world over. Whether correct or not is almost irrelevant as some fans of the sports that the FIA govern, Formula One included, will still feel that the FIA are not 100% straight up, as they say.
So, to the perhaps slightly more thoughtful fans who I know this site attracts, but additionally also pleasing because I know the passion of motor sport runs deep with all… who do you want to see as the next president of the FIA? I can imagine what the answer is already, but before you comment, think for just a moment about the successes Todt and Vatanen have achieved over the years, and how you think they may run the organisation that still controls the sport we all love.