Where’s Jim Lampley when you need him? We’ve got ourselves an election folks! Incumbent Jean Todt will take on former Director-General of the FIA Foundation, David Ward, for the hotly contested seat of FIA President. Ward resigned his position this week in order to take the fight to Todt in what should be a 12-round political Punch and Judy show replete with remote motoring clubs, emerging market vote pandering and global hand-shaking visits.
Todt beat out Ari Vatanen back in 2009 as the successor of the infamous Max Mosley. Todt’s 135 votes to Vatanen’s 49 proved to be a decided victory but with Mosely endorsing you and working the political outfield well, he was sure to win. ADAC is a massively large German member of the FIA and has thousands of members, as does the AAA here in the States, but that accounts for one vote. The key is that all of the small, emerging market clubs equal one vote as well and with a little promise of FIA cash to help mobility programs in Botswana, you can gain friends quickly.
Now I’m not suggesting that this occurred in Todt’s campaign in 2009 but Mosley used it to great effect to avoid impeachment after his sexgate scandal and when he finally agreed to step down as FIA president by avoiding a run for election (a contingent on the teams extending the Concorde Agreement) his endorsement of Todt must have resonated the memories of the firm handshake and promise of FIA assistance.
Vatanen had little chance of winning but when I interviewed him in 2009, he was as positive as ever and really up for the task. Now it’s election time again and Todt has been traveling the world and shaking hands promoting all the FIA initiatives. With an increased revenue stream from Formula 1 via increased super license fees, performance-based escalating payments for participation respective to last years finishing position in the championship and a chunk of cash from Formula One Management, Todt has a veritable war chest at his disposal.
This isn’t Ward’s first rodeo either. He’s been a Mosely lieutenant in the past and knows his way around the FIA and where the coffee makers are. He knows the clubs and how the FIA works. In order to accomplish the task, he resigned and released a statement:
“After much careful thought I have decided to stand as a candidate in the 2013 FIA Presidential election. The election period begins in September and it will be necessary for me to approach FIA members to secure nominations. In these circumstances I think that the correct course of action is to resign.
“Election processes inevitably involve robust and lively debate, and whilst the Foundation is independent and there is no legal requirement for me to resign, I believe that it is in the best interests of the charity that I stand down now.”
Let the campaigns begin and the promises flow. Ward has two issues he could call out rather quickly…the tire supplier issue for 2014 (Pirelli has contracts with the teams and FOM but not with the FIA) and the lack of a signed Concorde agreement. Two things Todt has failed to achieve so far.
Todt has been far less visible than his predecessor and many wonder what he’s been up to since taking the helm. F1’s political challenges in Bahrain were considered ham-fisted and the future of the sport is iffy given the bribery allegations against Bernie Eccelstone as well as where commercial rights holders CVC Capital stand on the future of the sport. There is also the notion of cost-cutting and next years regulations seem far from doing just that. Rumored engine fees of $25M have small teams running for cover. Todt has been silent.
Can Ward make a dent in Todt’s vote count? Time will tell but he can start by being much more vocal than Todt and at this rate, that wouldn’t be too difficult. Ward isn’t without his past and scandals and may prove to be an in-fighter to Todt’s out-boxer style. Ward is well-known amongst the Brussels and the folks at Whitehall. Could he be the next FIA president? We’ll have to wait and see.
How will Harold Lederman score this?