Following his outspoken remarks regarding FIA Presidential rival Jean Todt earlier this week, 1981 World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen has been formally and publicly scolded by the FIA Foundation for what the governing body describes as a 'totally false' misrepresentation.
Vatanen suggested that Todt's former employers Ferrari 'don't want' the Frenchman to accede to the most powerful and influential post in international motor racing because 'they think the sport would lose credibility' [see separate story – click here
], an argument swiftly countered by the Scuderia's
official spokesman Luca Colajanni, who insisted that the Maranello-based outfit remains entirely neutral and told inthenews.co.uk
: “We have never expressed any preference for any candidate, as the teams are not involved directly in the election of the President of FIA.”
The four-time Dakar Rally winner – a Member of the European Parliament for a decade until this year – also expressed his view that present incumbent Max Mosley has no right to nominate his favoured successor, arguing that 'the FIA is not a kingdom where a king hands over his power' and accusing Todt and his partner, Hollywood actress Michelle Yeoh, of travelling 'with a private plane, supposedly as an FIA representative, to various parts of the world – sometimes he has gone to Asia, sometimes to Canada, sometimes to Buenos Aires, whatever...totally supported, and paid for, by the FIA' [see separate story – click here
A spokesman for Todt hit back in contending that Vatanen had 'misrepresented the [FIA] campaign's achievements', whilst the 63-year-old himself called on 'all candidates' to 'conduct their campaigns with dignity' in the wake of the vitriolic war of words and urged: “In future I hope everyone can stick to the issues and respect the integrity of this democratic process.”
The FIA has also responded, angrily denying the accusations of favouritism and suggestions that Todt's bid is receiving improper financial assistance from the governing body. Carlos Macaya, the President of the FIA Foundation, wrote to Vatanen in a letter subsequently made available to the media, underlining his 'concern' about the 57-year-old's 'totally false' claims and explaining that Todt already holds official roles within the organisation and that Yeoh is a voluntary ambassador for the Make Roads Safe
campaign. Both Vatanen and Todt are trustees of the FIA Foundation, an independent charity.
'It is very disappointing that you have chosen to misrepresent the work of a fellow trustee in this way and belittle the magnificent contribution being made by Michelle Yeoh,' Macaya wrote. 'I appreciate that during the forthcoming election for the FIA presidency there needs to be open and robust debate. However, I would ask that you do not again misrepresent the role of the FIA Foundation in this way'.
Whilst Todt has received Mosley's public backing, Vatanen is standing independently, and is understood to have the general support of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA), with fears in some corners of the grand prix paddock that the FIA is already biased in favour of Ferrari.