Todt would “prefer less controversy” in Formula 1

2021 French Grand Prix

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FIA president Jean Todt says he would like to see less controversy in motorsport, following a series of disputes over Formula 1’s regulations.

Several high-profile rows have broken out in Formula 1 over the past year. Already this season teams have been required to change their rear wing designs and alter their tyre pressures following claims some were trying to get around the regulations to gain a sporting advantage.

Last year Racing Point – now Aston Martin – was fined and docked 15 points after it was found to have broken the rules regarding rear brake duct design.

The FIA also announced it had reached a private settlement with Ferrari following an investigation into their power units, which resulted in new design restrictions being introduced. This prompted a furious reaction from teams that the specifics of the case had been kept secret.

Todt said he must remain “completely neutral” in such controversies, but would like to see a more harmonious sport.

“More competition means more controversy,” he said. “And that’s our world. Probably I would prefer less controversy in our sport. But that isn’t the nature of our sport.”

Todt sees part of his job as putting structures in place which will reduce the potential for disputes over the rules.

“Honestly I’ve been trying to avoid controversy and to do as much as possible to make people [come] together. Which incidentally, it’s something I mentioned already last year, probably Covid-19 among the positive things [is] it’s been able to make all of us work together in one direction.

“There is so much tension, so much competition, but again, it’s the nature of the sport. So you have a controversy about the flexibility of the wing, about tyre pressure about anything, I could go more. What I really want [is] that we have a good governance and in all that we do we have ethics, good compliance in our sport.”

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Motorsport’s complexity makes it challenging to police, Todt admitted. “[It’s] difficult because interpretation of the regulations, where is the border between ‘you can’, ‘you can’t’ – it’s not my job to do it but my job is to make sure we have the best people. And clearly, we have reinforced drastically the team, as you know.

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“Incidentally we have something which is very important, I don’t know if you are well aware about that, but we have what we call the technical sporting committee, because I hate to be in a position to have one guy deciding ‘you can’, ‘you can’t’ – it would be bad for us, bad for him, bad for everybody. So we have a steering committee, which we have also reinforced to help the governing as much as we can.

“So that’s what we need to do and more competition, more possibility of interpreting so we have to be very, very, very strict on achieving that.”

Todt said he was alarmed by the crashes which occured in Baku three weeks ago and prompted the introduction of an updated technical directive concerning how teams operate their tyres.

“I’ve been very, of course, very concerned with that. Immediately when it happened – I was not in Baku – but I called our people I called [Pirelli’s head of motorsport] Mario Isola, I spoke with him, with them, several times.”

“The first thought was it was due to debris, which was not the case,” Todt added. “It seemed that it had been around the use of the tyres. So we have [produced] what we call a TD to make sure that the teams are all using the tyres the same way.”

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2021 French Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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12 comments on “Todt would “prefer less controversy” in Formula 1”

  1. Hm, well, I do agree with Todt that a group of people deciding on technical rules is by far better than having one person decide on those. But not having controversy in a sport where technical details of the equipment are so many and change so often to react to development? That is just not realistic.

    Not to mention that without controversy over technical stuff and teams trying to find and use/abuse the grey areas media would only do more to hype up BS personal “disagreements” about and between drivers and team personnel.

    1. @bascb isn’t there a sense of conflict between what the FIA might want there and what the commercial rights holder might want?

      Todt might want a more amicable approach for the benefits it would bring in governing the sport, but Liberty Media has an active interest in controversy to create more headlines and draw attention (and thus potential revenue) to the sport.

      Reply moderated
      1. anon, that tension itself creates controversy, neatly completing the circle.

  2. Sensed Todt was typically deflecting and dodging responsibility. He’s the head of the governing body for goodness sake so he’s in the thick of the controversial issues or he’s not doing his job.
    Being ex ferrari team manager he knows how to play politics..

    1. He is in a kind of lame duck position now. He’s retiring as head of the FIA at the end of this season and probably doesn’t want to do anything to effect the upcoming election or anyone’s chances in it, especially not his allies’. But yeah he has taken a much less hands-on approach than Mosely or Balestre did though, for better or for worse.

  3. I think 7 years of domination by a single team has led some people to get tired of the usual stuff that happens in F1, up until now obviously, so creating or ramping up some controversy seems to be the new habit of the day.

    1. Is it new though? There’s always been controversy in F1 because the teams are tasked with exploiting every possible advantage they can find in the rules. The only way to resolve it is to be extremely prescriptive with the rules and then you get to a point where you’re effectively just asking the teams to manufacture their own spec cars….

      The line between a genius innovation and cheating is extremely blurry…

      1. @petebaldwin It is, as you point out, nowhere near new. The first thing that pops to my mind for controversy from watching documentaries about F1’s past (new fan, didn’t see it then) was the 1990s with Benetton, Williams, McLaren and Ferrari (run by some guy called John Tod or something) all having big controversies in that period.

      2. If it weren’t for controversy, the FIA wouldn’t exist in the first place.

        It’s part of sport when taken this seriously.

  4. Controversy attracts people, advertisers need people to see them. I wouldn’t worry about it unless it’s major.

  5. Personally I would prefer less Todt and his ilk in F1 but we can’t always get what we want.

  6. Jean, if you would like less controversy in F1, then please stop causing it! It would set a good example…

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