Some four and half months into the job, FIA president Jean Todt hosted his first open press conference on the subject of Formula 1 at the Bahrain Grand Prix. And as if to emphasise that this is supposed to be a new era of consensus and accountability,
Todt brought along his key team members with him, namely senate president Nick Craw, deputy president for sport Graham Stoker and deputy president for mobility Brian Gibbons.
The four men walked in wearing identical FIA bomber jackets, and one FIA insider proudly likened the panel to the astronauts in The Right Stuff. This writer suggested that the scene looked a little more akin to Space Cowboys, in which grizzled veterans Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland, now retired and grey haired, were reunited for one last mission…
Todt tackled questions on a wide range of subjects, making sure where possible to give a platform to his colleagues.
One of the most pressing issues he faces is the lack of an F1 Commissioner, a post he created. Sources had suggested that the FIA has been looking for a ‘blue-chip CEO’, and Todt admitted that it was hard to find a suitable candidate, given the remuneration on offer.
“He will be a link between the FIA president and the World Council, and the championship,” said Todt. “I must say I’m always very ambitious about the profile of the people who have been with me, and it’s not very easy to find the right profile considering that the FIA has limited facilities, limited budgets. It’s hard to find somebody who is willing to give his time, his capacity, almost free of charge.
“It’s something which really makes the choice more difficult. For me, I’d prefer to wait a few months and have the profile I want to find rather than rush and fill the position. At the moment it gives us a bit more to do, but we still managed to do what we feel has to be done for the present time. The idea is absolutely not forgotten, it’s just a question of time.”
Todt confirmed that the FIA is investigating US F1’s failure to make the grid.
“The non-appearance of US F1 is definitely a disappointment,” said Todt. “And my colleague Nick Craw will not contradict me because he has been very close to this team.”
US F1 could prove to be the first test case after Todt’s move to separate the FIA’s prosecution and sentencing elements, by way of a new ‘disciplinary panel’. It’s something that the FIA has been encouraged to do as a result of the decision in the French courts on the Flavio Briatore case, in which his predecessor Max Mosley was chastised for being judge, jury and executioner. The intention is that Todt will lead any investigation, and then step back and allow the World Motor Sport Council – chaired by Stoker – to reach a verdict.
The fallout of the Briatore case has continued to haunt Todt and, although he had nothing to do with it, he was compelled to instigate an appeal against the court decision: “We cannot forget that a car purposely crashed during the Singapore GP in 2008. It cannot be without consequences.”
Todt remains sensitive to the merest suggestion of any conflict of interest. A couple of days after this writer enquired about the rejection of Stefan GP – where coincidentally Nicolas Todt was trying to place Pastor Maldonado as third driver – the president berated me for asking a ‘stupid question’. How to win friends… Adam Cooper