Todt as next FIA President a Sure Thing!


16th July 2009 – Today, and to no surprise in the world of Formula 1, former Ferrari head honcho Jean Todt, 63, has announced he will be standing for presidency of the FIA when Max Mosley stands down in October.  He will be up against former world rally champ Ari Vatanen, but it is almost a foregone conclusion that Jean will be the next FIA President. This is not to any detriment of Vatanen, but Todt’s credentials, political acumen and recent movements show that he has positioned himself perfectly to take over the helm from Mosley later in the year.

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The way Todt transformed the fortunes of Ferrari was hugely impressive as he not only secured the services of such talents such as Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne, but perhaps more significantly he really galvanised what was an almost pitiful and not very successful group of individuals into a consistently winning and high performing team and his legacy still continues. In the last 10 years, Ferrari has won the Constructors’ World Championship an astonishing 8 times. This is no fluke.

Ferrari is not an easy team to be involved with at the best of times as it has such motor racing pedigree and heritage that there is such an expectation that anything less than winning is simply not good enough. Most teams would probably say this applies to them too, but Ferrari is simply in another league in this regard. With the massive investment and financial resources made available to the team comes enormous expectation, endless scrutiny and the level of politics that only Italy can provide. Jean Todt has not only survived but excelled in this environment and he has done it in it in a remarkably understated way that contradicts the classic stereotypical French and Italian manner. Those familiar with F1 will know that he always appeared so calm and in control and when confronted with the most poisonous of media questioning he handles it with aplomb, so measured and unflappable.

Todt had been rumoured to take Mosley’s place as far back as 2004 and to keep his services Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo promoted him from F1 Team Principal to CEO of Ferrari’s entire operation including normal car production as well as the racing team. Stefano Domenicali took over as Ferrari Team Principal and he remained as CEO until he resigned in March this year, leaving Ferrari completely. This makes him ideally placed to make a bid for the FIA Presidency and Max Mosley has commented that he feels Todt would make an excellent FIA President and, of course, Italy and Ferrari will have his total support.

Todt comes across as quiet and unassuming and one suspects he is unlikely to bring the scandal that Max Mosley unfortunately generated in his tenure, but this is not to say the Frenchman is without any controversy or tabloid excitement. He is engaged to the beautiful and talented actress Michelle Yeoh but it has hardly been a big story.  However, last month he had been accused of taking a payment from the Malaysian government to promote tourism, something that Todt strongly denies and insists he is a tourism Ambassador and this is purely a voluntary role. Again, this is not really a big story but some may try to make more it given his declaration to become FIA President.

Max Mosley is in a great position to judge appropriate candidates and he is clearly convinced. “I believe the right person to head that team would be Jean Todt,” he added. “Jean is unquestionably the outstanding motor sport manager of his generation and arguably of any generation.” Can you think of someone better suited?

Jean Todt will be the next FIA President.

Jake McMillan

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7 responses to “Todt as next FIA President a Sure Thing!

  1. Pingback: F1 links: More leg surgery for Wegger | F1 Fanatic - The Formula 1 Blog | F1 video | F1 pictures | F1 news | Lewis Hamilton | Fernando Alonso

  2. You seem to be blissfully unaware of Todt’s reputation in the paddock. He is reviled by all, from the teams to the press. I think you do your readers a disservice by not painting the full picture. Jean Todt was a political pawn, a functionalry. Sure, he got the job done, but it was not due to any great love of the sport or a vision of the greater good. He is not his own man, he is a “company” man, and as such will be a puppet of Mr. Mosley, exactly as is planned.

    As for being a company man, there was no love or loyalty there. Jean Todt wasn’t so much promoted as set aside so that Luca Di could run things his way, including getting rid of Schumacher and hiring Kimi.

    As for “quite and in control”? Have you never seen his bandaged fingers, to keep him from biting his nails to the flesh?

  3. I’d like to respond to Arnet’s comments above who makes some valid points regarding Todt’s popularity, particularly within the paddock. He is certainly not loved by other F1 teams, but this is partly due to the perceived unfair preference that Ferrari seems to receive and not just Todt himself.

    You are very much entitled to your opinion of his contribution to Ferrari’s impressive achievements, but in my assessment to label him simply as a ‘political pawn’ and a ‘functionalry’ hugely belittles Todt’s role as Team Principal. Winning teams have to have good leadership and he was Ferrari’s leader on a day to day, frontline basis.

    However, I think we at least agree on the point of the article which is that Todt will be the next FIA President. Whether he will be a puppet or not is something I hope will be of future discussion 🙂

    • Todt was great at hiring the right people, but that doesn’t make him a team builder like Ron Dennis or Frank Williams. He was a manager who was far too in the FIA’s pocket.

      Also, his unpopularity goes beyond any anti-Ferrari biases. He is disliked up and down the pitlane for his unfriendly and abrasive manner and for elevating cheating to a new level, hardly qualities one would desire in an impartial President. Anyone who has followed F1 for more than a few years can see that this is a game being played out by Max Mosley, who really shouldn’t be endorsing any candidate using the FIA letterhead.

      I’m afraid that Ari Vatanen is absolutely right and I’ll leave it to negativecamber to explain why:

      http://www.formula1blog.com/2009/07/22/fia-foundation-rebukes-vatanen-f1-formula1/

      • It is clear we are in disagreement on Todt’s contribution at Ferrari as I believe he was a team builder and made Ferrari into a massively successful team. In any case, this is getting away from the point of the article about whether he will be the next FIA President, which of course he will be.

        You rightly allude to the influence of Max Mosley and this all does seem very much to be one of his control games. Negativecamber’s article makes some interesting points and regardless of whether Vatanen is right, he won’t become FIA President making such open criticisms and will need to demonstrate more politicking ability than that.

  4. Oops! Mr Vatanen has not done himself any favours with his recent comments, ““At the expense of the FIA Foundation, Jean [Todt] goes with a private plane with his girlfriend, supposedly as a FIA representative, to various parts of the world, sometimes he has gone to Asia, sometimes to Canada, sometimes to Buenos Aires, whatever. In fact, he is doing a campaign totally supported and paid by the FIA”

    See the full letter of rebuke by FIA Foundation Chairman, Carlos Macaya, to Mr Vatanen: http://www.fiafoundation.org/news/archive/2009/Pages/LetterfromtheChairmanoftheFIAFoundationtoMrAriVatanen.aspx

  5. Read the latest viewpoint on ‘The Great Todt Conspiracy’ here: https://f1banter.wordpress.com/

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