This year, the FIA will have a new president after Max Mosley finally announced he will not stand for re-election. Two candidates are currently announcing their cabinets and doing their very best to convince FIA members to vote for them. They are Jean Todt, famous for his astonishing success with Ferrari, and Ari Vatanen, one of the greatest drivers to grace the World Rally Championship.
The F1 Times met up with Ari Vatanen on the London Eye earlier this month to get an exclusive insight into why he thinks he should be president of the FIA.
Q: Did it bother you that Max Mosley was very quick to endorse Jean Todt's campaign rather than yours?
A: Not really, no. I mean, there are two people contesting this election, and just because Max endorses Jean, it does not mean the battle is lost. The members are yet to vote, and I am certain that not all of them will be persuaded to vote for Jean just because Max sent letters to every one of them advising them vote for Jean. We have a mission, and we have time yet before we know who is the president, so we will carry on.
Q: Do you believe the FIA acted appropriately when drawing up the rules for the 2010 season, seemingly forcing them upon FOTA rather than consulting them?
A: Well you just said it yourself, they forced the rules upon the Formula One Teams Association without prior consultation, and that is simply not acceptable. It is not the way to run a company or an organisation, you would not see the Premier League make vast changes without consulting the 20 teams, so why so different for the FIA?
The way the FIA acted forced FOTA to threaten a breakaway series, you know something is seriously wrong when the people that compete in the sport and draw the audiences have to threaten to destroy our sport to stop the FIA. That kind of thing would not happen with my leadership, we will have a normal FIA, not one that is do now, ask later.
That is wholly unacceptable, the teams, the drivers and more importantly, the fans like you and me deserve better.
Q: Fans of Formula One were upset and confused at many decisions made by the FIA last season, some of which, like the 2008 Belgian GP penalty are still argued over, what are your thoughts on those decisions?
A: I think the way the stewards acted in some races was unacceptable, the idea that you have different stewards for every race is not right at all. You have to have consistency in something so important like that, and stewards that have experience around Formula One, like former drivers or something just as appropriate.
So many decisions last year were questionable, like the one you mentioned (Spa 2008), and with consistent, knowledgeable stewards, the outcome may have been different altogether.
Q: The FIA announced that they have charged Renault with bringing the sport into disrepute, citing the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix and Nelson Piquet's retirement, any thoughts on this?
A: Well, I do not know all the details about the case so I cannot make a full comment, but it does strike me as odd that all of a sudden, nearly a year on, the FIA can find new evidence. Why wasn't that evidence available or obvious to them immediately after the event? It does disappoint me that the 2008 championship is in the history books, and now it is being re-written, well almost.
Q: Force India have gone from almost four second off Brawn GP to perhaps half a second clear of them, does it make you happy to see a tiny team defeat teams like BMW and McLaren?
A: Oh yes, it makes me very happy indeed. The little teams bring that extra flavour to our sport, you can have your Ferrari, Mercedes and so on, but then the small ones like Force India add that bit extra. To see them doing so well is great though, we need a success story like that right now.
Q: The FIA were criticized for the way they handled the diffuser controversy that overshadowed that beginning of the season, do you think they could have handled it better?
A: Well that was a difficult period I believe, the FIA had their hands tied in many ways, but you would think that after declaring those diffusers legal nearly ten times before the Australian Grand Prix, the teams would have just accepted it but no, they had to fight it. I can understand that, three teams having a huge technical advantage must have been very annoying, but the FIA should have done more to ensure that the fiasco did not drag on so long.
Q: Many observers have voiced their concerns over Jean Todt's past relationship with Ferrari, believing that it is nigh-on impossible for him to remain impartial all the time, do you share those concerns?
A: It is not for me to be concerned about really, I think Jean is an honest person, a respectable person, someone you can trust. I just think I am better for the job!