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"Divided" FIA president Jean Todt talks of feelings about Bianchi and Schumacher

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"Divided" FIA president Jean Todt talks of feelings about Bianchi and Schumacher
Oct 19, 2014, 11:00 AM

FIA president Jean Todt is suffering as two drivers with whom he has close links lie in limbo with serious head injuries.

FIA president Jean Todt is suffering as two drivers with whom he has close links lie in limbo with serious head injuries.

Michael Schumacher, with whom Todt won five world drivers' championships at Ferrari, was hurt in a skiing accident almost a year ago and Todt is one of the few non-family members to be allowed access to the inner circle who know precisely what condition the stricken champion is in and is playing an active role in his recovery.

The other, which comes with multiple additional complications for Todt, is Jules Bianchi, who is managed by Todt's son Nicolas and who lies in a hospital bed in Japan two weeks after one of the worst accidents in recent F1 history. Not only does Todt have a personal interest in Bianchi, but also a professional one as the FIA is under pressure to investigate how Bianchi came to hit a heavy tractor during a race and to implement improved safety around dangerous accident recovery situations.

"I have to divide the thing in two: my responsibilities as President of the FIA and my feelings. I see my son devastated by the fact that someone he thinks of like a brother is in this situation," say Todt in an interview with La Gazzetta Sportiva today.

"We should never take anything for granted and never relax on safety," adds Todt. "I was saying it before Jules' accident and I am saying it now. People have seen many years where terrible accidents happened and the driver walked away. They started to think that it is normal for a car to crash at 200km/h and for no-one to get hurt, But it was not normal, it was a miracle. Behind all of that has been an astonishing amount of work. But 100% safety in our sport does not exist"

Jean Todt, Charlie Whiting

Todt talks about of "a sequence of events which led to the accident. With the benefit of hindsight everything may seem simple. But fate can have dramatic consequences. We have explained the incident in detail and I have set up a commission to investigate it further under the chairmanship of Peter Wright. Let's wait for the conclusions before we judge. For the moment I have left the explanation to the Race Director."

The explanations for the accident, given by the FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting in a briefing in Sochi, were accepted by some sections of the media and by fans, but others felt that his complete exoneration of himself from blame left something to be desired. This was particularly true in the Italian media. Todt supported his team in the Sochi briefing and gave them a vote of confidence.

"The world is divided into 200 countries. Each has their own idea," says Todt. "The reaction of the Italian media has been against, but in Germany it is different, the UK too. But as I say, let's wait for the findings of the commission."

Todt says that he has been to visit Schumacher recently. "I saw Michael three days ago. He has an amazing wife and family. The battle goes on. With him it's a friendship, an affection. We suffered a lot together before we started winning that the closeness grew. And in moments of need you see your friends."

Jean Todt, Michael Schumacher

Todt oversaw Ferrari during its most successful period and a final point of note from the Gazzetta Sportiva interview is a warning to new Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne to approach the challenge of turning the Ferrari F1 team around calmly. This week saw the Canadian heaping pressure on the team by saying he wanted to "kick ass quickly" and adding that Ferrari's poor showing in Monza this year "made my blood boil".

Todt says: "What advice would I give? To react calmly and pragmatically. When a setback like Monza happens you need to remember that at that point Alonso was the only driver to have finished every race in the points. Remember what reliability issues we had at the start."

Todt was asked to compare the five year streak with no world title for Fernando Alonso at Ferrari, to the first years of Michael Schumacher from 1996 to 1999,

You can't draw parallels," he says. "The first Ferrari of Michael was much further behind the competition compared to the Ferrari of Alonso today. When I arrived on a scale of 1 to 10 we were at 2. In 2009 they started from a 7."

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