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GP Week : Issue 41
On his Todt GP2 Media Service Meet Nicolas Todt: driver manager, team manager and one of the most influential and important men in the Formula 1 paddock. He’s also one of the quietest and most unassuming people in the sport.WILL BUXTONunravels the mystery behind the man with the Midas touch. W hen Felipe Massa was confirmed as a Ferrari F1 driver for the 2006 season, the media widely cried foul. At the time, Ferrari was under the unquestioned control of Jean Todt. His results since taking over the team had seen him granted almost godlike status in Italy. Jean Todt was Ferrari, and, said the press, there was no coincidence that Massa, who was managed by Todt’s own son Nicolas, had got the drive. It was nepotism, they said, on the grandest of scales. But the move proved inspired. Massa found his feet at Ferrari, winning races and growing in stature and confidence with each passing season before finally coming of age in 2008, taking Lewis Hamilton to the very last lap of the season for a championship which was eventually so cruelly wrenched from the Brazilian’s hands. But as Massa continued to grow, so too did the career 30 of his manager. It’s an under- reported fact that Nicolas Todt has played a pivotal role in ensuring that one quarter of the current F1 grid have got to where they are. With his father long since retired, Nicolas now stands alone, on his own two feet and with his own reputation. I’ve known Nicolas for getting on for five years, and yet it was only over the winter that I realised I actually knew very little about him other than the fact he manages two F1 drivers, owns a GP2 team, likes to play squash and has a higher score than me on the “Who’s got the Biggest Brain”game on facebook. Even Wikipedia seems stumped to provide answers… So who is Nicolas Todt, and how has he become such an influential player in Formula 1? Born in 1977 near Paris, Nicolas Todt spent his childhood growing up in France. His parents divorced when he was six, and, with his father spending so much time away racing, Nicolas went to live with his mother. He eventually went to business school in Toulouse, graduating in the late nineties and going to work for a French internet start-up company. “It didn’t do well at the time because there was a big bubble which popped in 2000,”he admits, “so when that ended I decided to set up my own internet company in Paris and we started building some websites for drivers, sponsors, and so on.” The decision to link his business acumen and web- talent with the world of racing made perfect sense for the young Frenchman. “When I was growing up I was very close to my father but I didn’t see him very much because he was always abroad and I was following him through his racing results more than seeing him in Paris,”he says. “So during my whole life from five years old to 20 I used to see him only on some weekends. I came with him to some races, when he was at Peugeot and then at Ferrari. When he joined Ferrari I was 16 and I was more mature and I really enjoyed that world, and then when I started my own company, given that motor racing was my passion, I wanted to combine my work and my passion. That’s how it all started.” It was in 2003 however that a chance meeting would change his life forever. “In 2003 I had the opportunity to meet Felipe [Massa]. At that time his contract had not been renewed by Sauber, he was a Ferrari test driver and we became very good friends very quickly and then one day he came to ask me for some help because he seemed unhappy with his management. I was not much older than him but he said ‘OK, I need somebody to help me, you are young but you have been in this business for many years, you have some good contacts, can you help me?’” The rest, as they say,