Ari Vatanen: Exclusive interview on Mosley, budget caps and the F1 calendar

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Ari Vatanen is standing against Jean Todt for FIA president
Ari Vatanen is standing against Jean Todt for FIA president

Ari Vatanen anounced his campaign to run for FIA president last week. Since then Max Mosley has said he won’t stand but has come out in support of Jean Todt to be the next president.

Today I had a lengthy chat on the phone with Vatanen – he gave me his reaction to Mosley supporting Todt, told me when he pans to announce his cabinet, what he thinks of budget caps, and his view on North America’s place on the F1 calander

F1F: Max Mosley has said he wants Jean Todt to succeed him – are you happy with this?

AV: It doesn’t matter if you’re Ari Vatanen, or Jean Todt, or Keith Collantine, or anyone else – you don’t inherit the right to be in charge from the incumbent, you inherit it from the people who elect you. I believe the president should be neutral.

If the FIA is to be what it wants to be – the representative of billions of motorists – it has to be democratically run.

F1F: When did you decide to stand for president?

AV: It had been smouldering away in my mind for some time.

I had dinner with Jacques Regis (president of the F?â?®d?â?®ration Fran?â?şaise du Sport Automobile) in Paris a while ago and he reminded me: “Ari, I said to you five years ago you were one of the people I thought best suited to run the FIA after Max.” At the time I’d said I couldn’t do it because I was in the European Parliament.

And during the events last year I thought perhaps an opportunity to stand might come up.

F1F: When will you announce who’s in your cabinet?

AV: Next week, before the Hungarian Grand Prix. I don’t want to take anything away from what Jean has announced but I believe I have credible people lined up.

F1F: Todt is seen as Mosley’s choice of candidate and you are seen as FOTA’s choice of candidate. Would you say that is an accurate impression?

AV: Not at all. I cannot imagine that the only alternative to the FIA view is FOTA’s.

Take a look at my voting record in the European Parliament on things like block exemption, garage servicing and car taxation. I have always been on the side of the consumer. I backed legislation which allowed Finnish citizens to go abroad and import cars, which manufacturers didn’t like, but was what consumers wanted.

In F1 our consumers are the manufacturers. If we don’t give them an attractive business environment they will go elsewhere. It is in the interest of the clubs and the FIA that the manufacturers want to be involved. Power games like what we have had are short-term and self-destructive.

If they see they are wasting money and the daily running of affairs is made cumbersome because the rules are lacking stability (which big companies need) they will leave. I want to finish with this one-sided approach.

F1F: A major part of your work in the European Parliament was road safety promotion. What would you hope to achieve in road safety as FIA president?

AV: It’s not just a question of road safety, it’s about the value of life. It is the most noble human cause to protect human life.

At the highest government level we must make them aware of the importance of road transport. Nine times out of ten people choose to make a journey in a private car because of the advantages it gives. Politicians must realise people are not wrong to make this decision, they are just choosing what’s best.

I’m not against public transport but private motorists have to pay high costs and I think they should all be treated on an equal footing. Our society cannot function with poor road networks – it must meet the needs of its users. That includes car safety and we have to realise cars have improved in this way by leaps and bounds.

F1F: Budget caps have been a major sticking point of the negotiations in F1. Are you in favour of them?

AV: Things like this hav to be done in an intelligent way. Ferrari is a brilliant example of this.

Ferrari produces only 6,000 cars per year yet is able to run its production and an F1 team, thanks to its brand value and the sponsors it is able to bring in. You can’t go to Ferrari and say “F1 is too expensive” because their business concept is sound.

You have to negotiate with everybody, not just come up with proposals that would change the setup totally.

F1F: Should F1 return to North America?

AV: Yes, of course. Surely we should.

F1F: Even if they won’t pay as much as, say, Abu Dhabi or Bahrain?

AV: Once again, it’s like anything else in life – you need to get all the people around the table. I’m an all-market economist. We cannot just have races for the highest bidder.

If the anchoring countries, the birth places of motor sport, are without Grands Prix, then we have gone too far.

There is an argument for rotating rounds between different years but we cannot rotate the whole championship. Nor can we let people take it for granted that they will always have a Grand Prix.

If we leave too many places it will have an effect on audience figures. You’ll see it in the grandstands and on TV. It comes back to the consumers, the people who want to take their families to see the Grand Prix. If they can’t, then who will be paying for our sport?

It always comes back to the consumer. If they are not happy, they will vote with their feet.

Read more: Ari Vatanen: the man who would challenge Max Mosley

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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58 comments on “Ari Vatanen: Exclusive interview on Mosley, budget caps and the F1 calendar”

  1. Great work Keith, I for one hope he does get elected, he’s got some good ideas, and should be the breath of fresh air the FIA clearly need.

