Sir Jackie Stewart has sought to clarify remarks that he made late last year that suggested he was pro-Ari Vatanen and anti-Jean Todt in the FIA Presidential election battle – but whilst he has insisted that he is confident Max Mosley's replacement will indeed bring in the change F1 so badly needs, he has urged the erstwhile Ferrari team principal against simply lapsing into 'Play it again, Sam'.
Three months ago, Todt went on to defeat former World Rally Champion-turned-European politician Vatanen – ironically, a man he had worked closely alongside at Peugeot in the 1980s – by practically a landslide margin in the race to take over from Mosley, whose 16-year tenure of the most powerful and influential post in international motorsport had been controversial right to the end.
Whilst the Englishman has been justifiably credited with having done a great deal of good for F1 on safety issues, on other levels he made a number of enemies though his increasingly autocratic manner that at times bordered on the arbitrary.
As an example, the excessive punishments meted out to McLaren-Mercedes in the wake of the infamous 2007 espionage row and to Flavio Briatore following the explosive 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing episode last year were interpreted by some as a sign that the 69-year-old was occasionally incapable of keeping personal prejudice out of political procedures.
What is desperately needed in the sport, argues three-time F1 World Champion Stewart, is a complete sea change and a breath of fresh air, a world away from the unprecedented penalties and tabloid scandals that came to characterise the latter years of Mosley's rule – and focussed firmly back on what really matters, fair competition on the race track and harmony away from it.
“The governance of the sport over the last five or ten years I think has lacked a lot,” the Scot told Crash.net Radio
. “Hopefully that governance will now be changed with a new president of the governing body, because the sorts of scandals we've had – whether they be the human scandals or the $100 million fine or the so-called 'Crash-gate' – have done the sport no good at all. Hardly any of them should ever have occurred, and I think the governance of the sport is still not in-shape like it should be. You'll always see the possibility for improvement.
“I think it was time for Max Mosley to go. I think some of the things that happened – such as the fine for McLaren, and I have no association with McLaren – have been hideous; not in the history of sport has the like been ever seen. I think that was a misjudgement, but he had such individual power that he had accumulated over the years, that he could do those things. The same might be said for some of the other penalties that we've seen recently. There needed to be change – and I don't think change was going to occur without a change at the top.
“I didn't actually say [that he backed Vatanen's bid]; in reality what I said – and this is accurate – is that I did not think it appropriate that the residing president should be supporting the incoming president, whoever that might have been, in a choice of in this case two people. I don't think Max Mosley should have been allowed to campaign as vigorously as he did in support of one of those two people, and I don't think Bernie [Ecclestone – F1 commercial rights-holder] should have been in that position of supporting one candidate either. I think that is wrong, because they both have such influence and such power that some people are rather fearful of disagreeing with them on anything. I didn't think that was the correct procedure.
“I think (Todt) will definitely make improvements on what we've been through. I can't imagine that there won't be considerable changes, and it will take time for those to occur – but it shouldn't take too much time. He's got four years to do it, but my fear was that if Max and Bernie were so vigorous in their support, there is a risk that it's going to be a case of 'Play it again, Sam', with many of the same people still having the power and influence that was provided to them during the reign of Max Mosley. Therefore, I thought there needed to be change – but if Jean Todt is going to exercise that change and be his own man in a totally independent way, then I think we're going to see considerable improvements and forward motion.”
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