Outgoing FIA President Max Mosley has launched an extraordinarily scathing and hostile attack on one of the two men bidding to replace him in the most powerful and influential post in international motor racing later this month – categorically asserting that Ari Vatanen will 'lose badly' in the election against Jean Todt for having 'insulted' too many people along the way.
1981 World Rally Champion Vatanen will go up against controversial former Ferrari team principal Todt in Paris on 23 October, with the latter having received the public backing of Mosley, F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone and a whole host of other high-profile figures within the sport [see separate story – click here
]. The Finn, however, is understood to be the favoured candidate amongst the top flight's teams and fans, and has chosen Jordan motorsport chairman HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein as a close advisor and his Vice-President Sport (Middle East).
Mosley, though – who has been far from impartial or diplomatic in the run-up to the all-important election – has written a strongly-worded letter to Al Hussein that has left the prince 'deeply disappointed by [its] content and insinuations' and fearing that the development has 'raised serious questions and grave concerns as to the credibility of the forthcoming and future elections', according to the Jordan Times
'Any thought that, after the election, everyone in motorsport can unite and work together can now be forgotten,' Mosley's letter read, published by British newspaper the Daily Telegraph
. 'It is not possible to make statements like Vatanen's and then expect the victims of insults and untruths to forget what has been said.
'The simple fact is that Vatanen will lose the election and lose badly, not least because he chose to denigrate the FIA and those currently in office rather than run a constructive and civilised campaign.'
The 'statements' to which Mosley refers are sustained criticisms that Vatanen has expressed regarding what has come to be viewed as the Englishman's increasingly 'stagnant' and autocratic manner of governance – verging on the arbitrary at times, it has seemed. Mosley warned the former MEP that he and his associates have made enemies of 'the FIA membership', and threatened member clubs intending to vote for Vatanen by hinting that they can expect to be marginalised should Todt be elected to power – possibly a sign that the Vatanen/Todt duel is closer than had been thought.
The letter was circulated publicly during a conference in Amman, hosted by Al Hussein and at which Vatanen sought to canvass further Arab support for his campaign. Mosley was not personally in attendance, and the tone and contents of the letter are understood to have offended the brother of the ruling King Abdullah – particularly as it was senior royal Al Hussein who had granted the 69-year-old the opportunity to make his first public appearance in the wake of the News of the World
tabloid sex scandal in which he became embroiled early last year by inviting him to be guest of honour at the inaugural WRC Rally Jordan the following month, after Bahrain's crown prince had shunned his presence.
“Jordan has always maintained a strong relationship with our president,” Al Hussein said in his welcome address, “so I am deeply disappointed by the content and the insinuations of his letter, which have raised serious questions as to the credibility of the forthcoming and future elections.”
Three-time F1 World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart has described the missive as 'a letter of fear', and the development suggests that Todt does not have the backing he needs in the Middle East, which will constitute 44 of the 182 votes. The Frenchman nominated Mohammed Ben Sulayem as one of his vice-presidential candidates, which has upset a number of UAE nations and led to calls from sheiks in Abu Dhabi, the Telegraph
reports, for the president of the Automobile and Touring Club for the United Arab Emirates to withdraw from the election rather than go head-to-head with a member of a ruling royal family. Vatanen is believed to have the support of 80 per cent of the Arab countries.
Ben Sulayem also caused a storm when he stated that the FIA 'would know which way' motoring clubs had voted on 23 October, and the Middle East voting bloc is said to be mulling over the idea of demanding that the governing body employs an independent monitoring organisation to oversee what is supposed to be a secret ballot.
'Vatanen is not easily controlled, muses Formula 1 Blog
, '[whereas] Todt is malleable, pliable and capable of being manipulated by Ecclestone and Mosley. Very simply, if Jean Todt was hands-down the best candidate, then these letters wouldn't be necessary.'