The political stratagems and monkey-business that coloured the 2009 FIA Presidential Elections bore little consequence on the four years that followed – suffice to say that (then Presidential challenger) Ari Vatanen’s pushes for greater transparency and cohesion were more than honoured by his successful challenger, Jean Todt. In the lead-up to the December Presidential elections, Todt now faces (if the current President decides to run again) a more politically adroit adversary in the form of former FIA Foundation director David Ward, but the jury is still out on how far apart the two men’s ideals lie.
Since the beginning of Todt’s presidency, the FIA has exercised commendable foresight in promoting viable motoring via its mobility branch; not least the promotion of global road-awareness working with the United Nations on the Decade of Action for Road Safety. This in itself has seen an increase of motoring clubs and a heightened influence of motorsport on an international platform. During the Australian Grand Prix, Todt chose to speak at an RACV club function during Free Practice – recognizing the importance of motorsport’s wider relevance. The 2014 F1 engine regulation change and the establishment of Formula E will also both go on record as examples of this grand design.
However, one cannot refute David Ward’s contribution to all this. Although recently standing down from his position as FIA Foundation Director to stand against Todt (although the incumbent’s willingness to run again is yet to be decided), Ward’s role in the FIA Foundation’s campaign for Road Safety is unquestionable.
Also beyond question was Ward’s efforts in helping Jean Todt develop his candidacy policy agenda and providing advice to his 2009 Presidency campaign against then rival Ari Vatanen. Reports that Ward had been lobbying for Todt during his spare time – and petitioning clubs to help boost support – were never completely substantiated, but do go some way towards illustrating the Briton’s acute political dexterity.
As such, Ward confirmation this week that he was indeed standing against Todt was met with some scepticism. Ward was adamant however, that he was merely entering the ring to generate ‘debate’ about how the FIA should be run. Ward’s former ties to Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone (most notably during the 1997 Labour donations scandal) have left some institutions apprehensive. Intriguingly, Ward’s push has come at a time when Michelin has been mooted for a return to Formula One (having already being announced as Formula E’s tyre supplier); a move that Bernie Ecclestone is vigorously opposed to.
In addition, print journalists (including online media) currently obtain free-of-charge accreditation via the FIA, and in-turn, a free press. However, Concorde negotiations have seen Ecclestone want to change this to fall in-line with current remunerated rights holdings – such as television and radio. Some believe a vote for Ward would see this as a free ticket for Ecclestone to run rampant, although Ward’s supporters insist that he is a free-thinker. It may be worth noting the same people donning doomsday placards were the expressing a similar line when Todt first came into power.
In 2009, Ari Vatanen was out-gunned in club petitioning and cabinet support, although Ward should have no such dramas. He may even be able to build on the strong foundations laid by Todt during his tenure as President. However as I write, rumours abound that another candidate – in the form of an international automotive executive – has considered throwing his fedora into the colosseum.
The vote for the new Presidenct will be held at the General Assembly in Paris on December 9th.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic and the FIA Foundation.