Ari Vatanen has set out his stall to be elected as the next President of the FIA on 23 October by vowing to turn around the fortunes of a sport that he claims is 'in disarray' – contending that 'the FIA is not just about F1' and insisting 'F1 will fear me'.
The 1981 World Rally Champion has been blunt from the outset that should he be chosen over former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt – a man who has the backing of outgoing FIA President Max Mosley and commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone, as well as a whole host of other high-profile figures within the top flight [see separate story – click here
] – to accede to the most powerful and influential post in international motor racing, he will embark upon a wholesale shake-up and clean-up of the governing body, an organisation that has been riddled by controversy in recent years, much to the consternation of the watching world.
Vatanen is confident that he too has enough support amongst the 122 FIA member clubs to prevail – particularly from Asia, Africa and the Gulf. Moreover, whilst it is anticipated that Todt would merely mark a continuation of the unpopular and autocratic Mosley years, it is expected that his Finnish rival would usher in an era of change, a far more transparent approach, a breath of fresh air – and a new dawn.
“F1 will totally fear me,” 57-year-old Vatanen – a former MEP – told Singapore newspaper the Straits Times
, as he promised to strengthen 'the incredible FIA family'. “They are in disarray. Just a few months ago, there was even talk of a breakaway. I want to put F1 on an equal footing with the rest. The FIA is not just about F1.
“F1 is the richest sport in the capital investment world, but not much money is going back to other forms of motorsport – that's wrong. There are 100 million motorists globally; F1 is just about 20 people. The FIA President cannot be a divisive figure.
“I want to propose a new start, to develop F1 in the next five or ten years. We must rebuild F1 together with common sense, democracy, honesty and openness.”
F1 has been riven by scandals of late, from 2007's espionage row to Mosley's tabloid sex exposé, Lewis Hamilton lying to race stewards in Melbourne, the debilitating FIA/FOTA civil war that threatened for much of this summer to quite literally tear the sport in two and now the Renault 'Singapore-gate' saga that has cost the heads of two of the paddock's most recognisable and long-standing figures in Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds.
Mosley – who has held the presidential role for 16 years – will relinquish the reins to either Vatanen or Todt in Paris in just under a month's time. The Frenchman reportedly declined an invitation over the weekend of the Singapore Grand Prix to attend an Automobile Association of Singapore (AAS) function at which Vatanen sought to canvas more support for his bid.