Ari Vatanen has suggested that if somebody were to write a book about Max Mosley's life, it would be 'hardly credible' - as he admitted that he 'would have stepped down' over last year's sex scandal and set out his stall as a better FIA Presidential candidate than rival Jean Todt to re-establish the governing body's lost 'dignity and integrity'.

Whilst Mosley has offered his personal backing to former Ferrari team principal Todt to succeed him in the most powerful and influential post in international motor racing, Vatanen is widely seen as a far more popular choice amongst the sport's teams and competitors, some of whom believe the FIA has for too long been biased in favour of the Scuderia as it is.

Moreover, the 1981 World Rally Champion - a Member of the European Parliament for a decade up until this year - is the only candidate yet to officially announce his intention to stand for the position in October, when Mosley's current fourth term comes to a close. The final decision will be made by means of a vote involving all of the federation's member clubs around the world.

The Finn drove for Todt at Peugeot in the 1980s, and argues that the man dubbed 'Napol?on' within the paddock would likely not be enough of a departure or breath of fresh air to replace the present incumbent, who has been much criticised of late for what has been viewed as an increasingly autocratic and even arbitrary manner of governance. Mosley's belligerence and stubborn intransigence over cost-cutting measures in recent months has led to the very real prospect of a FOTA-led 'breakaway' series free from his controversial jurisdiction - and Vatanen suggests the appointment of Todt would not represent a sufficiently clean break.

"They are very close friends and worked very closely together when Jean was at Ferrari and Max at the FIA," he told The Associated Press, "but that can also turn out to be a handicap. You need a new star; you need an independent person who represents change.

"The fact that he (Todt) has FIA support may somewhat distort the situation, but I'm not worried. When the wind starts changing, it does change. I'm not dethroning Jean - there's an opening. If I can resume my campaign in one [phrase], something that Jean successfully applied to various disciplines and teams: 'If you want to win, take a Finn'."

Vatanen is confident that he, by contrast, could be the 'new star' both the FIA and F1 so desperately need to bring peace and unity back to what has become an ever-more self-destructive and dissension-riven environment. The 60-year-old is undeniably independent, and inarguably also possesses the necessary sang froid to successfully bring the two warring factions together.

Whilst underlining that he is a friend of Mosley's, the four-time Dakar Rally winner is adamant that the time has come for new blood - and hinted that had it been him caught up in the infamous News of the World prostitute expos? early last year, he would have responded altogether differently.

"I would have stepped down," he confessed. "When you are the head of the federation, the federation does not belong to you - you are the servant of the federation. We are all very vulnerable to that trap where you think the world revolves around yourself. Any leader in the world, when you are long in power, you overestimate your own possibilities and anyone who criticises you is seen as a threat.

"During the entire campaign I wanted to be constructive, [with] no mud-slinging, no dirt-throwing. We have to look forward now. I have no illusions about power - it might sound pretentious, but this is really for nobleness. What a poor picture we have given of ourselves to the rest of the world.

"The FIA simply needs to recuperate its dignity and integrity. It's like a house; inside you think everything's okay when you're a part of it, but someone comes from outside and you realise immediately that you need to open the windows. We need a new start. People are expecting it."

Aside from last year's scandal - in the wake of which Mosley had to fight tooth-and-nail in order to remain in his post - the Englishman has also had to endure the tragedy of his son dying from a drugs overdose in May, and has had to live with the shadow of his father, British Union of Fascists party founder Oswald Mosley, hanging over him for all of his life. It is a story Vatanen contends could scarcely even be made up.

"If you wrote the book it would be hardly credible," acknowledged the ten-time rally-winner. "We must have a lot of sympathy for Max on a private front. [There is] no way that he would like to be remembered as a man, as the president, who contributed to the break of F1 and consequently of the FIA."

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