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GP Week : Issue 189
It was an elementary mistake for a seasoned political campaigner to make. Ward’s candidacy came about as the result of a concerted effort to convince the Briton to challenge the man he had once championed as president of the FIA. When official news of a possible presidential bid first emerged in the run-up to the Hungarian Grand Prix (rumours to that effect had been doing the rounds since Silverstone), Ward said that he was considering running as the result of a concerted campaign to generate viable opposition to Todt in the election, turning the one-horse race into an opportunity for open debate. One of the pillars of Ward’s election platform is that of modernisation. The Briton wants to reform the tired internal structure of the FIA, which he describes as antiquated and autocratic, while also bringing the current electoral process – which is designed to favour the incumbent – into line with modern standards. “The FIA can give the impression of being antiquated and autocratic,” Ward told journalists in Monza. “The threshold for nominations for presidential candidates has been set high, which favours the incumbent and deters other candidates. Recently, there has also been unfortunate use of 'support letters' at various FIA regional meetings which are designed to elicit public commitments of support before the election process even opens, thereby deterring alternative candidates from coming for ward. These are of questionable legitimacy. The powers of the presidency are too wide to be effective or fully accountable.” In his ‘Agenda for Change’ Ward sets out six points that would, between them, lead to a complete redesign of the current electoral process. At present, candidates seeking the presidency must run with a proposed list detailing the members of the FIA Senate in the event their campaign is successful. Garnering support from strong senatorial candidates is a challenge for anyone hoping to defeat the incumbent. Ward wants to separate the presidential and senatorial elections, creating the opportunity of fair and open debate at every stage of the FIA electoral process. Ironically, however, under the rule changes he proposes – that candidates for FIA president must be club presidents or club officials – Ward would not be eligible to nominate. He is neither a club president nor a club official. Ward also pledges to do away with the support letters of which he has been so critical – and from which Todt’s campaign received a boost. But Todt’s campaign has also received public statements of support from all manner of high profile faces in the Formula One paddock. Over the Italian Grand Prix weekend, when asked for their opinions on the forthcoming FIA elections a number of team principals spoke of the need for continuity in the presidential office, praising the man who may or may not decide to run, and implying support in the process. “I don’t know Jean as well as some of the people here,” Martin Whitmarsh said, referring to Todt’s former colleagues Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali, “but I have to say taking him as the President, I think he has not used this sport for his own ego, which I think is very tempting. “I won’t go back into the past but I’ve seen and survived so far three presidents – only just, one of them – but I think Jean has acted in the interests of motorsport. I think for some people there hasn’t been enough commotion, action, controversy around him. Those are good in some people’s minds but I think for those of us that participate in the sport, having some consistency, someone who takes decisions that are in the interests of the sport quietly and efficiently is very beneficial.” Speaking to journalists a day later, but before Todt had confirmed he would be standing for re-election, Whitmarsh elaborated further. “I think the teams – almost universally – want Jean to stand again,” the McLaren team principal and FOTA chairman said. “I think Jean has been completely impartial, I think he’s acted in the best interests of the sport. He hasn’t been as controversial or as energetic as I think some people might like to see him: he’s been very measured and he’s trying to do the right thing. David Ward isn’t someone I’ve seen much in the paddock in the last 25 years, and I think that in his second term Jean could take the sport for ward.” Todt’s decision to take a step back from Formula One during his presidency has proved to be a popular one within the paddock, something that is hardly surprising in the immediate wake of the Mosley era. “Obviously I know Jean very well, having worked together for ten years,” Brawn said. “I think stability and consistency are very important. I think Jean has taken a quiet line, particularly in terms of Formula One and that – as Martin said, those of us who have experienced the other end of the scale – is welcome. And I think the opportunity to do another period as a president of the FIA is important, that we have that continuity. “I think Jean has stabilised the situation and now wants to move on to progress things and I know the huge commitment he makes to the sport overall,” the Mercedes team principal continued. “We are part of motorsport but there’s a huge amount of other things going on that he’s active in. And I think the continuity is very important.” While Ward would be a new candidate, he is not quite as revolutionary as he first appears. He has worked with the FIA for the past twelve years, most recently serving as director general of the FIA Foundation. He is a known face, and a man who has decade-long relationships with a number of the motorsport world’s key influencers. His ‘Agenda for Change’ does include a number of revolutionary ideas, but many of the points covered – particularly those relating to the Federation’s dedication to safety and training, and the funding of clubs in low- and middle-income countries – are simply a continuation of work already under way by Todt. Those so keen for continuity in the office of FIA president may yet find that a Ward presidency looks rather similar to a Todt presidency, unless one is actually inside the walls of the Place de la Concorde, or in a position to vote in FIA elections. For all his talk of supporting the clubs and ASNs, Ward has been critical of Todt’s efforts to expand the number of FIA member clubs, telling journalists in Monza that the president’s travel budget was excessive, and questioning the need for trips to countries that have joined the FIA fold over the course of Todt’s four- year term. The presidential hopeful has already announced his intention to do away with the administrative aspects of the role by creating a CEO position within the Federation. If he also intends to do away with the travel that is part and parcel of a presidential role, it beggars the question ‘what remains for the president to do?’. Camp Pain indeed. It will be a long hard road to the December elections, which will come to a head when the World Motor Sport Council meets in Paris for the last time this year. F1 >>> FEATUrE “David Ward isn’t someone I’ve seen much in the paddock in the last 25 years.” – Martin Whitmarsh 25 GPWEEK.com // 25 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: