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Kate Walker: FIA battle puts Ricciardo in the shade
4 September 2013
In an ordinary world, the big news of the Italian Grand Prix weekend would be the confirmation that Red Bull had signed the Australian racer with the Italian name: Daniel Ricciardo.
But the world of Formula One is very far from ordinary.
Mark Webber rather took the wind out of his team's sails by identifying his replacement while talking to Australian television on the Spa grid, and few believed Red Bull's protestations that a decision had yet to be made. Once Kimi Raikkonen was out of the running for the seat, Ricciardo was the only logical choice.
Red Bull have a more than capable star driver, a certain graduate of their Young Driver Programme. Until yesterday, Sebastian Vettel was the only RBR young driver to have earned a seat with the senior team. And while the triple (likely quadruple) world champion is an excellent advertisement for the programme's merits, a successful graduating class of one was beginning to be a problem.
Internally, there was a lot of pressure to promote a Toro Rosso driver to a Red Bull seat, and with Jean-Eric Vergne already out of the seat, Ricciardo was a dead cert.
But that's yesterday's news, long ago assumed to be official. The big story in the Monza paddock this week will centre around David Ward and the FIA elections. Ward confirmed his candidacy for FIA president last week, making the announcement as he resigned from the FIA Foundation.
Jean Todt was expected to confirm his candidacy in Monza, but with Ward having declared his intentions last week the incumbent now looks as though he is late to his own party.
Until Silverstone, it looked as though the FIA presidential elections would be a one-horse race. Now we have confirmation that they won't be. It could be a dull political story, but all signs currently point to a genuine battle.
In 2009, Ward campaigned for Todt. In 2013, he has resigned his job to run against the man he once championed. There are those who think that Ward has joined the campaign trail to force Todt to make a few political concessions, and that he will resign his candidacy – as he is entitled to do – should those concessions be made.
But there are also those who speak of a cooling of relations between Todt and Ward, of ideological differences that leave the two men on opposing sides.
The last FIA presidential elections – which saw Todt secure a landslide victory over Ari Vatanen – saw rancour and legal wranglings. While that may be par for the course on the political campaign trail, it was an odd turn of events in a 'corporate' election with no incumbent candidate.
This time around, not only is the incumbent running opposed – as is appropriate in an election, and ideal for stimulating political debate – but that opposition comes from within. If the Todt camp does not see Ward's resignation as an act of war, they would do well to brush up on their political theory.
We truly are living in interesting times, and the fun will start in Monza.
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