The bitterly-fought FIA presidential election is too important to ignore

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The FIA presidential election is on Friday

With the FIA presidential election just days away the row over Max Mosley’s efforts to ensure he is succeeded by Jean Todt and not Ari Vatanen is the subject of great scrutiny.

Vatanen has taken the step of appealing to a French court to ensure next week’s elections are carried out fairly, a move which drew an angry reaction from the FIA which insisted its procedures are fair and transparent.

It is typical of the FIA under Mosley that it should react to Vatanen’s request for legal oversight in such a heavy-handed way. If the FIA had nothing to fear from an investigation it would welcome it.

But with Mosley publicly backing Todt and other FIA members have been lobbying for him, it’s no surprise the FIA is being viewed with suspicion.

The latest row began after the Daily Telegraph published letters from two senior FIA officals who had been lobbying for Todt. The FIA Foundation reacted by insisting that the pair – FIA director general of region one Peter Doggwiler and director general of the FIA Foundation David Ward – were backing Todt in a private capacity not endorsed by the Foundation.

The support of Mosley and Ecclestone has proved a double-edged sword for Todt. It may have guaranteed the backing of some clubs, but for others Todt is tainted by association with the current regime.

A reminder of that came in Mosley’s letter to the FIA three days ago in which he heaped praise upon himself over the recent Renault scandal:

More recently we had an extraordinary plot to crash a car deliberately during a race. Again, there was controversy but this time the car manufacturer responsible took action and the truth was quickly established.

The FIA first became aware of this plot during last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix, yet took almost a year to investigate it. This was not ‘quickly establishing’ the truth. Why did the FIA wait so long? Was it because Briatore sided with FOTA in the teams’ row with the FIA earlier this year?

A close call

The election probably wouldn’t be generating quite this much antagonism if one candidate was comfortably in the lead. We could be looking at a fairly close call.

So far the motor sports clubs of Australia, Germany, Finland, Canada, Uganda, Jamaica, Netherlands, Sweden, South Africa, Ireland, Jordan, Peru, Switzerland, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine have all declared support for Ari Vatanen.

Jean Todt is known to be backed by the clubs of Bahrain, Monaco, India, France, Spain and the United Arab Emirates. However earlier this week he claimed to have the support of the majority of clubs in Africa, Asia, South America, Europe and the Middle East.

It’s difficult to understate the importance of these elections for the future of Formula 1. It’s been a turbulent 18 years under Mosley, who has often made a dramatic and expensive change to the rules only to undo it a few months or years later. Meanwhile the sport has been dragged through a seemingly unending sequence of damaging scandals.

So it is beyond me how some journalists with the access and opportunities to cover the election are choosing not to. Such as Joe Saward, who wrote on his blog:

I have completely ignored the FIA elections in recent weeks. This has been a deliberate policy as I do not wish to be accused by one side or the other of favouritism and given the shenanigans going on between them it is inevitable that even objective reporting will be viewed as partisan. In addition I feel that the whole process demeans the federation.

Not expressing a preference is one thing but this uniquely important, once-in-a-generation event should not be overlooked out of fear of treading on people’s toes.

An open, honest, fair election would not demean the federation. A rigged vote and a coronation would demean it, but we’re less likely to know that is the case if some journalists aren’t bothering to look. My disappointment in Saward’s stance is all the greater as I admire much of his writing.

Personally I have no qualms about expressing a preference: On the whole I am deeply dissatisfied with what Mosley has done for Formula 1 – particularly in the five years since he last promised to resign. I am therefore not willing to support a candidate who has his backing. And certainly not one who displayed the disdain for sportsmanship Jean Todt did in the 1989 Paris-Dakar Rally and the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix. At the last count 77% of this site’s readers felt the same.

F1 has been rocked by scandal after scandal in the past few years: Michelin, Indianapolis, spying, budget caps, Singapore – not to mention a string of inconsistent and disproportionately punitive stewards’ decisions.

Whoever wins this election has the chance to fix this, and if they fail it could be another 18 years before they are replaced.

Accredited F1 journalists often stand accused of giving the FIA an easy ride out of fear they will lose their precious permits. In 2007 the media colluded with the FIA in covering up a horrendous cock-up where confidential McLaren and Ferrari data appeared in a public FIA document.

