Ari Vatanen Already In Hot Water With The FIA Foundation

Ari Vatanen Already In Hot Water With The FIA Foundation

The FIA has criticised the way presidential candidate Ari Vatanen suggested last week that the motoring organisation is supporting Jean Todt’s campaign to succeed Max Mosley. Current president Mosley has voiced his backing of the former Ferrari boss, which although widely expected, still sends a slightly dubious message out to those who may not fully understand how the electing of new presidents works.

Mosley is well within his right to support a future presidential candidate, but the FIA cannot be seen to be fully backing one candidate over another until the time comes to vote. The voting system should be private as well, just as it is with other political elections that many of us are familiar with.

Mosley stated that he felt Todt would be the best person to replace him, and it wasn’t the first time Max has spoken highly of the French rally, Formula One team and car manufacturer head. Vatanen, a former rally driver himself, retaliated with concerns that Jean Todt represents an older era, and that he himself would bring a new freshness to the role of president.

But it’s not good that a leader stays in the post for a long time, and when that happens, the best thing is a change. And I represent that change, a new era with more freshness.

On the contrary, Jean Todt represents the old era, and it’s not right that Max wants to impose a new leader, and that he uses the power of the federation to support his campaign. The FIA is not a kingdom; it’s a republic where the leaders are chosen democratically.

At Ferrari they don’t want Todt to be president, and so they have told me, because they think they sport would lose credibility. The same would happen if it was Ross Brawn or Flavio Briatore running. The president of the FIA must be someone neutral. Ari Vatanen.

It is the second paragraph that has annoyed the FIA Foundation, with Vatanen using the phrase ‘using the power of the federation to support Todt’s campaign’. Furthermore, Vatanen also claimed that the FIA were paying for a private jet for Todt to allow him in the running of his campaign. Ari wrote:

At the expense of the FIA Foundation, Jean goes with a private plane with his girlfriend, supposedly as a FIA representative, to various parts of the world, sometimes he has gone to Asia, sometimes to Canada, sometimes to Buenos Aires, whatever. In fact, he is doing a campaign totally supported and paid by the FIA. Ari Vatanen.

In a response letter written by the Chairman of the FIA Foundation to Ari Vatanen, Carlos Macaya refutes the suggestion of the FIA funding Todt’s campaign, and explained that the travel expenses Ari may be alluring to actually apply to Todt’s partner, Michelle Yeoh.

These assertions are totally false. For the last two years Jean Todt’s partner, the internationally acclaimed actress Michelle Yeoh, has served in a voluntary capacity as the global Ambassador for the Make Roads Safe campaign which is co-ordinated by the FIA Foundation. In this role Michelle has travelled all over the world to support the campaign especially in advance of this year’s first ever global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety to be held in Moscow on November 19-20. […]

These activities have nothing whatsoever to do with the FIA, or the recently announced election. It is very disappointing that you have chosen to misrepresent the work of a fellow Trustee in this way and belittle the magnificent contribution being made by Michelle Yeoh. […]

I appreciate that during the forthcoming election for the FIA Presidency there needs to be open and robust debate. However, I would ask that you do not again misrepresent the role of the FIA Foundation in this way. Carlos Macaya.

Macaya also explained that recently, while Michelle Yeoh was travelling to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania for an FIA function, Jean Todt tagged along as he was attending a workshop in the same city helping to promote intelligent vehicle safety systems in his role as the eSafety Aware president.

It would appear that no further sanction will come of Vatanen’s claims and Macaya’s response, and perhaps the former world rally champion was wrong in his accusation. However, it is interesting that Ari has raised the topic, as conspiracy theorists around the world concoct reasons as to why they feel the FIA are still pro-Ferrari and manage their affairs in a deeply private and suspicious manner.

Of course, Todt was the head of Ferrari’s Formula One operation for many years, praised with rejuvenating the team into world champions once again. But in late 2006, Todt resigned this role and took up the position of CEO for the whole company, dealing with the road car division as well. In 2008, Todt resigned this role, although he was still involved with the Maranello company until July 2009, when he completely resigned in order to focus on his campaign to become the next president of the FIA.

Should Jean Todt defeat Ari Vatanen in the election later this year, there will be cries of corruption the world over. Whether correct or not is almost irrelevant as some fans of the sports that the FIA govern, Formula One included, will still feel that the FIA are not 100% straight up, as they say.

