FIA President Jean Todt may face a challenge in his bid for re-election to the top job of motorsport’s governing body later this year, with a former key aide of ex-President Max Mosley showing his hand as a possible opposition candidate.
It had been widely expected that Todt would run unopposed in the vote – set to occur between 2-6 December – but a report in Wednesday’s edition of London’s Times newspaper has suggested that the Frenchman’s detractors are trying to persuade the FIA Foundation for the Automobile and Society’s current Director General, David Ward, to run against him.
Ward was part of Todt’s team when the former Ferrari team principal ran a successful campaign three years ago to take over from Mosley, who announced his retirement after twenty years in the top job.
Fifty-six-year-old Ward has plenty of campaigning experience after a six-year stint in British politics as a policy advisor to British Labour Party opposition leader John Smith. Ward was also a racing driver, with previous competition in karting, saloon racers and historic sports cars – he is also a serving member of the Royal Automobile Club.
Post-politics, Ward moved into the European Bureau of the FIA in 1996, assuming responsibility for the FIA’s public policy agenda. In particular, he was responsible for the FIA’s campaigns over road safety, standardised crash testing and emission controls, as well as navigating the FIA through the European Union’s increasingly toughening stance on tobacco advertising, upon which F1 was particularly dependent at the time.
As a close advisor to Mosley, Ward has held his current position in the FIA since 2001, as well as serving as secretary-general on the FIA International Court of Appeal, the body which ruled against Mercedes in the recent ‘Testgate’ hearing.
While he was part of Todt’s camp in the last FIA Presidential election, the pair are rumoured to have had something of a falling out in more recent times.
According to the Times’ report, Ward is considering running against him to encourage greater debate in the FIA, supposedly fearing that an uncontested election will quash debate within the governing body.
The story is hardly confirmation that Ward will definitely campaign, but it seems that he has used the Times to test the waters and establish whether or not there exists support among sections of the FIA for an alternative candidate.
With Formula 1 having made little progress to cement in a new set of commercial rights since the last Concorde Agreement lapsed at the end of last year, the FIA has largely sat on its hands with respect to driving a resolution for the long-term future of the sport.
But with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone’s recent indictment by German prosecutors over alleged bribes paid when the sport’s commercial rights were sold to CVC Capital Partners, the FIA could move to take back the sport’s commercial structure.
So far, Todt has been quiet on the FIA’s position, but the emergence of an opposition candidate – who could well push for major changes in order to credibly different – could appeal to certain segments of the FIA who could be keen for a greater income stream that such a restructure would allow.
That may force Todt into action to claim a more active role in sorting out Formula 1’s commercial rights in order to negate Ward’s potential campaign position.
As ever, there’s always much more to the headline of it being a straightforward election…