Now more than ever we need the FIA to be held to account. A timid media with a a vested interest in preserving the status quo is not going to achieve that.

FIA President elections

Author information

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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47 comments on “The bitterly-fought FIA presidential election is too important to ignore”

  1. Not expressing a preference is one thing but this uniquely important, once-in-a-generation event should not be overlooked out of fear of treading on people’s toes.

    Yeah but the toes that might be stepped on belong to Max and Jean, and if they had their way paddock passes would be revoked.

  2. If you want to know the secret of Max’s “Power”. Find out who gets invited to the staged Gang Bangs that max arranged.

    Blackmail and corruption is all the Mosley family knows. A failed politician, husband and father. Max is a laughing stock. And so is F1 as long as he is there.

  3. Accredited F1 journalists often stand accused of giving the FIA an easy ride out of fear they will lose their precious permits.

    Maybe I should have carried on reading instead of doing the horrendously obnoxious practise of commenting first and reading after.

    1. LOL! Fair play to you Sush, but I have to say people who read the headline and then comment are my number one pet hate :-)

      1. Yeah I hate it two, this is the second time I’ve done it on your website, sorry dude.

        I actually go onto a gaming lifestyle website that permabans anyone for doing that, its great watching the younguns not realise and posting “FIRST” as a reply to a topic.

  4. Hear Hear! I couldn’t agree more.
    I like Jean Todt a lot, and was against calls for Max to resign when he was caught “with his pants down” in the media recently. My argument there was that that was not something which should have a bearing on his ability to do his job.

    I also knew very little about Vatanen.

    In the past few months I have tried to learn more.
    Frankly, after looking back over past FIA scandals and witnessing the more recent Singapore-Gate scenario I would have massive problems with anyone that Mosley endorsed having anything to do with the future of F1.

  5. Thanks Keith, we may get sick of all the politics but this is very, very important.
    It’s a credit to Mosley how hated he is, he isn’t even running for election and yet we’re mostly terrified of whoever he endorses (though even if Todt didn’t have his backing there would still be plenty opposed to Jean).
    Schumacher has written to pretty much the world, that he wants Todt, the FIA clearly isn’t free in all of this, even if it may only be a few it risks the reputation and more importantly the legitimacy of the entire process.
    It doesn’t matter who you support, the election should be free and fair otherwise it is a false win which imposes a ruler that does not have majority support of the motorsport world and that will lead to all kinds of problems in the future.
    Finally, I would like to say thank you to this site and the journalists who are brave enough to do their jobs. I always believed they were there to be free and report the truth and uncover any wrong doings (not only is this right but it will help the election and give it more credibility), but if they don’t do that they may as well not get paid and cancel their blogs and stop wasting our time.

    1. Thanks Steph

  6. My guess is that Joe feels he’s already made his position quite clear and now even if he tries to fair and balanced it will get him in trouble.

    He details his distaste for Todt in this article, “Oh God not Todt”

    1. Wow! That article is an eye opener. Thanks for the link.

      1. Even I own a Labrador Retriever & wanted to name him Max, but decided against it for obvious reasons :P He, now responds to the name Harry :)

  7. the way Max has behaved in the lead up to this election it seems that the FIA is not totally clued up on what democracy is all about.
    To openly threaten members that don’t side with the current regime, it reminds me of many of the worlds totalitarian dictatorships…and the sudeo elections they have to appease the UN.
    The old should seriously be put to sleep and allow a breath of fresh air in.

  8. Prisoner Monkeys
    17th October 2009, 12:10

    I’d like to think that a lot of the lesser clubs – members from nations will smaller car clubs – will see Mosley’s interference and vote against Todt. Mosley’s line seems to be “Vote for Jean, because he’s going to get in anyway, and when he does, he’ll cut support and funding for anyone who didn’t vote for him”.

    Why did the FIA wait so long? Was it because Briatore sided with FOTA in the teams’ row with the FIA earlier this year?

