On the eve of the election that will decide who succeeds Max Mosley as the next president of F1 governing body the FIA, Jean Todt has accused his rival candidate Ari Vatanen of hypocrisy – revealing that there are 'a lot' of high-profile figures within the sport that the Finn has similarly been trying to court for support.
Vatanen had threatened Mosley with legal action for having 'violated the principle of neutrality' by 'openly expressing [his] support' for Todt, what the Finn interpreted as an improper attempt to 'distort the results of the election'.
That accusation that was met with a blunt rebuttal by the Englishman, who argued that the 1981 World Rally Champion was making 'wild and irresponsible claims' and had 'repeatedly asked' for the outgoing incumbent's personal backing during a July lunch meeting, something Vatanen has brushed off as a 'joke'. The legal threat has since been dropped.
Now, however, Todt too has waded into the row, suggesting that the 57-year-old former MEP and four-time Dakar Rally winner is not the whiter-than-white figure he is painting himself to be. The two men know each other well, having worked closely at Peugeot's world rally team back in the early 1980s, with Todt as the team boss and Vatanen the driver.
The former Ferrari team principal has claimed that he even supported his presidential adversary's recent bid for re-election to the European Parliament.
“I know my competitor went to see Bernie [Ecclestone – F1 commercial rights-holder, and another man to have come out publicly in support of Todt] as well,” the 63-year-old told British newspaper The Guardian
. “He wanted to try and convince Bernie to support him. Bernie said no. There are a lot of others he tried to convince.
“Last year at Monte Carlo he asked me to give him official support at the European elections. I was the only one to do that. I spoke for him, but he was beaten in those elections.”