As mentioned in earlier podcasts, Grace and I discussed the reality of a Jean Todt FIA presidency. The real concern, obviously, is his ties to Ferrari and the political innuendos that this carries. There is no question that while Todt ruled at Ferrari, they enjoyed a good working relationship with the FIA and Max Mosley, FI president. There is also no question that this “relationship” boiled to a culmination of “Red Rule” claims and preferential treatment allegations by non-Ferrari fans.
That’s understandable but purely arguable depending on which side of the fence you sit. There is little secret that Jean Todt is a friend of Max Mosley’s and supported him during the sex scandal days as well as other issues that have questioned the Brit’s aptitude and judgment. This relationship also impacts people and their concern over a Todt presidency. Mosley even endorsed Todt on FIA letterhead while announcing his own retirement and that has given reason for pause within FOTA one can only imagine. FOTA were very keen for Mosley’s departure and anyone he would endorse as his successor would be met with some trepidation.
Todt has announced today that he will remain neutral if he is made FIA president.
“Initially some people suggested that I would be Ferrari’s choice for the presidency, then the media was told that Ferrari didn’t want me, and the Scuderia responded by saying that they were in fact neutral,” he said. “Of course, I completely agree with them.
“They should be neutral as I will be to all the teams if I am elected president.
“This is a question of commitment and professionalism. The success I have enjoyed, with every team that I have ever worked with, has been founded upon professionalism and a total commitment to that team’s goals,” he added.
“My approach to the FIA is no different. I would not contemplate running for election as president if I could not focus all my professionalism, energy and commitment upon achieving the goals which are in the best interests of the FIA. Acting as the guardian of the FIA’s independence is central to this.”
“Throughout my career, as a competitor, manager, team principal and chief executive I have enjoyed success in an intensely competitive environment,” he said. “I’ve worked with incredibly talented and dedicated people, teams and organisations with great passion, pride and commitment.
“Now working closely with my candidacy team, I want to bring all the experience I have gained throughout my career and apply it for the benefit of the FIA and its membership.
“I have been very fortunate in my career to have enjoyed considerable success in motorsport. Like so many others in our sport I have benefited from the hard work of previous leaders of the FIA in creating a global platform on which to compete.
“I feel that for me the time is now right to give something back to the sport and the FIA’s clubs that have given me so much.”
I’ve argued that Todt’s departure from Ferrari was not a happy one and that there is every chance that he could and would remain unbiased if he were the FIA president. I also maintain that Todt would be professional and effective in that role. Todt’s comments above, from an Autosport article here, even hint at a slight backhand at Ferrari. To be honest, I think given the way things were left with Ferrari and Todt’s separation, he would be less likely to favor Ferrari than many think. That, however, is all circumstance and we all understand that perception is 9/10th’s of the law.
This raises the point, irrespective of if Ferrari are justified or not, would a decision in their favor under a Todt presidency be viewed as collusion or “Red Rule” favoritism? I think…yes. That is why I don’t think a Todt presidency will ever be as effective as it probably should be. Let’s face it folks, he is suggesting a F1 Commissioner just to assuage the situation. Do we need more layers of politics and positions of power to muddy the waters of the regulatory body’s relationship with F1? I think not.
If, in order to do your job without tainted perception, you have to create a new position that removes you from the job…is this the best course of action? Is this the best man for the job? The short of it is this; Mosley has endorsed Todt for the job and that, to me, is reason enough to avoid a Todt presidency. Time for change and Todt, whether he wants to or not, represents the old guard. Ari Vatanen does not. He is a fresh face with new ideas and a desire to change the broken machine that is the FIA.