It is 'wrong' that both outgoing FIA President Max Mosley and influential F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone are publicly backing Jean Todt in the election battle, asserts former three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart – who believes the Frenchman's rival Ari Vatanen 'would be a breath of fresh air' in the role and just the 'fresh face' the sport needs.
Only four days away now from the Paris poll that will decide which of the two candidates will succeed Mosley in the most powerful post in international motor racing – bringing to an end the Englishman's contentious 16-year reign – the build-up has been dogged by claim and counter-claim on both sides, with the present incumbent making no effort to conceal his opinions on who should be voted in.
After Mosley warned Vatanen in a letter 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' – and, moreover, threatened any member clubs that pledge their allegiance to the Finn with marginalisation under a Todt presidency [see separate story – click here
] – the 1981 World Rally Champion responded by accusing Mosley of a 'breach of the principle of neutrality' in an effort to 'distort the results' [see separate story – click here
Todt subsequently waded in by calling for an end to 'personal attacks and false allegations', as Mosley opined that Vatanen's remarks were 'wild and irresponsible' – and the series of very public spats has led some to question just how fair and unbiased the election will ultimately be.
There are fears that a Todt victory would merely guarantee a continuation of the autocratic and increasingly arbitrary Mosley era – with the ex-Ferrari team principal invariably dividing paddock opinion, with many uncomfortable at the prospect of his running a sport that some believe is already unjustifiably weighted in favour of the Scuderia
– whilst Vatanen has repeatedly presented himself as the candidate for change, in the wake of the plethora of high-profile controversies to have rocked the paddock in recent years, from 'Spygate' to sex scandals and Singapore.
Stewart – a man who has had a number of run-ins with Mosley over the years, with the latter most infamously describing the highly-respected Scot as 'a certified halfwit', regarded as being a crude reference to the 27-time grand prix-winner's dyslexia – tends to agree, and argues that F1's leading figures should remain entirely impartial in such an important decision.
“There's got to be major change in the governance of F1 and motorsport and the FIA in general,” the 69-year-old told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek
programme. “Ari Vatanen would be a breath of fresh air and would certainly do it in another manner. I don't necessarily believe that somebody from the cockpit, somebody from the garage of the F1 paddock, should be at the head of F1. I think it needs a fresh face.
“Jean Todt is being supported very heavily by the current president Max Mosley and by Bernie Ecclestone. I think it's wrong for them to do that, and I did tell Bernie that when I was at the grand prix in Singapore. They should be sitting on their hands and not voting for anybody, because perception is many times nine tenths of the law.
“People perceive [that] because both of them are voting for Jean Todt, that would suggest it's going to be 'Play it Again Sam' and a similar nature in the manner that the sport is being governed.”