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?

  1. bobmarshall said on 12th April 2009, 22:22

    Jackie Stewar;

    if they GIVE it to jean todt then i will turn off until he resigns under the obviously predictable ferrari winning 27/18 grand prix scandal of 2011

    • Arthur954 said on 12th April 2009, 22:47

      I hope they dont give it to Jean Todt : he deserves a drive-through penalty at every race cause he is so ugly.

      Better a gentleman like Stewart – if he cannot do the papers so what, there are plenty of people that can keep track of papers and details for him. Hopefully Sir Jackie can bring back some of the beautiful heritage spirit of our racing.

  2. Chris said on 12th April 2009, 23:04

    Wouldn’t it be easier for the teams to start a new championship than try to replace Max?

    • Mike said on 13th April 2009, 10:18

      Right on the button! And that would get rid of the bigger fly in the current ointment, i.e. senile , cranky, bugger the fans and logic I’m-here-to pump-up-my-family-trust-fund-as much-as-I-can-before-my-imminent-death-…….. what’s his name again????

  3. HounslowBusGarage said on 12th April 2009, 23:31

    If Max *does* decide to retire, he will pimp Jean Todt to replace him. Long before his stint as chief attack dog at Ferrari, JT was the rallying boss at Peugeot, where his vicious cunning was visible for all to see.
    I do not think this man is an effective, impartial administrator for the common good.
    Also, at 63 I’d say he was too old. The FIA and the world of racing in particular is fast moving and full of people who will try a fast move. 63 is too old to start a new job like this.
    I think Manny’s suggestion of Gerhardt Berger has a lot of merit. He’s been involved with a wide variety of teams at the highest level, and has displayed considerable intelect in many situations. Whether he is a skilled administrator or not, I am not sure. But I am aware that he has had business success outside F1, which should count for much.
    I’d also welcome applications from someone outside the sport. Perhaps someone who has had experience in bringing disparate parties together into a coherent whole as well as managing disparate aspirations. Someone like Oskar Lafontaine, who – as far as I know – has no particular enjoyment or allegiencies within the sport. Or even our own Chris Patten who has shown great managerial abilities in the governance of Hong Kong at the handover to PR China, and prior to that, in the planning and execution of John Major’s election victory.
    Not politically correct, I know. but I’m searching for people who can administer a situation fairly while others are against them. Problem is that Chris Patten is already 65.

  4. Jay Menon said on 13th April 2009, 1:24

    I’m going to vote for Jean Todt. Jackie Stewart a close second. But I somehow feel that Jackie may not be that interested, he seems to be enjoying life right now and wouldn’t need all the extra resposibility and pressure.

    Gerhard Berger would be interesting as well, might be a breath of fresh air into the upper tiers of the FIA.

  5. phil c said on 13th April 2009, 1:39

    why does f1 need bernie or the FIA for that matter? I read an interesting article regarding the money in f1 and who gets the fare share and it seems to me the poeple who create the show are getting screwed. If the teams walk away tommorrow, as they can as there is no official agreement F1 is dead. The FIA have done good things for f1 but there interference in the sport has ruined the spectacle. I think the teams should tell FIA and Bernie it bugger off. It isn’t that difficult to run a series such as f1. It is no different to other sporting spectacles in the world. At the moment there is nothing stopping the teams racing at any track in the world if they choose to. If they all agree they can decide to race in barcelona or monza next week. Collect all the revenue and make a huge profit. They then control there own destiny. The reality is the FIA is dead in the water without f1. I hope the teams **** bernie and the FIA off and put a show on themselves.

  6. JohnBt said on 13th April 2009, 3:39

    Max and Bernie should be out by now. Don’t need to spell out the problems.
    FOTA should take over and a new president for FIA, no one is indispensable.
    50% goes to Bernie and the other 50% to all the dedicated participants in F1 from the drivers, team managers and the rest. What a rip off. No wonder there’s a crisis. How long are they going to “CHEAT”.

  7. Patrickl said on 13th April 2009, 10:23

    They should take F1 out of the claws of the FIA. It’s completely illogical for a racing championship to be under direct control of FIA. Why not let the teams run their own circus. For instance, the way DTM does it.