    1. Thanks Ed!

      1. Great Work Keith, although I’m impartial in this FIA President Battle, i think Both candidates so far are supremely well qualified, and Ari sounds like a likable guy..

  2. Very interesting Keith. I can’t wait to see if the French Federation back him against a Frenchman.

  3. Fantastic effort Keith, seriously impressed with the turn around of the article from the phone call. Seriously impressed you even got an audience with Ari himself.

    You are the man!!

  4. Well… he does seem to be a better choice for FIA president than a man who is sure to continue Mosley’s politics. However, we wouldn’t want anyone to cling for too long to power, not would we?

    A bit OT, Keith… you promised a write-up on the Life L190 at Goodwood. We’re waiting… :))

    1. Well… he does seem to be a better choice for FIA president than a man who is sure to continue Mosley’s politics.

      can you please back this statement with something substantial?

  5. Casino Square
    17th July 2009, 20:34

    It’s great that there’s an exclusive interview with a potential FIA president on an F1 fansite. Can anyone imagine a Jean Todt Q&A on F1 Fanatic? I don’t know too much about Ari Vatanen- I had barely even heard of him until a couple of weeks ago- but I’m 10000000% sure F1 would be better with him in charge than Jean Todt (who would have Mosley pulling the strings in the background, Putin style).

    Unfortunately, Vatanen won’t win the election. Of course, having all the major federations like the AAA and ADAC on his side ought to be enough- in a normal democracy. But the FIA doesn’t do normal democracy. Vatanen may have the credentials, but that is the last thing you need in an FIA election. What is way more important is the support of motorsport officials in Krygyzstan, Papua New Guinea, Burkina Faso and the rest. Who needs democracy when you’ve got corruption eh…

    Anyway good interview Keith.

    1. Can anyone imagine a Jean Todt Q&A on F1 Fanatic?

      I’ll do my best…

  6. My god! This guy seems too good to be true. I hope looking similar to Mosley doesn’t hurt his chances…

  7. I’m just glad that these two are the people who are running for FIA presidency. Jean Todt and Ari Vatanen are very good friends after all.

  8. Great interview Keith, well done.

  9. Great job on the interview- I would imagine not many other F1 media sources have had such a conversation with Vatanen at this point.

    The queston about an F1 return to North America was also most welcome, just as long as that includes a race in the United States as part of the concept ;)

  10. Thanks for this, great one :)

  11. Mmm he sounds good :) shame he looks like a younger version of Max hehe.

  12. WOW… what a great, fantastic job, Keith, congratulations!!!!!!

  13. bravo Keith

    this is surely the best formula one site around

  14. Max should resign now!!!
    17th July 2009, 21:34

    Thanks Keith! I wish could vote :(

  15. Excellent ! well done Keith.
    I like what he says, and in keeping with the tradition of President of FIA, he is very well dressed.
    A good man with a good record.My vote is for him.

  16. I like his answers at the end of the interview – his quick ‘yes’ to a return to North America.

    If the anchoring countries, the birth places of motor sport, are without Grands Prix, then we have gone too far.

    I like this, as will most fans. Well done for getting the interview with him Keith. I’m inspired to watch Climb Dance again now! In fact I think I’ll do it now : )

  17. Thanks!!! Great job!
    So glad to finally hear directly from Ari (rather than simply releases) especially from someone we get to hear from on a regular basis (you Keith).

  18. “If the anchoring countries, the birth places of motor sport, are without Grands Prix, then we have gone too far.”

    I like this man already!

    Thanks for bringing up the North America Grands Prix Keith…good job on the interview!

  19. This guy sound good.

    He would be a breathe of fresh air.

    IMO I think Jean Todt’s link with Ferrari wouldn’t really be appropriate. Would he be able to bring himself to penalise Ferrari if he had to???

    Go on Ari. Best of luck to you.

    Keith you surely have the greatest job in the world. :D

  20. Great scoop Keith, well done.
    Ari sounds like a good man.
    And he’s much better looking than scowling Max !

    1. Casino Square
      17th July 2009, 22:55

      And he’s way better looking than Jean ‘the dwarf’ Todt. If only the election was decided on appearences rather than who has bribed the most African clubs…

  21. I liked his response to the budget cap question. Whatever happens he must be better than Mosely.

  22. Great Job Keith!
    It’s nice to see after years of political issues within FIA there coming a fresh and neutral one. His answers seem to be straightforward and reasonable.
    What I am afraid is he is way too good to be elected…

  23. I’m very much in favor of Ari getting the job… please please please!

    Fab interview Keith… :)

  24. AV seemed to think that you’d make a fair president yourself if he didn’t make it, in that first reply there Keith! Go for it!

    All the same, great interview. I also very much hope he’s in.

