Q&A with FIA Presidential candidate Jean Todt 14 Aug 2009
This October Formula One racings governing body, the FIA, will elect a new President, as Max Mosley steps down after 16 years in the post. The two men running for election are former world rally champion Ari Vatanen and ex-Ferrari team boss Jean Todt. Here Todt discusses his campaign
Q: Why do you want to be FIA President?
Jean Todt: Throughout my career, as a competitor, manager, team principal and chief executive I have enjoyed success in an intensely competitive environment. Ive worked with incredibly talented and dedicated people, teams and organisations with great passion, pride and commitment. Now working closely with my candidacy team, I want to bring all the experience I have gained throughout my career and apply it for the benefit of the FIA and its membership.
In the last few weeks I have found it inspirational working with my team, Nick Craw, Brian Gibbons and Graham Stoker. Together we have developed a policy agenda for the FIA which we all think is exciting and offers a new vision of how the FIA should develop in the years ahead. Im very hopeful that we will be given the chance to implement what we have proposed. It is quite humbling to think that we could be given the opportunity to help shape the future of the FIA in this way.
I have been very fortunate in my career to have enjoyed considerable success in motor sport. Like so many others in our sport I have benefited from the hard work of previous leaders of the FIA in creating a global platform on which to compete. I feel that for me the time is now right to give something back to the sport and the FIAs clubs that have given me so much.
Q: What values characterise your election team and if elected would characterise your Presidency?
JT: Above all teamwork, which has been the hallmark of my management style for the last 28 years. Together with a commitment to excellence and innovation it will be through teamwork that all the clubs, zones and regions of the FIA will be able to unite around a new vision for our future.
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing motor sport today?
JT: We need to ensure that motor sport is as safe and sustainable - economically and environmentally - as we possibly can. We need to do more to encourage the growth of motor sport in the emerging economies of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The worlds car population will more than double in the next few decades and inevitably this will increase interest in the sport. That is why we must also ensure that motor sport is more accessible both for competitors and officials at every level with clear programmes for training and best practice, clear pathways for competition and improvement.
Ensuring the environmental relevance and sustainability of motor sport will not only act to safeguard our sport from those who would criticise it but, more significantly, it will allow the sport to become a catalyst for technological change which can have great social relevance worldwide. From an engineering and technical perspective and from a marketing and promotional perspective, motor sport can pioneer green technologies of immense benefit to the motoring public. We have only just started to do this but with the understanding and support of all the stakeholders so much more can be achieved.
We all know how dangerous motor sport can be. Like millions of Formula One fans I watched Felipes accident on television at home. Its only human to fear the worst in those situations. The FIAs safety and medical systems worked well and Im sure that the helmet design developed by the FIA and the FIA Institutes experts saved Felipes life. His accident came only days after the tragic incident involving Henry Surtees. I can only echo the comments made by John Surtees after the loss of his son, we must constantly review our approach to safety, learn from every incident and apply that knowledge systematically to improving standards.
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing the motorist and motoring clubs today?
JT: In a very difficult economic environment we must redouble our effort to make motoring as safe, clean and affordable as possible. That is the Mobility for all agenda that FIA clubs want to promote. Working together the clubs have achieved a great deal already, for example, contributing enormously to the success of the Make Roads Safe and Make Cars Green campaigns.
At the same time the FIA can help grow its club network, increase their membership levels, and exchange best practice in consumer protection and tourism services. Our teams candidate Deputy President for Mobility, Brian Gibbons of the New Zealand AA leads one of the most commercially successful motoring clubs in the world and I am convinced he has the experience we need to fully realize the benefits of the FIAs merger the Alliance International de Tourisme.
Q: Your opponent has proposed to change the FIA voting system to give more votes to the biggest clubs with the largest membership. Do you think the voting system of the FIA should be changed in this way?
JT: I dont agree with this idea at all. It would concentrate power and decision-making in the FIA in the hands of a just a few mobility clubs that have large memberships simply because they happen to exist in countries with large populations. That would be unfair and undemocratic.
The FIA is the equivalent of the United Nations for global motor sport and mobility. Like the UN every member of the FIA has the right to vote, irrespective of their size. I am committed to this fundamental principle because it ensures that the democratic rights of all our clubs, big or small, are equally balanced.
Quite rightly an FIA presidential candidate can only be successful if he and his team appeal to a broad range of the FIA membership, large or small, motoring or motor sport.
Q: There has been some criticism of Max Mosleys endorsement of your candidacy. Whats your view about this?
