Will the F1 teams back a candidate in the FIA president election?

FIA president Max Mosley may stand for election again this year

FIA president Max Mosley may stand for election again this year

Before the season began the F1 teams’ association (FOTA) declared they wanted to co-operate with the FIA, as regulators of F1, and Formula One Management, as the commercial owners, to work for the good of the sport. Luca Montezemolo declared:

Every sport needs a strong political authority and regulator because we are not in a circus. We are in a sport with rules and credibility, so we need strong commercial activities and we need a strong unanimous commitment by the players. This is the triangle we have in mind.

The substance of FOTA’s proposals got short shrift from the two organisations, headed up by Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone respectively.

But FOTA could guarantee a friendly ear at the FIA if they successfully backed a candidate of their own in the presidential election. Will they do it – and who could they pick?

Problems with the status quo

The first two races of 2009 laid bare the shortcomings in the Mosley-Ecclestone status quo.

After an exciting start to the season in Melbourne the stewards brought back bad memories of the worst of 2008 with a pair of highly questionable decisions.

Handing Sebastian Vettel a ten-place grid penalty for Malaysia was widely viewed as needless interference in a racing incident where neither Vettel nor Robert Kubica were significantly to blame.

Then there was the Hamilton-Trulli debacle which, as has been discussed at length elsewhere, should have been resolved in seconds, not days.

The FIA’s blunders in Australia were exceeded by a truly disastrous decision on FOM’s part ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix. Namely, ignoring local advice and holding the race at a time of day most susceptible to severe rain storms, and when there was no time for a rain-affected race to be resumed. The race was abandoned before three-quarter distance yet Bernie Ecclestone still refuses to admit his mistake.

What the teams want

The teams have many vested interests of their own and have shown a refreshingly open attitude to canvassing public interest in the sport on relevant topics. Their proposal for a modified scoring system came off the back of a survey of F1 fans – yet FOM and FIA are adamant they will introduced a ‘most wins’ system that hardly anyone wants in 2010.

Top of the teams’ agenda at the moment will be Mosley’s plans for allowing teams to run to a voluntary budget cap under which they adhere to a different set of technical regulations to uncapped teams. There are understandably many grave reservations about whether such a complicated plan is feasible, and many who believe the whole scheme is a ploy on Mosley’s part to divide the teams.

If FOTA are serious about getting their point of view taken seriously, they need someone in the FIA who is on their side. And this autumn’s FIA president elections give them a chance to do that.

The FIA elections

The president of the FIA is elected by representatives of the 219 automobile clubs that that make up the organisation. Mosley won a vote of confidence in his presidency following the sadomasochism scandal last year despite not having the support of the largest clubs. This is because the size of the clubs is not represented in their voting weight, as in a representative democracy. (See the FIA’s website for a map of the different member clubs).

However the same block that voted against Mosley last year might be persuaded to do so again – though a new candidate would need to win over many of the people who supported Mosley in 2008. Mosley carried 103 votes against 55 on that occasion.

Mosley promised not to run for election again in 2009 if he survived the vote of confidence in 2008. Going back on that promise – as many expect him to – may lose him the support of some who backed him last year.

Who could stand against Mosley?

So who could FOTA put forward as a candidate? Many have suggested Jackie Stewart, who has been an outspoken critic of Mosley’s. He is ten months older than Mosley (who turns 69 today), so on the fact of it age is hardly any greater reason for Stewart to count himself out of the running than Mosley.

After a long career in the sport as a driver, team owner, commentator and businessman, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Stewart once again ruled himself out of standing. But perhaps the increasing vehemence of his criticism of the current regime is a sign he might be prepared to stand against Mosley, at least if no-one else does?

Another name that has been mentioned in connection with a bid for the FIA presidency is Jean Todt. The former Ferrari team boss severed his ties with the Italian team earlier this year. But it is hard to see him winning the backing of FOTA – indeed, the degree of co-operation we see between the teams today would probably have been impossible while Todt was at the helm.

A final potential candidate is Nick Craw. Craw became president of the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States at the end of 2005 and has made inroads into the FIA, becoming its deputy president of sport in November. Tellingly, Mosley has publicly questioned whether Craw might be preparing to stand for election:

He is the president of ACCUS, which controls all the different forms of racing in the United States. With all this to contend with, he is probably not exactly looking for work.

If anyone does choose to stand against Mosley they will probably assume his tactics from 1991, when he beat Jean-Marie Balestre to the post: fly under the radar, gradually amass support, and catch the incumbent unaware.

But if FOTA wants its agenda taken seriously by the FIA, it needs to get its weight behind someone credible, and soon: Mosley is planning to announce whether he is running again in two months’ time.

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48 comments on Will the F1 teams back a candidate in the FIA president election?

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  1. KingHamilton said on 12th April 2009, 11:46

    Interesting article. I would personally want to see Jackie Stewart as head. He’s done everything else in his life right so far so FIA presidency would be perfect for him. he knows what the sport wants and needs and what the fans need. I hope he goes in for it hes the right man. I also believe the teams would back Stewart.

    I have my reserves about Jean Todt, the FIA is already Ferrari-biased enough I just get th feeling Todt for obvious reasons could be another Ferrari favourer in the FIA (actually stands for Ferraris Immediate Assistant)

    • Mike said on 13th April 2009, 10:09

      KingHamilton I used to think like you do (as expressed in your second sentence) re Sir Jackie. However look up the long thread on Pitpass.com forums under “Sir Jackie’s 4Million pound job” and like me, you may modify your opinion.