    I suspect it was because they didn’t have Witness X at the time. At the time, it was simply Piquet’s word against Renault’s; all the telemetry proved was that he crashed. The FIA probably had to wait until they had an iron-clad case and nail Briatore rather than move too soon and have a less than water-tight case.

    1. Ah.. But would the FIA have carried it through if they hadn’t been pushed by Piquet JNR & SNR, and if Briatorie hadn’t been seen to be too involved with the FOTA rebellion?

      1. Prisoner Monkeys
        17th October 2009, 12:33

        I think they would have. Max Mosley is the President of the FIA, but he is not the FIA. I think too many people bounce the term “corrupt” – which is a very dangerous accusation to make – around simply because they don’t like Mosley, and I think they judge too many of his decisions on previous ones he has made. I’m not saying Mosley is blameless, but his responsibility is greatly exaggerated and that the fans are just as bad.

        1. Agree, Mosley is a good villain and scapegoat some of the time. Take now for example, Mosley isn’t the only one in the FIA lobbying for Todt. I think the FIA still would have needed something concrete for the investigation of Singapore to take place though.

        2. Perhaps. I am not convinced though, which is enough reason IMO for anything that Mosley touches to be treated as tainted these days. Having read Joe’s article on Jean I don’t think Mosley could corrupt him much more than he already is, so the point is moot in this case I guess!

          Being involved in amateur racing for a long time at various locations around the globe I am not unaware of the corruption that goes on even at local levels. But when you actually look at the hierarchy of the FIA, it’s council and Forumla 1 particularly it makes racing in Thailand (off the track) look like kindergarten in terms of what I thought was rampant corruption! On the track it’s still like racing dodgems, but that’s another matter altogether!

    2. Have you guys read the BLACKMAIL LETTER written by Max to member clubs??

      In the letter he says Jean is the most suitable person to replace him. He also goes on to say he’s outstanding “sport”ive manager(yeah saw that in austria 2001 & 2002), then he goes on to blabber something about Michelle Yeoh & road safety(completely irrelevant of course), what really shocked me was this & can you believe what he said? Read his own quote:-

      “Finally,I must emphasise he(Todt) would not in any way be a motor industry candidate.He would not have any special relationship with his former company,Ferrari, nor with Peugeot Citroen , the manufacturer behind his former rally, cross country & Le-mans teams. He would preserve the independence of the FIA”

      When he says he’s not from motor industry, I would like to know what was Jean Todt previously? A Catholic priest ? Can you possibly believe this fellow Max? Its like Bismark endorsing Hitler for the top post. Max I must admit is a terrific deceiver. What are this “so called members” doing? & who exactly are these members? He also mentions that he got over a 100 messages from “these” members pleading him not to step down. Hah , poor “members”, Max must have blackmailed these poor souls. Todt imo will be as bad as mosley if not worse. God save f1.

  9. To me, it would be a big surprise if Ari won this election. I fear that the Max Mosley Fan Club has its tentacles so deep inside every little part of the whole organization that old favors gonna hand it to Todt. But as long as there is a glimmer of hope…

    1. I fear the same.We all know that honest people never get elected in elections. I’m damn sure that Todt will be the next prez. he has the backing of some of the most powerful names in the sport. He gave up his position at Ferrari as he had one eye on the top post. I think a deal was struck between Max & Todt in 2007, the only possible obstacle in their way would be Ron Dennis & we all know what they did to him. So the coast is clear. Welcome to the new
      “Français Dictator” who will make sure the sport is finished off!

  10. I attribute the success of modern day ferrari to Jean Todt. He is the architect of this modern day team.They were no where after the death of Enzo in 1988. He quickly transformed a struggling team into a winning one. although some of the dubious, dirty, cheap tactics might never been forgotten, the man must get some credit for transforming the team. the point I’m trying to make:

    1) How can a team, which owes its success in recent time not be supportive of the man who guided them to success?
    2) How can a man, who got a platform, in the form of ferrari to demonstrate his managerial skill( I know they were cheap & dirty) no be supportive of his former team?

    His ties with Ferrari are too deep & too strong for him to be able to provide transparent governance.

    Jean todt is a name everyone associates with 3 things

    1) FERRARI

    I’m not sure if people would associate his name with

    1) HONESTY

    Hence imho Todt must not be allowed to contest the election, if he does contest I’m damn sure he’ll win, because he’s got the backing of the red Italian mafia & S&M Mosley.

