On October 23, 2009, former Scuderia Ferrari CEO and Ferrari F1 team principal Jean Todt was elected President of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) for a four-year term by the FIA General Assembly at its annual meeting in Paris, France.
The FIA is a non-profit organization that oversees International events with sporting regulations and safety issues. Todt will replace Max Mosley who announced his retirement this year. Mosley was elected president of the FIA in 1993.
The 63-year old Frenchman received 135 votes in favor of his candidacy, while Finnish rival Ari Vatanen had 49 votes, and 12 votes were ruled as invalid or abstentions. Representatives of 132 countries were present today at the FIA headquarters to cast their vote. Prior to the meeting both candidates again had a chance to give their final presentation before the assembly. Today's voting was a secret ballot, and the voting procedure was overseen by the FIA legal department and a Huissier de Justice (French state-appointed public witness) to insure a fair and valid voting.
The FIA also confirmed the election of the other candidates on Todt's list:
President of the Senate: Nick Craw, President, Automobile Competition Committee for the US (USA)
Deputy President Automobile Mobility & Tourism: Brian Gibbons, Chief Executive, New Zealand Automobile Association (New Zealand)
Deputy President Sport: Graham Stoker, Council Chairman, Motor Sports Association (UK)
Todt's campaign was heavily supported by the outgoing president Mosley, who used all of his powers, and more, to see that Todt would be elected as his successor. Opposing candidate Vatanen promised to reform the FIA, and although many people were hoping for a different outcome, the FIA members themselves evidently thought different and elected Todt to preside over their organization for the next four years.
Vatanen has heavily criticized the modus operandi of Mosley, and accused him of intimidation and bribery. Leaked emails from senior figures within the FIA suggested that they have been lobbying on behalf of Todt. With this in mind it is possible Vatanen will take his case to court, questioning the legality of Mosley's endorsement of candidate Todt.
The two candidates post election statements:
Todt, the new FIA President: "I am relieved, because it was a very trying experience, I am very happy to see that so many countries around the world supported my candidature. A lot is yet to be done, in cooperation with all the clubs, to unify the FIA; the day the election is over, everybody - including those who did not support me - must share the same goals. I am not closing the door to anybody."
Defeated candidate Vatanen: "I did not expect that such a vast majority would vote for Jean Todt, I thought that more people would vote for me but apparently the delegates felt the pressure. It's very hard to renew this regime, I hope that the FIA will become more democratic but so far it is just wishful thinking."
FOTA: (Formula One Teams Association) Although the FOTA have expressed their concerns about his loyalty and impartiality in the past, they welcomed his appointment as FIA president.
Chairman Luca di Montezemolo: "I would like to send my best wishes to Jean Todt in his new role, as I have always appreciated his ability, dedication and commitment. I am sure that, under his guidance, the Federation will be rejuvenated and will restore a climate open to dialogue and constructive collaboration with the teams and FOTA, thus ensuring stability of the regulations and the whole environment".
Vice Chairman John Howett: "I extend my best wishes to Jean Todt as he takes on this demanding but crucial role. I am convinced that Jean Todt's presidency represents an opportunity for all Formula One's stakeholders to unite under his leadership and work together to strengthen our sport. FOTA is looking forward to supporting him to broaden the appeal of our sport among fans and sponsors while respecting Formula One's great heritage to which he has contributed enormously."
A few reactions:
Michael Schumacher: "I was in Paris today and experienced closely how clear Jean won the election for the FIA-presidency. The right man has won. I really believe that with his team-orientated leading style he will bring fresh air which will do the FIA good. He is facing a great challenge now but I have not seen any challenge yet which he was not up to. My congratulations to him!"
Will Todt head the beginning of a new era?
The election of Todt could mean a whole new beginning for the motorsports' governing body and a new beginning for Formula One and other International championships including World Rally, Formula Two, the FIA GT series' and World Touring Car. The relations between FIA, Formula One Management (FOM) and FOTA have been heavily tested during the leadership of Mosley, the general consensus was that the FIA was becoming increasingly more autocratic, and the organization had lost a lot of its credibility during the Renault crash-gate scandal.
Todt had announced in his campaign that he would propose a system of Championship Commissioners, who will represent the FIA in all regulatory and commercial issues relating to the championship, and they will report to the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) and relevant sporting commissions. "I want to nominate commissioners because I am not intending to run Formula One as a first person," Todt said today. "I don't want to underestimate the problems but success in my career has always been to have the right people in my teams."
This will be one of the key points during his 4-year presidency and is of paramount importance regarding the functioning of the FIA and their relations with Formula One and other championship series.
However, until as we know the names of the Championship Commissioners and what their duties exactly will be, it is impossible to tell whether today's election will bring progress, or will simply confirm a status quo regarding the functioning of the FIA and their implementation of the Sporting Regulations. Installing Championship Commissions could also mean an increase in the bureaucracy within the FIA organization, and that could be a disaster.
The freshly elected president also has the important and daunting task to negotiate a new Concorde Agreement, an agreement between FIA, FOTA, FOM and Capital Partners (CVC), which is vital for the survival of Formula One. Only time will tell if today's selected president will succeed in doing so.