  2. Mr. Sarcasm said on 12th April 2009, 12:26

    Ah yes, of course. Jackie Stewart is not senile, outspoken or liable to make ill-advised decisions at this point in his life. He’s got my vote, too.

  3. KingHamilton said on 12th April 2009, 12:35

    Jackie Stewart is not senile. and whats wrong with being outspoken? He speaks for what he believes in, theres nothing wrong with that.

  4. Arthur954 said on 12th April 2009, 12:47

    Jackie Stewart or some other popular ex-driver would be good. The main thing is that the new FIA chief can stand up to Bernie.

  5. mkh1 said on 12th April 2009, 13:21

    Didn’t Brundle once say Wurz would make a good FIA president? I know he’s very clear on his views on road safety, but I’m not sure if he wants to take on the murky world of F1 politics just yet. If he does stand for president he’ll get my support (although sadly I don’t get a vote).

  6. Mig.Golf said on 12th April 2009, 13:43

    God! I hope he leaves…. that man is killing our sport… It’s time for someone younger and with the teams support. And them, they can corner the Bernie man to the wall and tell him that Formula 1 is not hio LEGO game to play with…

  7. Mike said on 12th April 2009, 13:54

    Problem with Stewart is he doesn’t understand how the FIA works. For example he said last week the FIA needed professional stewards to deal with things like the Trulli/Hamilton incident, yet that is precisely what the Code (Art 140) stops them doing and did even when JYS was a driver. And to imagine that Race Control listens to all 20 radio communications between teams and drivers as Jackie apparently does, is just silly.

    And don’t forget the FIA is like an iceberg. Most of it you don’t see with the environment, road safety and contacts with the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Heath Organisation, OECD etc etc just as important as F1. Jackie would be out of his depth in modern F1, never mind the rest of it.

  8. Mr. Sarcasm said on 12th April 2009, 14:59

    Jackie Stewart has not the cranial capacity to run the FIA. Very good motor skills, co-ordination and balance, but no real intellect. Putting him in authority of Formula One would be the equivalent of making David Beckham chariman of FIFA

    • Well, at least David has Victoria; I believe she’s not bad in business keeping in mind David earnings. :-)

  9. This is because the size of the clubs is not represented in their voting weight, as in a representative democracy.

    Sorry to quibble, but this is still a representative democracy just perhaps not the kind of representative democracy you happen to be looking for.

    This type of one member one vote (OMOV) system means that larger clubs are unable to use their bloc votes to dominate proceedings. Decisions made at the pre-OMOV conferences of the British Labour Party, for example, used to be (in effect) decided solely by the bosses of the largest trade unions as they wielded enormous numbers of votes. No one else got a look in.

    But, as you’ve highlighted above, an OMOV system also has its downsides. It’s vulnerable to allowing votes to be won by a large number of the smaller member clubs, despite the wishes of member clubs who actually represent a majority of members. But one example of where an OMOV system falls down doesn’t necessarily make it fundamentally flawed.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th April 2009, 8:50

      Sorry to quibble, but this is still a representative democracy just perhaps not the kind of representative democracy you happen to be looking for.

      Ok, fair enough!

    • Gman said on 14th April 2009, 19:42

      A good political science debate, very good to see!

      Indeed, it is a fair system of voting, but obviously the larger clubs (most of whom voted against Max, from my understanding) probably think it a bit less fair than the smaller clubs, many of whom probably look at him as being a big buddy to them.

  10. BowtNetterToDo said on 12th April 2009, 15:46

    I think FOTA needs to realise that they provide the entertainment and question why they need a quango that seems to be used for Mosleys vindictive enjoyment, and question why they need to employ a race organiser that pockets all the money.

    Forget about signing the concord agreement, there has never been a better time to go it alone.

    • Arthur954 said on 12th April 2009, 16:04

      The concord agreement is the really really big issue coming up and all the FIA rules projects, Bernies talking etc should be understood under this light.
      If FOTA stays united they can get a lot of things done.

  11. F1Yankee said on 12th April 2009, 17:15

    i like max, flaws and all

  12. Manny said on 12th April 2009, 17:51

    What about Gerhard Berger? He’s worked for Ferrari, McLaren, BMW and Red Bull/Toro Rosso in his F1 career. So surely there’s no question of bias, he’s also likely to forge a strong relationship with FOTA which is imperative right now for F1.

  13. theRoswellite said on 12th April 2009, 18:26

    Perhaps Mr. Mosley has simply been at the dance a bit too long.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th April 2009, 8:51

      When he stood for election the first time round Mosley made the same observation about Balestre – and now Mosley has been in the job even longer.

  14. Hallard said on 12th April 2009, 20:20

    Jackie Stewart is a great guy, he’s seen F1 from almost all sides, and he is a great advocate for the fans in condeming the idiocy of Max and Bernie’s regime. That being said, the position is largely political, and I for one cant see Jackie even being interested in taking on the role of FiA president. Max is definitely not in touch with reality, and its far past time for him to go, but sadly I think it will take another smarmy politician to replace him.

  15. Mr. Serious said on 12th April 2009, 21:39

    Aside from a couple of crazy ideas, Max Mosley has done great things for Formula One and safety, initiating multiple schemes that have saved countless lives in sport and in public; in balance he deserves little criticism. And if anybody dislikes the position Mr. Ecclestone is currently enjoying, you actually have only the teams of twenty years ago to blame. Also, +1 for Berger sometime in the future. If he’s up for it he would do a good job

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