6 June 2014
Kate Walker: Todt’s quintuple-header
In her latest exclusive column for Crash.net, Kate Walker looks at the increasingly hands-on approach Jean Todt is taking with F1...
Of all the criticism heaped on FIA president Jean Todt by the great and the good of the F1 world, much has focused on the Frenchman's decision to concentrate on the wider responsibilities of the Federation, rather than preening and posturing in the Formula One paddock on a bi-weekly basis.
One might think that after the Mosley era a more hands-off approach would appeal, but it turns out that the F1 paddock rather missed the attention the previous president heaped upon the sport.
After visiting the Bahrain Grand Prix and speaking to selected members of the press on topics ranging from the likely death of the cost cap to the sound of the new engines, Todt then turned up in Barcelona, again speaking to the press.
The FIA president was in Monaco – as is traditional – and will also be in Canada for the grand prix before coming to both Austria and Silverstone. Five consecutive races is far from a hands-off approach, and with Formula One currently embroiled in cash crises, endless engine noise rows, and power struggles whose tentacles reach to a certain Munich courtroom, it is the perfect time for Todt to turn his focus to the Federation's most high-profile championship.
Which isn't to say that any of his other duties are being neglected. On his way to Monaco, Todt visited Leipzig, where he signed a partnership agreement with the International Transport Forum that will see that body and the FIA work on improving road safety data with the aim of supporting the United Nations' Decade of Action for Road Safety. Reducing road deaths is a cause Todt has long championed, and the Action for Road Safety campaign has been a cornerstone of his presidency thus far.
While there are no official meetings planned between Todt and the teams to hammer down costs and find a way of managing declining fan interest in the sport, all of the most important matters in Formula One are dealt with behind closed doors. Those in charge have long since learned that to act too publicly only causes problems in the long term, such as announcing a cost cap that later faltered, while presenting the world with a problem resolved – a fait accompli, if you will – begets good publicity.
The Canadian paddock is always busy and bustling, thanks to its relatively diminutive size, but this weekend promises to be busier still, as members of the press position themselves at vantage points allowing a view of both the FIA hospitality suite and the offices where the power players meet. The movements of team principals and other officials will be the only indication of the nature of the meetings being held, and it is likely that misinterpretations and misunderstandings will be rife.
One thing that cannot be misinterpreted, however, is the presence of Todt. The FIA president may not be in possession of the magic bullet that will cure Formula One of all its present ills, but he is well aware that the sport that once complained of overbearing leadership from the FIA is now feeling insecure. A crisis needs a leader, and Todt's increasing presence in the F1 paddock is a clear sign that the Federation is rolling up its sleeves and getting down to the hard work of trying to fix the messes we're currently in.
By Kate Walker
Kate Walker is a senior F1 writer for Crash.net. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, she keeps an eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes Formula One a political melodrama.
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