Opinion: Will Jean Todt Continue the Mosley Era as FIA President?

October 23, 2009 Updated: October 24, 2009

SAY GOODBYE TO HOPES FOR CHANGE: Max Mosley's hand-picked successor, former Ferrari CEO Jean Todt, is the new FIA president. (Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images)
SAY GOODBYE TO HOPES FOR CHANGE: Max Mosley's hand-picked successor, former Ferrari CEO Jean Todt, is the new FIA president. (Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images)
So, Max Mosley’s hand-picked successor won an election where all the votes were cast by people Max Mosley spent decades bribing. Not much of a surprise, but still a disappointment.

Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone were the breakaway faction thirty years ago, threatening boycotts, etc., to drive the corrupt and favoritist Jean-Marie Ballestre out of office. Max and Bernie wanted a stronger voice and more revenue-sharing for the teams and constructors. How things do change over time.

This season Mosley almost split F1 in half by insisting on ridiculous, unenforceable, financial rules, while at the same time Ecclestone continued to drive off all the old, historic tracks (and fans) in favor of lining his own pocket with government funds from China and Abu Dhabi. (Look at his Canada GP negotiation: “No GP unless I am tax exempt.” Losing a small fraction of personal income is not acceptable, but cancelling an historic F1 race is, to the Eccletroll.)

People dislike Mosley and Ecclestone because they are hurting F1. Mosley wanted the teams to spend less because the new teams couldn’t afford to race, but decreed in favor of KERS, which costs the teams millions and was then cancelled. Mosley wouldn’t make Bernie give up a fraction of his gigantic cut to increase team payout, but will allowed Bernie to force the races to be run where the team’s’ sponsors have no market.

The uneven quality of race officiating is legendary. Not surprising, as Max Mosley can use race stewardship as a bribe: “Travel to a faraway country on FIA’s dime and officiate a race. It’s easy.”

And look at double diffusers: some teams were told they were illegal, some teams were told they were fine. And the teams that were told to use them, dominated the first half of the season. By halfway, every team had one.

Sadly, all the work of the Overtaking Working Group went right down the tubes with the advent of double diffusers. This kind of unfair and incoherent policy-making does not help the sport.

This season Formula One barely made it through the worst catastrophe the sport has suffered since … Max and Bernie organized boycotts to drive Balestre out of power. Max Mosley nearly killed Formula One.

And Jean Todt is widely seen as Max’s toady. Not much cause for glee. At least Todt is apparently is no longer on good terms with Ferrari, at one time the chief recipient of Max's FIA-funded largesse.

Max Mosley fought to stay in power, said he would step down, reneged, again agreed to step down, tried to renege, and then got his hand-picked successor elected. (Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images)
Max Mosley fought to stay in power, said he would step down, reneged, again agreed to step down, tried to renege, and then got his hand-picked successor elected. (Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images)
Max Mosley remains on the FIA Senate, where he can keep close watch on Todt, and can easily continue to use the influence he has developed over his decades in power. Max is a lawyer and a politician; he knows how to make deals and exercise power.

Fans wanted Ari Vatanen because they were tired of Max buying off the delegates from Sudan, Niger, and Outer Mongolia to get his way in the FIA (much as he bought Todt’s way into the presidency.)

People who have watched F1 suffer for several years under Mosley’s moribund hand, were eager for a serious change. And people who are tired of seeing the historic venues dumped because of Bernie’s enormous greed, are likewise eager for change.

Many F1 fans are tired of dictatorial rulings, under-the-table deals, secret payoffs, and the endless attacks via press releases that make any real negotiations impossible.

If some people think Jean Todt is the best man for the job, great. He certainly deserves to be judged on his actions. But one cannot ignore his provenance.

I think the Mosley era started out well. Max Mosley deserves credit for improving safety after the death of Ayrton Senna. But things went sharply downhill in the past decade. It seems Mosley and Ecclestone have become rigid, selfish, greedy and uncaring about the sport. They were always money- and power-hungry, which is to be expected in the higher levels of any financially, publicly important endeavor. But they seem to have stopped putting the sport first, and seem to have stopped listening to opposing views, or criticism.

When that happens, and the “I am Always right, and anyone who disagrees is the Enemy” mindset takes over, you have Max Mosley telling most of the F1 teams, “Go away and do your own thing, see if I care. Besides, I will sue you if you do.”

I think we have seen all of the Mosley/Ecclestone Show that we can stomach, and unfortunately, Jean Todt is Mosley's hand-picked successor.

F1 fans can only hope that Jean Todt can bring the honesty, integrity, and transparency that were Ari Vatanen’s whole reason for running. I myself will not give up hope until forced by circumstances. But that hope is very, very slim.

The opinions expressed herein are soley those of the author and in no way reflect the views of The Epoch Times. The author can be contacted at james.fish@epochtimes.com.