There are excellent reasons why Ari Vatanen should be the next president of the FIA – which is why it is unlikely he will be elected to the post in October.
Vatanen, one of the great rally drivers (World Champion in 1981), is a popular and well-respected man in the motor sport world, and already a trustee of the FIA Foundation. As well as that, he was an MEP for 10 years (standing down this year), and thus has experience of real-world politics, rather than the ersatz variety so relished in the Place de la Concorde. Vatanen is, as one F1 team principal put it, ‘a proper bloke’. He is also one who genuinely loves this sport – and that in itself would be a breakthrough after what we have been through in the last 18 years.
Apart from Vatanen, there appear to be two names on the table at the moment, and it’s fair to say that neither would be welcomed by the F1 community. Max Mosley, having held the post of president of the FIA since 1991, announced on June 24 that he would not stand for re-election in the autumn, then said on June 25 that perhaps – in light of horrid things said about him by those common FOTA tykes – he might do so, after all. Luca di Montezemolo, Mosley said, had given to the press an impression that he had been ousted. The very idea
Does Mosley really intend to stand again? Or is this all an elaborate preparation for sliding into office his preferred successor, one Jean Todt? No one – on the outside, anyway – has a clue, and, quite honestly, most are losing interest by the day. At Silverstone Bernie Ecclestone was told – in words of one syllable – by F1 luminaries that they were no longer prepared to work with Mosley, and it’s clear they have no wish to work with Todt, either.
If FOTA is to continue to operate within the framework of the FIA, and compete for the F1 World Championship in 2010 and beyond, its favoured choice for FIA president is emphatically Vatanen, a man it feels may be trusted. The teams, though, have no direct say in who shall be in the job.
In 2005, immediately before Mosley won yet another term as president, a ‘cabinet system’ was introduced at the FIA. What this means is that anyone aspiring to the presidency must accompany his application with a list of 22 names of folk within the FIA offering support for his candidacy. This is his ‘cabinet’.
None of the names in one person’s ‘cabinet’, however, may appear in another candidate’s list. Thus, the most powerful – and the best connected – candidates are likely to collar the bulk of the most influential FIA figures. Beginning to get the picture?
Not really a surprise that many FOTA team principals devoutly wish for a clean break from Max, the FIA, Bernie, CVC and the whole damn thing, is it? A ‘breakaway championship’? Bring it on, say I – unless somehow a man like Vatanen can find his way to the top floor in the Place de la Concorde, open the windows, and let in a little fresh air.