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. Regardless of Sir Jackie’s qualifications and age, I don’t think he could run based on his ongoing controversies with Mad Max. If Stewart declared for the job today, Max would run just to have more sport at his expense and keep him from getting the office.

    Whoever gets the job has to be focused on WORLD motorsport and not just F1. And I don’t have a name in mind.

  2. Gman said on 14th April 2009, 19:51

    I very much like the mention of Nick Craw- as an American, I believe his election would be a chance to show the world that there is much more to American motorsport than just NASCAR. He appears to have been rapidly building his power base and could be just the sort of under the radar but just well enough known candidate to win the job. Sir Jackie is a great guy, but I don’t know if he’d be up to the task in his 70s. Berger is someone who has been tipped for a big-time future in motorsport managemnt in the future- he may be the most realistic choice of the names mentioned.

    No matter who the top challenger is, I don’t see Max standing down near the end of the year. He’s almost certainly going to run for re-election, and I can see some of the smaller clubs (who view him as an ally) boosting him to victory, in much the same fashion he won the vote of confidence last season.

  3. Steven Roy said on 14th April 2009, 22:02

    I think you are asking the wrong question Keith. The F1 teams do not need the hassle of finding a candidate that is suitable to all of them let alone one who can get between Max and all the hands in the cookie jar he controls.

    I don’t see why F1 needs the FIA. The FIA is a huge unwieldy unrepresentative organisation that should be dealing with road safety and overseeing sport only nominally. Of course sport used to be the province of FISA but once Max had used the presidency of that office to launch his FIA campaign he decided to wipe out the whole organisation to make sure no-one used it against him.

    F1 should set up its own independent body to run the sport. I am sure people will say that the teams could never agree on how to to that and that they would make a mess of it but the sport is already a mess as a result of the insane decisions by Max and his master Bernie.

    I think the time is right for the F1 teams to take Bernie’s toy off him and let him and his boy Max ruin someone else’s game.

    For the person who doubts Sir Jackie Stewart’s cranial capacity consider this. He was on a Ford plane with senior Ford management who were bitching about the amount of money they were spending in F1 and that they were getting nothing in return despite Schumacher winning a championship with their engine.

    JYS told them that he knew how to solve their problem. A few weeks later he and his son made a presentation to the Ford senior management which resulted in Ford funding the start up of Stewart Grand Prix. In short order the team was up and running and had won a race. Paul Stewart got cancer and JYS was looking for a way out of the team. He convinced Ford to buy the team and brand it as Jaguar and turned a £40 million profit for 5 years work. That to me suggests that he has a good enough grasp of reality to haul the blazers at the FIA into line.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th April 2009, 19:07

      I don’t think the FIA would let them run the sport for themselves, and if they tried to take control of it outside the FIA entirely we’d end up with a CART/IRL split which would do far more damage to the sport than what we see at the moment.

      The only sensible way they can make things better is to work within the structure they’ve got – and find a man they can do business with.

  4. Trey said on 16th April 2009, 1:10

    as long as Max Mosley and Bernie are gone.
    lets get someone who truly understands what sport needs.
    and trust me having a race in like Schinimisahandwa isnt going to boost the sport.
    Go to places with real tracks and real race fans

    and keep the damn FIA out every little decision that has to be made. The teams are capable of making decisions in F1 together. They’re not stupid.
    Max and Bernie… just go somewhere far away.
    Jakie Stewart sound like he’d make a great FIA president

  5. Dave said on 16th April 2009, 14:58

    King Hamilton – How right you are about F***** in the FIA’s pocket. Go back just a few decades and who helped Bernie t owhere he is today? Enzo and co. Well F***** actually.I’d like to se Sir Ron Dennis take the chair along with Jackie Stewart. Also think about who are in the F1 teams and who realy are the Technical guys in F1. Most of the teams have Brits running / Teching the teams apart from F*****.

    Think about it !

  6. Hey there , great article .. I m seriously interested in this topic keep on writing and thank you !

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