    Remember this!! Anyone endorsed by Mad Max has to be mad. Bad company spoils even good people. Max & Todt have been very close to each other since the latter’s retirement from Ferrari. So we don’t know yet as to how much Jean’s been influenced by Mosley. Mosley is like a pandemic.

    And finally haven’t we had enough of one “Jean?? Remember Jean-Marie Balestre, the eccentric fella? It was because of this man that we’ve ended up with Max Mosley :( & now Max is returning the favour by vouching for Jean Todt. Jean I tried to finish off the sport, Jean II will make sure he finishes it off!!Too many Jean’s & too many Max’s are bad for the sport. Isn’t it? so imho we do not want any more British or Frenchmen . We need someone who can “FINNISH” the job for us, the fans. So I highly recommend a “FINNISH” gentleman by the name Ari Vatanen who is ofcourse is from finland & is finnish. I’m sure he’ll finnish the unfinnished job at the FIA. :)

    1. Great post mp4. The main point here — “His ties with Ferrari are too deep & too strong for him to be able to provide transparent governance” — is already happening: why, SCHUMACHER, a Ferrari employee is DEEP involved in Todt campaign?

      He has pressure some clubs writing a letter with this tone of critique:

      “…I have to say I was astonished and disappointed by the way some of the big clubs have acted during this election period: it appears they have made up their minds before even reading Jean’s policy proposals or meeting him…This is not my idea of transparency or professionalism…”

      Why none seems to pay attention for that?

      1. This isn’t about policy to some, but maintaining the order and their status, Ari is the biggest threat to that with his proposed ‘clean up’.
        Schuey will endorse Todt all day long, the Frenchman helped make him a legend. It’s wrong but few seem to be willing to say it or do anything about it.

    2. Ferrari have been rather quiet, they seem to want to keep the FOTA peace. That will change if Jean is elected.
      We don’t know what is going on behind the scenes. People may be keeping opinions to themselves; their is no point shooting themselves in the foot now with no clear favourite but it is the journalists who should be looking at this closely and exposing it. Then it would be free and clear to us as right now we are all guessing.
      I still think Ari can be elected, I’m fairly optimistic.
      Only some details have been released on policy and yet Jean is the villain and Ari the hero :P

    3. Jean todt is a name everyone associates with 3 things

      1) FERRARI
      3) CHEATING

      I’m not sure if people would associate his name with

      1) HONESTY

      Lol! :-)

    4. Wow……talk about a rant.

    5. 1) FERRARI
      3) WINNING

      Fixed. But still it HAS to be Ari for the presidency.

  11. Todt is a submarine for Ferrari, and a recipient of CVC envelopes with cash. This is about the preservation of the Establishment.

    GO ARI !!!!!

    1. I go along with your sentiment. Todt is a corrupt man. He gobbled up 100 million mclaren dollars. Dunno what he did with that money. Maybe he’s bribed Max & the others using that same money? Is that a possibility ?

  12. I have a few opinions on some comment here…

    I think the legal action taken against Martin Brundle for his comments about the 2007 sypgate affair say everything you need to know about why journalists choose their words carefully. Also, if your lively hood relied on your FIA press pass you would choose your words more carefully too.

    Also, Joe Saward’s blog is a personal blog that he does in his own time for no charge. Surely he is free to give any opinion he wants (or not). It seems a little unreasonable to demand anything from him.

    1. I’m not demanding I just wish everyone would be a bit bravery and that it wasn’t such a dictatorship. The press should be free they shouldn’t have their careers damaged because they write something those in positions of power don’t like. We wouldn’t accept it in society so it shouldn’t be tolerated in the F1 world.

    2. the legal action taken against Martin Brundle for his comments about the 2007 sypgate affair say everything you need to know about why journalists choose their words carefully

      What was the outcome of that legal action?

      1. I think it was dropped by the FIA in the end, but can’t be sure.

  13. KEITH.. you should be a political journalist… you got the thing bang on, especially about the Journos…


    “Whoever wins this election has the chance to fix this, and if they fail it could be another 18 years before they are replaced.”

