• The Inside Line

More lines drawn in election battle

Kate Walker October 5, 2013
Jean Todt has received a boost in the shape of support from the influential Qataris © Sutton Images
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A week is a long time in politics, or so they say. Given that a week in Formula One can see teams and personnel switch continents and time zones, packing up and rebuilding a travelling village in the process, a week in F1 politics must be longer still.

It has been more than a week since David Ward announced that he would be challenging incumbent Jean Todt in the forthcoming FIA presidential elections, but this past week has proven to be particularly significant for the Briton's campaign.

The former Labour Party strategist is campaigning on a platform of good governance, and hopes to revise the internal workings of a body he describes as 'amateur, antiquated, and autocratic', but this week Ward made it clear that he is more interested in securing reforms within the FIA than he is in winning the election.

Should another candidate emerge who is willing to take on the task of overhauling the labyrinthine inner workings of the Federation, Ward has said that he would be willing to remove himself from the ticket and support their campaign instead. It is a statement that has led to some of F1's conspiracy theorists jumping to the conclusion that the Briton is a stalking horse for another candidate -Max Mosley and Mohammed bin Sulayem are both popular choices.

But Ward himself laughs off such accusations - the self-confessed governance geek is more interested in bringing the FIA's administration into line with the democratic ideals that have shaped his career thus far than he is in serving as anyone else's patsy.

Whoever ends up standing against Todt is going to face an uphill battle, whatever comes of the current fracas of letters of support that pre-date the official start of the electoral process. This week, one of the most powerful and respected faces in Middle Eastern motorsport pledged his full support for the Frenchman, and where Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah leads, many in the region will follow.

Al Attiyah is president of the Qatar Motor and Motor Cycle Federation (QMMF) and president of the FIA's Cross Country Rally Commission, meaning that he has two useful spheres of influence: the Middle Eastern and North African region as a physical body, and the MENA region within the FIA - where the votes actually lie.

Given the as yet unresolved furore over Todt's pre-campaign letters of support from clubs in Asia and the Americas, Al Attiyah's support for the Frenchman provides a massive boon to the incumbent's campaign. As a declaration of intent freely issued after the electoral process officially began, there can be no moral quandary over the backing from one of the Middle East's heaviest hitters.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'.
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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'.