So, to the perhaps slightly more thoughtful fans who I know this site attracts, but additionally also pleasing because I know the passion of motor sport runs deep with all… who do you want to see as the next president of the FIA? I can imagine what the answer is already, but before you comment, think for just a moment about the successes Todt and Vatanen have achieved over the years, and how you think they may run the organisation that still controls the sport we all love.

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11 comments

  • My own opinion is that I think it is great that Vatanen raised this concern. Perhaps he didn’t choose his words as carefully has he should have, but the fact someone is willing to stand against something that may be happening within the organisation they hope to preside over is very encouraging. Particularly as Ari states he wants the FIA to become more transparent and open.

    Also, while the election has nothing directly to do with the fans as we don’t get to vote, I note that Vatanen’s wishes for the future of the FIA are well known, but Todt’s aren’t. Not as far as I’m aware, anyway. Ari wants more transparency, but what does Jean want?

  • I think this is an excellent article on a complex and very political situation. Most F1 Bloggers are jumping up shouting ‘Conspiracy!’ whereas this a measured and balanced overview of the situation. It will be interesting to see what happens next. I agree that Vatanen should draw attention to this issue, but it was foolish to do it the way he has and will not help his campaign. If he had got someone else to say it, it would have been a lot better for him.

  • Obviously Ari wnet out on a limb when he made those statements, but it was a brave move to make and perhaps it will win him some more friends. Besides, he’s 100% correct in my opinion in saying that the President of the FIA should be someone neutral.

  • Most F1 Bloggers are jumping up shouting ‘Conspiracy!’ whereas this a measured and balanced overview of the situation.

    Thanks very much, Jake. 🙂

    it was foolish to do it the way he has and will not help his campaign

    Totally, because of the way he did it, the subsequent backfire has backfired on him.

    he’s 100% correct in my opinion in saying that the President of the FIA should be someone neutral.

    I agree as well. Some say the FIA president needs knowledge of Formula One, but I disagree. The FIA do so, so much more than F1, it’s just that F1 tends to get all the media attention. Plus, if the president has the correct people around him who can advise with authority, then specific knowledge becomes less of a concern.

    It’s a bit like suggesting the President of the United States of America needs to know everything about the country, it’s past, present and future as well as it’s involvments elsewhere, it’s industries, people blah blah blah… That is quite simply impossible. But by having an office, full of hopefully intelligent people, the president can do his job just as well, if not more effectively than without an office of staff.

  • While we can debate whether or not Vatanen should have said what he did, and the way he said it, it appears obvious that his remarks hit home. After all, if the FIA weren’t openly supporting and endorsing Le Toad, there would be no need for Vatanen to call them on it…

  • I have a sneaking suspicion that Ari was more right than wrong in his assessment of the matter. The FIA Foundation haven’t explained why Jean is taking lifts on a consistent basis (they’ve only explained one leg of the trip) nor have they given much clue as to what Michelle is doing.

    By the way, if the FIA Foundation has nothing to do with the FIA, why does it a) have “FIA” in the title and b) receive FIA funds?

  • Remember also that both the FIA and the FIA Foundation are charitable; if either is wasting its funds it could attract the eye of legal people…

    I think it was Joe Saward who mentioned yesterday about the FIA Foundation blowing what must be vast sums of money on a private jet when there are plenty of scheduled flight options that would probably come in at a fraction of the cost.

  • I dread the thought of Todt succeeding Mosley. It will be more of the same but Todt is more competent than Mosley so will more successfully apply himself.

    I think Ari should challenge him to a public debate on his policies. Let us hear what his plans are on a range of issues and not just sport. It always struck me as odd that Mosley who is a trained barrister never sought to properly use that skill in debating the issues.

    If Todt is elected we will still have Ecclestone calling the shots as he has done with Mosley. Todt will protect him from the FIA and Bernie will make sure Todt stays in power.

    I really hope Vatanen gets elected and shakes the whole organisation by the scruff of the neck. At the time of his vote of confidence Mosley said that he had to win as he was the only person who could re-negotiate the F1 commercial rights deal. Clearly he has been too busy elsewhere to address this so it would be remiss of Vatanen not to re-negotiate it since Max put it on the agenda.

    Go Ari.

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