  25. Now THIS is good journalism! Good on you for getting the scoop!

    Good on Ari too for opening up to the blogosphere and not just limiting himself to the MSM.

  26. PrisonerMonkeys
    18th July 2009, 2:14

    Wow, my respect for Vatanen just went up a notch or ten. He seems remarkably intelligent and certainly isn’t just throwing his name into the ring because everyone wants him to (that was my biggest concern about him).

  27. Great work Keith.I think it will be a clash of the titan in the president voting between Ari & Jean.

    Well if the FOTA support Ari then I hope he wins.

    Can anybody answer me How many people can stand for the President Election for FIA?

  28. Fantastic questions Keith!

    The first re: Max backing Todt
    set the stage for a brilliant reply from Ari, and the last re: races going to the highest bidder…just fantastic!

    Well done!

  29. He seems like a stand up guy. I’m not a huge fan of any type of politics, but I would vote for him. One thing bothers me though, and I know this sounds silly, but I live in Canada, and our pre-race covererage, get this, is only 5 minutes on TSN and that is the only channel that shows it. I know that there isn’t much he can do about, but I really want someone to say, ENOUGH, give more pre-race. But if I can’t get more pre-race, then I want more camera views of the Grid Girls, or just more grid girls. Please? Pretty please? That isn’t too much to ask is it?

  30. The more I read about him the more I like him. Good job, good job.

  31. Interesting interview but I have to say many of these responses are a little over the top. There’s only 8 questions and responses here and all the people replying here are ready to stick him right in office.

    His response about whether he is FOTA’s choice candidate doesn’t even make sense. He sites his parliamentary work saying he fought for the consumers against the manufacturers and that he is always for the consumer. He then turns around and says the consumer in F1 is the manufacturers. So, wouldn’t that mean he is for the manufacturers or FOTA’s choice? Not to mention the fact the the consumers in F1 aren’t the manufacturers anyways, the fans are the consumers.

    His comments about returning to North America and how the race sites are chosen sounds nice but the fact of the matter is that the FIA and its president have nothing to do with where the races will be held, they don’t hold the rights to decide where they will be held, they aren’t involved in the process. He is just saying that to gain favoritism with fans and American & European based motoring clubs to slip his way into office. sounds like politicking to me, something that everyone criticizes Mosley for.

    Another major part of the interview pertains to the FIA pursuit of its road safety work. The work that Mosley has been doing successfully without much credit for years. This work has often been done in Third World countries – where it can have a dramatic effect on lives saved – yet somehow turns into unsubstantiated claims of bribery.

    Vatanen may prove to be a good candidate but let’s not jump the gun based on a short interivew.

  32. great job keith! hope you replace eddie jordan or Jonathan Legard on BBC, i’m sure you would do a better job. anyway,ari seems to be a very honest,straightforward person to me. atleast there are no cryptic remarks in his answers. he’ll i’m sure do a better job than max or todt. but since when has a honest politician won an election?

  33. can someone plz explain me the election procedure at FIA? i would be thankful if someone does :)

  34. First of all, let me congratulate Keith on the interview. A real feather in F1Fanatic’s cap! has the following report:

    “Although I have criticised the FIA strongly, I have never aimed it at Mosley personally,” he told the Spanish newspaper AS. “But it is not good that a leader stays in power for a long time, and when that happens, the best thing is change. I represent that change, a new era with more freshness.”

    He added: “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 is a republic where leaders are chosen democratically.”

    Vatanen certainly does sound just the sort that Formula 1 needs.

  35. Good interview Keith – what a change too hear a common sense approach from Vattinen – I would like too see him win – but F1 fans cant – as for him representing the manufacturers – well he is right they and all the other people who put there money where it counts are his clients and that is where Max and Bernie have lost it.
    As for Todt – the small countries who are all in Max’s pocket – including the sheik?? – who worked on Max’s behalf to keep him in his job last year dont want to loose their voting rights – and will back him – and even though we may not like it this vote will be a done deal – shame – ps I hope like hell I am proved wrong

  36. Excellent questions, Keith,

    One question I’d like to see addressed is what he thinks about the FIA, the FIA president, and Mr. Ecclestone being in the limelight so much. Does he think that’s appropriate or will he try and tone down his public role compared to Mosley?

    As James Allen pointed out, there’s no other sport where the governing body and commercial rights holders play such a prominent role in the public’s eye.

    Another similar but tangential note is the pretty constant reference by the pilots about how they’re putting on a “show” for the fans; comments like “let’s hope the fans enjoy it” by the pilots themselves show a degree of introspection that’s quite unusual in other sports, where the participants are out to win and do not really care whether or not the fans enjoy the game (at least at the first order).

