FIA Presidential elections, a guide for dummies
On Friday October 23 the members of the F?d?ration Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) will elect a new president, as current 69-year old president Max Mosley will step down after a reign of 16 years. A list of candidates for president could be submitted from September 11 to October 2, but only two candidates, Frenchman Jean Todt and Finn Ari Vatanen, have taken up the challenge to run for the FIA presidency.
Mosley has been under fire during the last two years: he has been accused of favoritism and egotism, and was labeled an autocrat by his adversaries. He was also accused of trying to get rid of the car manufacturers in Formula One, and his personality has clashed multiple times with the personalities of FOTA members Luca di Montezemolo and Flavio Briatore. The FIA and FOTA have recently been involved in a bitter row over budgetary and technical changes for the 2010 season, which almost led to a break-away series.
The costs of operating a Formula One team have spiraled out of control during his sixteen-year reign and when Mosley came up with his plans to reduce the costs of Formula One and bring them back to the level of the early nineties, he was in fact about ten years too late. The resignation of Mosley is believed to be part of the agreement between FIA, FOTA, FOM and CVC signed three months ago in Paris.
The FIA organization, not just for motorsports and Formula One
The FIA is not only the governing body for motorsport, but is also a federation of the world's leading motoring organizations. The FIA is active on many fronts like road safety, environmental protection and sustainable mobility, and funds specialist motorsport safety research. The FIA is also the home of the International Court of Appeal, the final appeal tribunal for international motorsport. We are going to take a look at both candidates campaigns from a motorsports' point of view.
The cabinet system
The cabinet system was introduced in 2005 by Mosley, just before he was elected president for another four years. With this system a candidate must have the support of 22 FIA members, but no candidate can stand on more than one presidential list. Both candidates have to submit a list with the names of all 22 members of their cabinet. The result of this is that a candidate favored by the current president or by the current FIA members, will find it easy to get the support of the most important and influential members, while an independent candidate (an outsider if you like) will have to accept support from members who are not as important and influential as the members already on the list of the opposing candidate.
In plain English: this system makes it more difficult for independent candidates to get enough support to win the elections. Max Mosley is still afraid the FIA will be taken over by 'outsiders', an illusion that has taken possession of his mind after the clashes he had with the FOTA, who fiercely opposed his ideas about his proposed budget rules earlier this year.
Jean Todt was born in 1946 in Pierrefort in France. Todt began his career in motorsports taking various positions and driving roles on rally teams. Todt joined the Peugeot Talbot Sport Rally Team as a co-driver and remained with the team until he retired in 1981 when he stepped away from the rally competition. Todt moved to the Ferrari F1 team, and together with Luca di Montezemolo, Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne he was responsible for the huge successes Ferrari and Schumacher enjoyed from 1997 until 2006.
Jean Todt's Team: Jean Todt (President), Nick Craw (President of the Senate), Brian Gibbons (Deputy President Mobility), Graham Stoker (Deputy President Sport) and Mohammed Ben Sulayem (Vice-president).
Jean Todt's Campaign
With the campaign title: 'Innovation, Excellence and Teamwork' Todt's intention is to continue the 'outstanding' work of Mosley, and it is therefore no surprise he has the backing of leading figures within the FIA, Bernie Ecclestone and F1 drivers Schumacher and Massa. Most notably in his campaign is the introduction of a commissioner for each FIA world championship. A few points from his campaign:
Championship commissioners: "We will proposes a system of Championship Commissioners, who will represent the FIA in all regulatory and commercial issues relating to the championship, reporting to the World Council and relevant sporting commissions. A system of Commissioners will reduce the need for the FIA President himself to become directly involved in any particular championship and will give more time to the President to concentrate on the strategic management of the FIA."
Stewards Review Group: "We will establish a Stewards Review Group to examine improvements to the stewarding system of the FIA's major championships, and also to explore the development of stewards training courses to encourage their professional development. We will establish a separate Disciplinary Panel to carry out investigations, hold hearings and recommend possible penalties. We will also examine the need for further reform of the FIA International Court of Appeal."
Affordability of motorsport: "To reduce costs the FIA should encourage target setting for cost reduction in all the major championships, rules stability, standardization of components, reduced overheads, and simplified logistics. We will also review the FIA internal budget, and where possible seek to reduce the cost for organizers by reviewing the structure of calendar fees."
Commitment to team work: "The FIA works best when it works together. We need a Federation that works as a team with the President, his Deputies, and the World Councils engaged with our clubs, their membership and their vital volunteers. Teamwork, which has been the hallmark of my management style for the last 28 years, requires a strong commitment to communication, delegation and transparency among our clubs and stakeholders."
Vatanen was born in 1952 in the small town of Tuupovaara in eastern Finland. His first appearance in the World Rally Championship was at the 1000 Lakes Rally in 1974. He won the event held in Finland. He recorded his last victory at the Swedish Rally in 1985. Vatanen won the WRC drivers title in 1981 and the Paris Dakar Rally four times. His last competitive appearance was at the Nestle Oil Rally in Finland in 2003. He is also a member of the European Parliament.
Ari Vatanen's Team: Ari Vatanen (President), Fernando Falco y Fernandez de Cordova (President of the Senate), Bernard Tay (Deputy President Mobility), Bernard Tay (Deputy President Sport) and HRH Prince Feisal of Jordan (Vice-president).
