McLaren-Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh has backed former World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen to take over from Max Mosley as FIA President in October – lauding the Finn's 'balanced and sensible' qualities and suggesting that a 'fresh' start for F1 might do no harm at all.
Vatanen officially put his name forward for the most powerful and influential post in international motor racing over the weekend of the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, and his candidacy has been met with almost universal approval within the paddock.
That is in some contrast to the general unease expressed regarding the man believed most likely to be the multiple Dakar Rally winner's principal rival for the role, controversial former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt. There are also suspicions Mosley will backtrack on his earlier vow to step down at the end of his current fourth term and launch his own bid to remain in the position – a move that could prove to be the final straw for the eight Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) rebels, who have been at odds with the Englishman for a number of months and fear his increasingly autocratic manner of governance is bordering on the arbitrary at times, and needs to be brought to an end.
Though the final say will be had by the 213 FIA member clubs worldwide – with the teams having no vote in the matter – Whitmarsh contends that Vatanen could be the best thing to happen to F1 in a long time and is the right man to unite the divisions within the top flight that of late have threatened to tear it quite literally in two.
“I don't know Ari particularly, but I think he is clearly fresh and new, and I think refreshing the sport would be quite good,” the 51-year-old is quoted as having said by RACER
. “He was a racing driver, very successful, and a world champion, so I think he understands competition. I think that is fresh.
“He has been a successful politician – I don't know if that is a plus or a minus, though I think inevitably it is a plus because whether we like it or not, none of us were signed up here to get involved in politics but there is a fair amount of politics involved in F1. If someone is going to be a reformer, he has the credentials to do that.
“It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months, but if Max is not standing again and Ari is a candidate, I am sure he will get a lot of support as he seems to be a balanced and sensible individual.”