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GP Week : Issue 57
5 MINUTES WITH ... Ari Vatanen The FIA Presidential hopeful has been a big presence at the last two F1 Grands Prix. He spoke withWILL BUXTON in Hungary. GPWEEK: Ari, thanks for taking the time to speak with GPWeek. Can you let our readers know how the campaign is going? ARI VATANEN: I don’t even try to assess it. All I know is that just like the English saying goes, you can’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched and I can tell you that in this game they won’t hatch before October 23rd. That is for sure. Because it is a secret vote, so all I know is that my sentiments are good and the feedback I get is positive. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It is hard work but I’m, would you believe, enjoying every minute of this. It is a unique opportunity in one’s lifetime, that life brings you into such a position that you suddenly find yourself with such legitimacy that you are involved in such a race, and in a credible position. So what will happen afterwards, at every second of this battle and of your life for that matter is work itself. The end in itself is not what happens on October 23rd. It is that you are proposing something sound, and you are standing with the scrutiny of history and we will see. Not that we are perfect, not that we are angels and not that we are goodies and the others are baddies, not at all. But that with modesty and humility you propose something sound and then you engage yourself and we will see. How different is campaigning for the FIA Presidency to campaigning for election to the European Parliament? Interesting question! How one influences man’s mind and heart and spirit is not an exact science, not at all. Particularly in this kind of race with so much passion involved – this race is happening maybe once every 15 or 20 years, and at the moment it is between two candidates only, but very rarely has there been an underlying sentiment in elections that a new start may happen. This is not just an ordinary election 0 that is repeated every four years, this is a new era. And I have said this many times, for anybody to be in power for 20 years … maybe if I had been in power for 20 years, my tree would need even more trimming than this current FIA tree. Any political tree needs trimming. That doesn’t mean chopping off rotten wood. I’m not saying that. Every tree needs trimming in order to prosper further and so that’s what we are proposing. Obviously a key point to your candidacy is announcing your cabinet. Jean Todt’s announced his. Are you close to announcing yours? I had to come out in the open daylight somewhat early. I had to be the first while there was a vacuum, so I knew there would be a delay between that moment and naming a cabinet. But it won’t be long now. Vicky Chandhok had been mentioned as a Presidential Candidate but he’s now ruled himself out. Would he be somebody you’d like to include in your cabinet? Yes definitely, oh yes, of course. We need to look at the new continents, we have to look at who has been in power up to now and you need to bring in new people. You need to bring people who give a feeling to the members of this incredible family that they have not been neglected, they have not been forgotten again and people obviously need to have fair representation from mobility, sport and the various continents. We cannot just run it or have it dictated by the big countries alone, definitely not. India is big and is a new country. It’s the biggest democracy in the world so they definitely need representation and it’s the same for Africa. Sporting-wise there’s not a lot happening but what about mobilitywise? If you want that continent to come out of poverty and eradicate poverty and misery, it is a fact of life that mobility is one of the key factors in how you build your society. And therefore, the FIA and the road transport can play an enormous role in helping to build Africa. The FIA has to defend road transport to ensure that it is treated on an equal footing and on a level playing field, on the highest political decision making level and that will benefit rich countries but particularly the poorer continents such as Africa, where 50km on the road can take several hours and because of pothole the car can be worn out in two years. How can you have any development without mobility? There are many interesting issues from fixing the potholes in African roads to fixing the potholes in Formula 1. And that’s all part of the FIA challenge, which is fascinating. One final question – the statutes as they stand at present in the FIA make it very difficult to oppose an incumbent President. The current democratic process in the FIA is not as, shall we say, democratic as it could be. Is that something you would wish to amend? It would only make sense. You can only stay in power thanks to the trust of people who have brought you the power. So therefore this long list that protects the incumbent, I would get rid of this system. And you don’t realise that last October in the World Council they tried to do it! And with very little preparation they only lost by one vote. Only by one vote! It would be my honour to change the system to allow people to get rid of me easily. I don’t want to stay in power because if you write something nasty about me I can take away your pass and the people below me can’t criticise me and can’t get rid of me because of procedure. No! You stay in power thanks to the trust of people. It is the only way. Otherwise your tree will never blossom.