JT: Like everyone in the FIA Max should be entitled to his opinion. Im very honoured by his comments but Max knows, as I do, that the full membership and only the full membership of the FIA will decide who the next President of the FIA will be. Max has made a fantastic contribution during his years as President and if elected I will respect his legacy but I will also bring some crucial changes to the FIA.
I am more of a manager than a politician, and my defining characteristic is to encourage and ensure teamwork. That is what I have tried to do throughout my career and it has been the reason for the success that I have achieved in a number of motor sport disciplines. The FIA is a highly complex organisation and I think my management experience and skills will offer something new and unique to the FIAs membership.
Q: If elected what changes will you bring to the FIA both in terms of its culture and governance?
JT: I would like to give a stronger regional focus to the FIAs work promoting both motor sport and mobility. We can do much more to strengthen the regions and zones that usually deal with the issues that matter most to clubs. I also want to encourage closer co-operation between the mobility and motor sport pillars of the FIA. Many of our clubs are active in both and we can encourage synergies between the two.
In our policy agenda, my leadership team has made some important proposals regarding governance in the sport, creating Championship Commissioners, a new disciplinary body and a review of our system of stewards. Some of these proposals will require amendment to the FIAs statutes and the International Sporting Code. So we must take this opportunity of change in the FIAs rules to review our entire governance system to make sure that our structures are fully representative, for example, of all world regions.
We will conduct a detailed consultation with our membership and once this process of review and consultation has been completed we will present our recommendations for change to the Worlds Councils and the General Assembly.
Q: The FIA is sometimes criticised for concentrating too much on Formula One. Do you agree with this criticism?
JT: As the most commercially successful, technically challenging and highly visible of all the FIAs world championships, its inevitable that the FIAs governance role is often identified most closely with that of Formula One.
If you take a moment to look beyond the newspaper and television headlines its hard not to be impressed by the prodigious non F1 related work championed by the FIA. It encompasses rallying, touring cars, GTs, karting, historics, and so on. It works on mobility issues acting as the voice of the motorist and supports global public policy campaigns, award winning safety, medical and environmental research, and grass roots grant making initiatives, education and consumer programmes, with its sister organisations the FIA Foundation and the FIA Institute the achievements are numerous.
As a trustee of the FIA Foundation I have been very fortunate to be personally involved in some of this activity, I am also immensely proud of my partner Michelle who has for two years taken a leading role as an Ambassador for the Make Roads Safe campaign.
In the future I hope to encourage an even greater involvement from the motor sport community in the work of the FIA, Foundation and Institute, building on the contributions already made by the likes of Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Pedro de la Rosa, Sebastien Loeb and Alex Wurz.
Q: Some in F1 have questioned whether your recent role at Ferrari would influence your impartiality as FIA President.
JT: Initially some people suggested that I would be Ferraris choice for the Presidency, then the media was that told that Ferrari didnt want me, and the Scuderia responded by saying that they were in fact neutral. Of course, I completely agree with them. They should be neutral as I will be to all the teams if I am elected President.
This is a question of commitment and professionalism. The success I have enjoyed, with every team that I have ever worked with, has been founded upon professionalism and a total commitment to that teams goals. My approach to the FIA is no different. I would not contemplate running for election as President if I could not focus all my professionalism, energy and commitment upon achieving the goals which are in the best interests of the FIA. Acting as the guardian of the FIAs independence is central to this.
Q: You havent attended a Grand Prix since you launched your campaign. Will you be visiting an F1 event before the election?
JT: My first priority has been to identify the right people, the right policies and the right programme for my team. Ive brought a strong leadership group together, weve put a carefully considered programme in place and weve established an excellent dialogue with the FIA membership to refine and develop our policies further.
At a later stage in the campaign it will be important to visit the paddock and the service park but right now our campaign is focused on this vital process of consultation with the membership.
Q: Will you be meeting the teams and drivers?
JT: The GPDA have invited me to meet with them and I am very pleased to accept their invitation. I look forward to the opportunity to talk with them when I visit a forthcoming Grand Prix. Teamwork has been a fundamental characteristic of my achievements in motor sport, it characterises my approach to the current election campaign, and, if successful, it will also characterise my Presidency of the FIA.
Im confident that all drivers, from F1 as well as other motor sport disciplines, will cooperate in this spirit of teamwork and build on the outstanding contributions many of them have already made to the work of the FIA, FIA Institute and FIA Foundation, whether on the track or on the road.