The level of support for Jean Todt in his bid to be elected the next President of the FIA has stepped up a notch with a whole plethora of former F1 stars speaking out to publicly back the Frenchman, who on 23 October will go head-to-head on home turf in Paris against former World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen for the honour of holding the most powerful and influential post in international motor racing.
Outgoing president Max Mosley, F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone, FIA World Rally Championship promoter Neil Duncanson, general manager of FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) promoter KSO, Marcello Lotti, and FIA GT Championship supremo Stéphane Ratel have all spoken warmly of Todt's abilities and capacity to serve the sport in its most eminent role [see separate story – click here
] – and now many of its most famous drivers have got in on the act too.
Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, Felipe Massa, Mario Andretti, Gerhard Berger and Roger Penske have all expressed their praise for the controversial former Ferrari team principal – who is far from universally backed within the grand prix paddock – and whilst none will have a say in the vote, their comments are sure to be noted by those that will.
“Jean's abilities are beyond question,” record-breaking seven-time F1 World Champion Schumacher is quoted as having said by Sportinglife
. “When he joined Ferrari in 1993 he recreated a team which at that time was not fulfilling its true potential. Typically, not only could Jean see that potential, but he made it a reality through leadership, loyalty, commitment and teamwork.
“These have been his defining characteristics whether at Peugeot or at Ferrari, and I am sure when he successfully begins a new role as the next President of the FIA he will apply them in the same way, this time for the benefit of the whole sport. He is an inspiring professional and a true friend. I can think of no-one more capable and more committed to improving our sport than Jean Todt.”
“I have known Jean for 30 years and I've always admired him,” opined quadruple F1 title-winner Prost, tipped in some quarters to be part of Todt's presidential team should he succeed. “He has a remarkable interest and knowledge of every aspect of our sport. He has a rare ability to create teams of people with great talent, and he leads them by example.
“He works hard and expects the same from his team, he focuses on results not politics and he always looks beyond the horizon and prepares for the future. He will bring renewed excellence to the FIA, and he will be a superb global ambassador for France.”
The convalescing Massa, for his part – a driver who worked closely alongside Todt at Ferrari from 2006 to 2008 – reasoned that the 63-year-old would make 'a remarkable FIA President', whilst ten-time grand prix-winner Berger contended that 'there is no-one better to take over...from Max'.
The former Peugeot rally team manager, meanwhile, has refused to disclose the name of a special commissioner who will be appointed to represent him in every FIA-sanctioned championship, ruling out Mosley but declining to comment when asked by British newspaper the Daily Telegraph
whether he is lining up current FIA chief steward Alan Donnelly – an unpopular figure in parts of the paddock for his heavy-handed approach. A former Labour MEP and leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, Donnelly performs the same task for present incumbent Mosley as the Englishman's right-hand man.
“It would be inappropriate to say 'it will be X, it will not be X',” Todt insisted. “For me the ideal profile would be someone who is fresh in the business and would have a lot to bring to the business.”