  37. Thanks for all your kind responses guys, glad you liked the interview. You might enjoy a bit of the back-story to it:

    I’m on holiday in Cornwall at the moment, we’re staying in a cottage overlooking the sea, it’s absoutely gorgeous. We arrived yesterday and were in the process of lugging our belongings up a fairly steep hill when the ‘phone rang. “Hello Ari!…”

    So I plonked myself down in the middle of this alley, grabbed a notepad out of my bag, rummaged around for a pen, threw away the first one because it wasn’t working, and began scribbling furiously. I have no idea what we talked about for the first couple of minutes while I got my stuff together.

    I spent the interview sat on the floor while bemused Cornish locals wandered past. Meanwhile my girlfriend found our cottage and left me to it! I paid for dinner last night to make up for briefly abandoning her.

    Anyway, happily I was able to get the interview written up, though you can see I left out the bit where Ari asked why he could hear seagulls in the background…

  38. Hi Keith !
    Well done ! you´re doing a great job with your F1fanatic site. I´m impressed,you´re brilliant !
    I hope Ari Vatanen will be FIAs new president,he seems to be diplomtic,flexible,fair and strong as a person.

  39. Proper job, my handsome!

  40. The best part about Ari as FIA President would be his obvious dedication to being fan-centric. I think that would be a fine thing…finally. While he doesn’t have control over where the events are held, or what the venues have to pay, his overt support for, and understanding of the importance of North American events can only help put pressure on B. Eccelstone to do the right thing.

  41. The very thing that Ari is giving interview to a fan-site itself shows that he is going to be pro fancentric. I would any day prefer him to Joan Todt.Me being a ferrari fan wouldn’t mind Todt but me being a F1 fan will any day want Ari.

  42. Instead of Ari, why don’t we get Keith to be the new FIA president :). Great Job Keith!!!

  43. To me, Ari Vatanen sounds very reasonable to me. Hopefully he’ll be elected and be able to bring back purity in the sport.

  44. You have my vote! You’re the man and not a disciple of the Mad Max… I hate Todt and every team except Ferrari, can’t agree that he’s the man for the job… Ferrari would continue to me treated in a special way… like now behind the curtain….

    1. It has been told that Ferrari are against Todt as FIA-president.

  45. Heh is so nice to be finnish lol.

    Ari would be good president of FIA because he has normally finnish attitude…calm and feet on the ground. Same you have seen in Kimi but he is much more shy and not sure about his english skills.

    Because Ari has been in politic in long time as well he knows that negotiation in keay word not just go and tell people what to do. He also understand that without fans there would not be F1.

    Unfortunatelly FIA voting is not about biggest autosport countries…small countires who even never have not seen F1 cars have as much as say than excample Germany or UK or USA. That is the way how Max was able to keep his seat after his private life scandal. Todt just need pick up all samll countries and he will be president. Reality is that by small amount of money they would vote even Donald Duck because its not really matter to them who is in FIA.

    But good luck to Ari anyway.

  46. I hope Vatanen gets the job – I like his attitude to the sport, and the business.

  47. I am happy Ari is showing great attitude and intelligence to be the right person for the job. However I fear that all this will be for nothing since the voting system itself is corrupt. FIA should allow all members of the motor sports involved to which the FIA governs, to have a say in voting.

    What I dont understand is how can a governing body of a motor sport not allow all members of the involved motor sports to have a say in who is to be the president of their governing body!? Clearly a corrupt system. That is like having a system that enables only the business man, or the parliament members to vote on who gets to be the president of an entire country. Just imagine that.

  48. We think that the extent of Vatanen scepticism about the causes of climate change could be one of the most damaging things to happen to F1 for years. Its public image is bad enough already, and this would wreck it completely.

    Sorry and all, but in this respect he is a terrible choice. Trouble is, Todt’s a terrible choice too.

    What now? Time to announce your candidacy, Keith?


  49. First of all, congratulations on bagging a truly mammoth interview.

    I’m very pleased with what Ari is saying, it sounds like he’s promoting a largely common sense based approach and this genuinely appeals to me. I’ve nothing against Jean Todt, and to be honest I expect that a Todt presidency would still be an improvement over Max, but I’m just a little warmer to the idea of Vatanen getting it.

  50. I was backing Ari before I read this interview. He sounds like he has no concept of environmental issues and he knows when to say the right thing. I really enjoy F1 but motorsport has got to accept that it has to moderate it’s use of resources just like everyone else. I am slowly becoming despondent about F1 – lots of rich, corrupt people taking the sport out of everything. Cars have been invented to run on water years ago but not allowed to go into manufacture…because of money.

    Good scoop though!

  51. Nice one Keith,

    I like Ari, he looks like a nice bloke and he seems very sound unlike Max who not only looks like a loon, but behaves like one too.

    Having said that, Jean Todt does have a lot more clout…remains to be seen if Ari can counter that.

  52. this man is seems good

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