Ari Vatanen's campaign:
With the campaign title: 'Together we can' Vatanen has promised to address issues of governance and transparency which have plagued the FIA in recent years, and has the backing of F1 teams, drivers and manufacturers. Serious changes are needed and Vatanen says he is prepared to fight in order to make these changes possible. A few points from his campaign:
Improve operational efficiency: "Much of the FIA's revenue comes from sports, the dues and fees they charge clubs and teams are, in some cases, quite burdensome. We will review our activities to ensure that we are conducting our business in a cost effective way and that we have competent managers in all key positions."
Motorsport governance: "The FIA needs transparency to govern the sport and establish the rules. In order to achieve this, we must ensure that the entire justice system of the FIA is above any doubts regarding its independence. The way FIA stewards have acted in the past was not acceptable, F1 needs more consistency regarding the decisions made by the stewards. To be more effective in governing the sport, we must actively seek for ways to make the organizational structure leaner and establish a more hands-on approach where possible. The FIA must also understand the competitors need for reasonable stability of the rules."
Develop motorsports: "The FIA must redouble their efforts to make F1, rallying and other championships more attractive, and pay special attention to the countries where the sport is still in its early stages. The FIA must continue to constantly develop new automotive technologies and integrate and promote them through motorsport. We must start working on the next F1 Concorde agreement which is hopefully 10 years long. Our aim is to give the teams and manufactures a transparent and fair platform to exercise their sport and is sure teams will commit to a long term contract if it gives them the possibility to increase their business value."
Improve relationships in motorsport: "We will seek to maintain and improve the image of the FIA and its key relationships. Rule changes in F1 without consulting the FOTA or GPDA, as we have seen this year, are simply not acceptable. Decisions should be made together with all stakeholders, and when we do that, we can lift F1 to entirely new heights. In order to achieve this we all have to sit around the table and listen to one another. FIA should be the force to unite all partners."
Election Guide: Q&A
Which FIA members can vote?
All full members who have paid their annual dues are eligible to vote at the FIA General Assembly. Each of the 132 countries where the FIA is represented have a maximum two votes, one for mobility and one for sport. In countries where there is one club covering mobility and sport, that club will have two votes. Countries which have only either sport or mobility competence will have one vote.
Who oversees the election process?
The election is conducted by secret ballot with votes counted by the FIA's legal department overseen by nominated observers from the FIA's General Assembly. The FIA has also retained a public official (a Huissier de Justice) to supervise the electoral process. The winner of the election is the candidate with either an absolute majority in a first round of voting or a simple majority from the top two lists which would be put through to a second round.
Who are on the list with candidates?
The candidates have to submit a list with not only the name of the candidate President, but must also include the names of the candidates nominated for senior positions in the FIA. These are: a Deputy President and seven vice-presidents for Sport; a Deputy President and seven vice- presidents for Automobile, Mobility and Tourism; and the President and five members of the FIA Senate.
What can candidates do to get support for their campaign?
Once the candidates have submitted their list with their nominated candidates to the FIA, they only thing they can do is to lobby to get support from FIA members. Both Todt and Vatanen have traveled the world to seek support for their campaign and have met with representatives of Asian, African, American and European automobile clubs. They have met with the GPDA and FOTA to explain their plans for Formula One, and have bombarded the media with all kinds of press releases and comments about their campaign.
When will the name of the new president be announced?
The election will take place at the FIA General Assembly in Paris on October 23, 2009, and the new President will preside the meeting of the General Assembly as soon as his name is known. His name and the names of the Vice-presidents will be published on the FIA website immediately after the meeting of the General Assembly.
Is it fair Mosley uses his current position to promote Jean Todt?
In 'normal' politics it is standard practice that a president of a party is involved in promoting his successor, but Max Mosley has given a whole new meaning to the word 'endorsement'.
Mosley has aggressively supported Todt during the last few weeks, and there have been many exchanges of hostility by both candidates. In a letter to HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein, the Jordan Motorsport chairman and one of Vatanen's nominations for vice-president, Mosley wrote: "Those who vote for Vatanen in next month's election, can expect to be marginalized under Jean Todt". Feisal was rightfully outraged and responded: "Voting should be done with your heart and conscience, and not out of fear and intimidation."
It is of course a disgrace that Mosley sends such letters around the world, and this proves exactly why the FIA needs a good clean-up. Recently leaked emails also show that senior figures within the FIA are lobbying on behalf of Todt. And I'm even more surprised Todt accepts this kind of 'endorsement' from Mosley, unless of course he wants to head in the same direction as his predecessor...
Some final thoughts
The recent Crash-gate scandal, and the way current FIA president Max Mosley has dealt with this and similar scandals in the past, combined with his inability to respectfully communicate and work together with the FOTA members (remember the loonies?), and his relentless efforts to get Jean Todt elected as his successor could very well tip the balance in favor of candidate president Ari Vatanen, who has promised to reform the FIA.
The FIA and the WMSC again lost a lot of their credibility by letting Renault off the hook by handing them a suspended race ban, and ban Flavio Briatore for life, and Pat Symonds for 5 years, while young Nelson Piquet was granted immunity. In fact, the WMSC showed us that the commercial interests of Renault and Formula One were more important to them than the sporting values of that very same Formula One. It is clear that the FIA is heading in the wrong direction, scandals, negative publicity and inconsistent governing of the sport are the order of the day.
Hopefully the FIA members themselves will understand changes are needed to reform the FIA organization. If they fail to acknowledge this and follow the 'guidance and advice' of current president Max Mosley, the FIA will lose even more of its credibility, and we will be stuck with a freshly elected president who's only objective is to continue the policy of the current FIA president. The FIA members will find themselves at an important crossroad on October 23, should they continue in the same direction, or change course for a better future?