Will Gray

Gray Matter: A new nemesis

Will Gray

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The gloves are off in the fight to replace Max Mosley at the head of the FIA after the incumbent's favoured candidate Jean Todt stepped up to take on FOTA's preferred choice Ari Vatanen.

Mosley endorsed Todt when he said he would be stepping down at the end of his tenure - again! - earlier this week.

Todt, who has since confirmed his candidacy, has a history of controversy, from his days at Peugeot in the Paris Dakar Rally right through to his time with Michael Schumacher during the dominant years of Ferrari, and many are debating his viability as a candidate, let alone a president.

The job involves many aspects, from running the FIA's global road safety schemes and promoting environmental change to endorsing many of the world's motorsport categories and ruling the roost in Formula One. The right candidate must tick all the boxes, not just the one marked F1.

Todt certainly has such a varied background in motorsport. He had a successful career as a rally co-driver then went on to win titles as a team manager with Peugeot-Citroen in World Rallying, Le Mans and Desert Raids before masterminding an incredibly successful period for Ferrari in F1, building and nurturing a team that rewrote the sport's record books.

Vatanen, in contrast, is solely a rally man. He excelled as a driver, winning the title in 1981, then dominated the Dakar Rally, even winning a race for the Peugeot team managed by Todt. But in terms of F1, his timely visit to the Nurburgring last weekend may just have been his first time in the grand prix paddock.

On the road car front, Todt also has some significant credentials, having participated in numerous road safety schemes and environmental campaigns for the FIA and also spent just over a year as CEO of the entire Ferrari group. But Vatanen can also confidently step up to the table having spent 10 years in the European Parliament working on motoring-related areas before failing to get re-elected this year.

But for the F1 part of the job, the big issue is independence - and this is where Todt comes tumbling down.

Fair enough, he has declared that he will act independently and has already revealed the team that should hold him to that; but no matter what he promises, the people on the other side of the table, the current F1 bosses, know him too well.

Over the last 10 years or so, there have been plenty of disagreements between the teams and the FIA but there has also been no shortage of disagreements amongst the teams themselves, and many of these saw the Todt-led Ferrari locking horns with others on the grid. So, if Todt is voted in as the FIA head then, even if he acts independently, as you would have to expect he would, such heated debates would be hard to forget.

And so this puts the teams in a bit of a pickle. Having managed to steer the departure of Mosley, and apparently based their commitment to the sport upon achieving that, they are now faced with another nemesis, one who will be backed (albeit from a lower-level role) by Mosley and one who Mosley has promised his loyal members of the World Motorsport Council will continue to carry out the successes he has achieved during his time in charge.

On paper it looks as though Todt should step into the seat with ease. So the question now is will the teams, who have still not committed to the future of F1, try to find a way to boycott Todt too...?

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