    After they fix that problem I don’t care who leads FIA. it could be any lawyer, politician or businessman for all I care.

  8. Keith
    Another valuable topic.
    So how did we get into this situation and why did our high hopes come to nothing.

    Max Mosley replaced J-P Balestre with the enthusiastic support of the racing public who where tired of the Presidents autocratic behaviour. Stopping a practice session to land his helicopter on circuit was probably the least of his foolish acts.

    We expected this lawyer with some street cred in the UK racing scene to put rational structures in place and a referee system in which we would have confidence. Bemused by the position of FISA Vice President Bernie who appeared to have some form of quasi ownership of TV rights we nevertheless expected the pair to work in harmony to create a superb racing system.

    However, the lawyer has tinkered with the engineering rather than put the referee structure to rights, sold off the commercial rights for too long a period and autocracy continues.

  9. Formula 1 is only about 15% of Mosley’s workload. The FIA is not and never was solely concerned with F1. As other commenters have pointed out, the FIA is massively involved in virtually all aspects of motor sport and motor development. And that, in essence, is the cause of all the current problems.

    When Bernie/Max first got together all those years ago to create a world conquering sport, they could never have realised the sheer scale of the huge industry that is F1 today. F1 is simply too big to operate under the FIA system as it currently exists And though, like others, I firmly believe that both of them are long past their sell-buy dates, we would all be doing a great deal of harm to the sport of F1 we love if we replaced either Mosley or Ecclestone ( but particularly Mosley ) with a shallow, inadequate, famous face who was simply not up to the job.

    So, again as others have suggested, FOTA should divorce itself from direct association with the FIA, appoint it’s own president and senior committee and deal with the FIA at arms length. Doing that would also have the happy effect of severly restricting Ecclestone’s powers too !

    • F1Yankee said on 14th April 2009, 0:31

      i’m not aware of any international sports or any motorsports where the teams are also the sanctioning body. i think the teams should control the commercial rights of f1 (working for themselves instead of contract employees of cvc) but the competition should be governed by another party. the fia is the only viable party to do that.

  10. Alan P said on 13th April 2009, 16:13

    What? Bernie, the legend in his own mind, make a mistake? Surely not?

  11. matt said on 13th April 2009, 18:10

    The caravan club is a member club of the FIA. haha

  12. donwatters said on 13th April 2009, 20:04

    Perhaps it’s time to return F1 to its earlier, less big business days and elect someone clubby like the Earl of March. Enough of this huge focus on dollars and events in Asia and the Middle East. I don’t want to come across as living in the past, but really, wouldn’t it be nice to focus on the Europeon legacy tracks and a more gentlemany approach to the sport?

  13. KingHamilton said on 13th April 2009, 21:15

    why doesnt Keith try to become the president of the FIA?

    He’s got my support! as a fan he knows what the sport needs and what the fans want, just th small matter of persuading everyone else that Keith Collaine is better than everyone else….. :D

    if that fails, Ill have a go :D

  14. DGR-F1 said on 14th April 2009, 8:45

    I like the idea of Nick Craw. Since he is already Max’s deputy, he knows how the system works, and the possibility of being able to unite ACCUS and the FIA under one umbrella would mean a new direction for Motorsport generally – and the possibilty of F1 returning to North America.
    Even if he stood down from ACCUS, he at least would know who to talk to!

  15. I think Mosley will stand for re-election and will win. Last years vote of no confidence shows he has the support.

    I remember from an interview quite a while ago that Mosley said when he did step down it would be an opportunity to change the structure of the FIA so that you had someone whose only responsibility was to be in charges of F1 and then have similar positions for other motorsport series and the President would only be in general charge.

    Personally I think this would be a better structure than the one currently in place.

    While I want rid of Mosley as soon as possible I would be wary of someone put forward by the teams, as I would wonder how independent they were or if they were just a yes man.

    When Mosley does step down I think he will use his influence to make sure his successor is someone he approves of.

    When Red Bull took over Jaguar I remember some people suggested Tony Purnell or David Pitchfork for the job. Ford had brought them in to try to sort Jaguar out and the view was that they were succeeding before Ford decided to pull the plug

    According to this


    Tony Purnell is a technical consultant to the FIA at the moment.

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