Former Ferrari principal Jean Todt has won the election to become the FIA’s next president, beating Ari Vatanen with 135 votes to 49. Max Mosley, who has presided over the organisation since 1993 decided to not run again earlier in the year after controversial measures were intended to be implemented which caused great unrest among the Formula One teams. Needless to say a change is welcome, but it may not be a popular victory among motor sport fans.
Ari Vatanen had been a favourite among motor sport fans, the former rally driver promising to shake-up the FIA and make the organisation more transparent. However, Todt had received the backing of the outgoing president and was even said to have been a good candidate for Mosley succession way back in 2005.
The election, held at the FIA’s headquarters in Paris, was supervised by an external Huissier de Justice, the French state-appointed public witness. There were 12 abstentions or invalid votes and Todt’s victory was a comfortable one.
The news of Vatanen’s defeat will undoubtedly cause many fans of motor sport to be upset, many feeling that Todt is unsuitable for the role given his public support from Mosley and his former ties with Ferrari. The FIA has been accused in the past of favouring Ferrari and Bernie Ecclestone even admitted that the Scuderia receive benefits (both monetary and in the deciding of new rules). Although Todt has long been resigned from his post of team principal at Ferrari and recently resigned from the company entirely, many will still feel uncomfortable at his appointment.
Despite claims that Todt may fail to shake-up the FIA and will merely continue in the vein of his predecessor, the Frenchman does have a lot of experience in motor sport, primarily Formula One and World Rally. It was Todt who helped rejuvenate Ferrari into a dominant force that won many titles in the late ’90s and early ’00s, and his management style has received considerable praise. The Ferrari company was named by the Financial Times as the best company in Italy to work for in terms of employee satisfaction in 2008.
While many of us fans may have been hoping for a more radical change at Place de la Concorde, we should allow Todt some time to settle in to his new role before making judgments. The president of the FIA does not just deal with motor sport and much of the organisation’s aim is to improve motoring for the general public the world over. Of course, Formula One is at the forefront of their operations though, the international sport garnering much of the headlines that involve the FIA.
We shall have to wait and see how Todt deals with the pressures of being the president, but despite trying to offer the man a chance, I feel the Internet-at-large is about to get a little crazy. But before we all get hysterical, let us remember one very important rule that has just come into force: the president of the FIA may now only preside for two terms at the very most. Something I’m sure we will all agree on as being a very good idea.