It’s a powerful body that makes decisions which shape the future of racing. But who are the faces behind the World Motor Sport Council, and are they the right ones?
By Joe Saward
Otto Von Bismarck, the man who engineered the unification of Germany, remarked one day that politics is “the art of the possible”. One can achieve anything if one has the power to do it. The use (and abuse) of power has been one of the recurring themes in human history, and in 2007 the use of power was a subject that was much discussed in Formula 1 after the FIA World Motor Sport Council’s decision to fine McLaren $100 million and take away the team’s points in the constructors’ championship.
A later decision not to punish Renault sat in stark contrast, and there are many in F1 circles who felt uncomfortable with what had happened. Sir Jackie Stewart, Damon Hill and Martin Brundle said what they thought but most people kept quiet. One exception was Force India F1’s commercial director Ian Phillips, who has been involved in F1 for 38 years, and who remarked that the way the sport is governed is “really quite frightening”.
It is accepted that the power to govern the sport rests with the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). This is a union of national automobile clubs (known in FIA parlance as ASNs) from all over the world. Each club has a place in the FIA General Assembly, which is like a parliament for the automobile world, although it meets only once a year. This body decides which clubs are admitted to the FIA and elects the FIA president and the members of the two World Councils (the second council deals with non-sporting matters such as tourism).
The World Motor Sport Council meets three or four times a year and, in recent years, has included fax votes as well. Its membership would normally consider proposals from specialist FIA commissions, but the F1 Commission has had only two meetings in the last three-and-a-half years as FIA president Max Mosley prefers to use direct negotiation with the teams rather than the established structure.
Although the WMSC is an elected body, the FIA Statutes were changed in April 2004 so that presidential candidates now nominate their World Council members before elections, rather than afterwards. This system dissuades a challenge because rivals must declare their supporters before an election. The system clearly favours the incumbent but an attempt to defeat the change was beaten by 99 votes to 27.
The World Council has 26 members and the current generation are not youngsters. In 2005 several of the older generation retired, including Rafael Sierra (83) and Burdette Martin (76), but the average age of the council remains high. The longest serving member is Michel Boeri (66) of the Automobile Club de Monaco. The son of a former ACM president, he has run the club since he was 30 and has been on the World Council since the mid-1970s. Formula 1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone (77) is in his 26th year as a World Council member, while management consultant Lars Österlind (62) has headed the Swedish Automobile Federation since 1982 and has a similar record.
Mosley (67) first sat on the council in 1987 while Poland’s Jacek Bartos (63), a rally official, has been a member since 1991. Others with more than 10 years on the council include Marco Piccinini (55), the FIA deputy-president who is also a member of the board of directors of Ferrari SpA. He was once Enzo Ferrari’s private banker and then spent 11 years as the sporting director of the Ferrari F1 team, becoming one of the architects of the Concorde Agreement. José Abed (67) is a businessman who ran the Mexican GP between 1986 and ’92, while Nazir Hoosein (62) is an Indian with interests in cinemas and film distribution. He started rallying in 1968, went on to run the Himalayan Rally and was the first president of the Indian Automotive Racing Club. Derek Ledger (72) was in the insurance business in Jordan but competed in rallies and eventually became the chief executive of the Royal Automobile Club of Jordan, helping the growth of rallying in the Middle East.
Ferrari’s influence in the WMSC is not restricted to Piccinini: Jean Todt, Ferrari’s chief executive, sits as the representative of the F1 manufacturers when the World Council discusses F1 matters and Luigi Macaluso, the head of the international karting federation (CIK), has been a friend of Enzo Ferrari’s son Piero since the 1960s. His Girard-Perregaux watch company produced Ferrari-branded watches between 1994 and 2004. But it should be noted that provision is made for those with conflicts of interest to abstain from voting in cases such as McLaren’s last year.
During the recent hearings into both McLaren and Renault, almost no one other than Mosley spoke. The key question is whether they were happy with the decisions being made?
When he was standing for election in 1991, Mosley highlighted that FIA power can be wielded in subtle ways: “Everybody in the federation depends on the establishment for certain things which are vital to the interests of their country,” he said. “A rally, a local championship, whatever. If they do anything which causes difficulty there is the danger that they will lose the particular thing that is vital to them. So they think that in the interests of their club and their country they have to go along with it.
“Typical of what I am trying to say is that the reason no one has stood against Jean-Marie Balestre [the then president] until now is not that everyone agrees with him, that there’s no one there who thinks they could do the job better. It’s because they fear that the consequences could be adverse.”
A close look at Mosley’s FIA reveals that certain delegates wield considerable power as they run regional series. The Asia Pacific Rally Championship is run by Hoosein; Ledger holds the powerful role of Middle East representative; Venezuela’s Enzo Spano is in charge of an organisation called the North America, Central America and Mexico (NACAM) and the FIA’s African Region coordinator Surinder Thatthi runs the Confederation of African Countries in Motorsport. They are Mosley’s most important allies and he has shown that he will fight for them. When Hoosein was ousted by the Indian ASN in 1999 the FIA investigated the way the club was being run and then backed a new federation which Hoosein had established.
The Indian government objected. For a while Hoosein sat on the World Council as the representative of China…
Who they are
The World Motor Sport Council, elected for the period 2005-2009
President Max Mosley (GB)
Deputy-president Marco Piccinini (ITA)
Vice-president Michel Boeri (MC)
Vice-president Nazir Hoosein (IND)
Vice-president Jacques Regis (F)
Vice-president José Abed (MEX)
Vice-president Derek Ledger (JOR)
Vice-president Morrie Chandler (NZ)*
Vice-president Hermann Tomcyzk (D)
Australia Garry Connelly**
Spain Carlos Gracia Fuertes
Poland Jacek Bartos
China Wan Heping ***
Greece Vassilis Despotopoulos
Czech rep Radovan Novak
Sweden Lars Österlind
Portugal António Vasconcelos Tavares
United States Nick Craw
Japan Masami Yamaguchi
Brazil Paulo Enéas Scaglione
Venezuela Enzo Spano
Great Britain Graham Stoker
Tanzania Surinder Thatthi
President CIK Luigi Macaluso
Constructors Gabriele Cadringher (ITA) or Jean Todt (F)
F1 Teams Bernie Ecclestone (GB)
* Former rally driver Shekhar Mehta died in 2006. He was replaced as FIA vice-president by New Zealand’s Morrie Chandler.
** John Large died in 2006 and was replaced by Garry Connelly.
*** Wan joined the WMSC after Morrie Chandler became FIA vice-president in 2006.