The FIA has issued an official statement expressing its bemusement that presidential candidate Ari Vatanen should question its 'honesty' and 'integrity' in taking legal action to ensure that 'a number of measures' are put in place to guarantee the legitimacy of what the governing body has stressed will in any case be 'a dignified and democratic' election.
On 23 October, former World Rally Champion Vatanen will go up against divisive erstwhile Ferrari team principal Jean Todt for the honour of being voted into the most powerful and influential post in international motor racing, replacing longstanding present incumbent Max Mosley.
However, the campaign has been dogged from the start by blow and counter-blow, with Vatanen professing his manifesto for change and a new era of transparency, and suggesting that a Todt regime would merely mark the continuation of the current, unpopular, autocratic and controversy-ridden establishment.
Having very publicly lent his own backing to Todt, Mosley went on to warn Vatanen in writing that he would 'lose and lose badly' for having chosen to 'denigrate the FIA and those currently in office rather than run a constructive and civilised campaign', whilst threatening any member clubs that pledge their allegiance to the Finn with marginalisation under Todt's rule should the Frenchman get in.
The latter subsequently waded into the increasingly bitter row by calling for 'the personal attacks and false allegations' to stop, whilst at the same time lauding his own camp's 'management skills and great professionalism'.
Now, official letters between Vatanen and Mosley have brought the question of equality of opportunity to a head, with the Finn contending that the campaign 'is not taking place in accordance with the principle of neutrality which should apply', accusing the FIA of endeavouring to 'distort the results of the election' and describing the outgoing president as being 'the first to violate the principle of neutrality'.
Mosley, for his part, replied by claiming that Vatanen's allegations were not only unsubstantiated but even 'wild and irresponsible', and suggesting that rather than casting the first stone, the 57-year-old might do well to verify the legality and fairness of the 'direct financial aid' he himself has benefitted from.
The FIA has since released a statement, which reads as follows:
'Mr. Ari Vatanen, one of the candidates for the FIA Presidency, has today served on the FIA an application to the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, asking the Court to impose a number of measures for the FIA election. Had Mr. Vatanen troubled to examine the procedures in place, he would understand that these in fact already provide more safeguards than those he is asking the Court to impose.
'The FIA is therefore at a loss to explain the purpose of this legal action, if not merely to generate further negative publicity and to attempt to raise doubts about the honesty of FIA staff. This is despite the fact that a large team of FIA personnel has worked continuously over recent months to ensure that the new FIA President is elected in a dignified and democratic way.
'The FIA has retained a public official (a Huissier de Justice
) to supervise the electoral process and the count. On 15 October the FIA circulated a note to all voting members, outlining in detail the election process to be deployed and the role that the Huissier
will play. This is available to download in the governance section of the FIA website.
'This legal action follows a number of allegations made by Mr. Vatanen to the media, which attempt to call into question the integrity of the FIA's personnel and the FIA's election process. However, Mr. Vatanen has not taken up an invitation to specify and substantiate his allegations.'