    I doubt it… Todt is a tough nut, but i doubt he will last 18 years… let alone more that 8.

    i actually liked Todt despite the Austria call, but i’m disliking him with every report of electoral fraud. i have a feeling that he could of wiped out vatanen without all that nonsense…

  14. Todt will win. Vatanen has no chance in this unfair election. Mosley will stay in F1 forever

  15. Excellent article, Keith – as you say, the matter is too important for the future of F1 and motor sport to be ignored.

    One point, however: I do not think Ferrari will be as happy about a Todt presidency as everyone assumes. Luca di Montezemolo effectively forced the Frenchman out at Ferrari and I suspect that there is little love lost between the two. Luca’s support for FOTA is surely evidence that he has abandoned Ferrari’s “special relationship” with the FIA, perhaps in the knowledge that it has done nothing but harm to the company’s image to be associated with such as Mosley.

    1. What Mosley did get right recently was when he said Todt was a Peugeot man when he worked for them, and a Ferrari man when he worked for them – and he’ll be an FIA man if he works for them.

      1. That’s not a fair comparison though.

        Todt can be a FIA man and still favor Ferrari. He doesn’t even have to do it consciously.

        Ask a Ferrari fan if a penalty against Ferrari was fair and they will most likely say “no”. Ask a non-Ferrari fan and they will most likely say “yes”. It’s a matter of perspective/conditioning.

  16. Talk about bias, I am not sure supporting the other guy, because you don’t support anyone that the current guy vouches for is a good reason. Its like disapproving McCain because of Bush, heck, if you hated Balestre did you want Mosley to win?

    1. I was nine at the time so I probably didn’t know who either of them were.

    2. That is the problem, the association of todt ot mosely is the whole reason. Max has shown his incompetence on several levels and has retaliated against anyone who opposes him in any manner. Look at Dennis, now Briatore(although I agree with that one) and others such as Brundle. I did not care about todt at all until mosely came out and endorsed him and then the cynic in me started to question why.
      Max is a bad man, period
      He has made deals with Bernie and cvc that any other business would laugh at and I am not sure but are probably illeagal in most other countries.
      Todt has been very successful but at the expense of others. and yes I would vote for anyone other just because max and his cronies are supporting him.
      mp4 is right though…Ari never had a chance.

  17. James Allen has covered it somewhat. He posted an article today, but it doesn’t really add anything that Keith’s article didn’t address. Here is the link though.

    1. James is also playing it safe, however the title of the post is a bit one side.

  18. Well done you for your continual and overt support for Ari. Max’s blatent attempt to undermine any challenge to his nominated shoe-in, complete with barely veiled threat of payback for any members not supporting his choice, is typical of the heavy handed and dictatorial nature of his overripe tenure.

    I hope the voting members have the courage to finally push off the yoke that has been Max’s FIA. I believe Ari will see in a new open era for the FIA, one where the interests of the motor sport industries and fans will be put above personal gain.

  19. I feel that I must stand up for Todt, seeing as no-one else here is. To think that Max saying that his preferred candidate is Todt does not in any way mean that Todt will govern in the same way as has Max (not that that would be a bad thing, but that’s a different matter entirely).

    Most importantly, I feel, at least Todt has experience of running teams in motorsport, whereas Vatenen has little experience of running anything. This, above all, is enough reason (in my opinion) to choose Todt.

    However, also important is the way that both candidates have conducted their campaign – Todt has gone about his campaign in a dignifiedand unassuming way, visiting clubs to talk to them, while Vatenen appears to have spent much of his campaign complaining about one thing or the other. If this is any indication of the type of president each would be (and I think it is), then it is clear why Todt is, in my opinion, the better candidate.

  20. I can’t agree more with the comments made about Todt- while I was not following the sport when those events were unfolding, it is obvious that his election would be just a continuation of the Mosley regime. Indeed, Max will be running much of the show from the shadows.

    However, I don’t know if Ari’s promise of change will be enough to beat out the deep-rooted corruption of the Mosley/Todt pairing. I certainly hope it is.

  21. Thanks for that excellent article. Is this a wordpress website? I like that platform, very good.

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