• The Inside Line

This race ain't big enough for the both of us

Kate Walker November 15, 2013
Jean Todt will now run unopposed, but change could still be on the way at the FIA © Sutton Images
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Bowing to the inevitable, David Ward has withdrawn his candidacy for the FIA presidency, leaving incumbent Jean Todt to run unopposed.

Given that Ward was running with the intention of shining a light on the difficulty of unseating an incumbent president, removing his hat from the ring at this late stage emphasises the Briton's point rather more than victory would have done. After all, if one of the cornerstones of your campaign is that the electoral process is designed to disadvantage you, winning the election creates a somewhat uncomfortable paradox.

By announcing his intention to stand, Ward was able to draw a media spotlight to the FIA's standards of governance and its labyrinthine electoral process. And since Monza, that is what he has done, sending volley after volley of attacks at the Place de la Concorde. But while Ward's Agenda for Change garnered a lot of media support in Fleet Street, its reception in the paddock was rather different.

Speaking to a variety of senior F1 types off the record, there was widespread discomfort in reaction to Ward's campaign. While many sympathised - and still do - with the need to simplify the electoral process, and few object to the notion of increased transparency in any form, Ward's many years of service with the FIA were widely viewed as undermining his position.

The question was simple: Given that Ward had spent many years working closely with Max Mosley - years when he was in an ideal position to recommend and push through all manner of FIA reforms - why did he only choose to speak up four years after Max had left the Federation for pastures new?

From the very beginning, Ward was open about the fact that he was less interested in becoming FIA president than he was in highlighting what he saw as shortfalls in the FIA's standards of governance. Should another candidate emerge who supported his Agenda for Change, Ward said, he would gladly step back and throw his weight behind that campaign. It was that admission that led many to suppose that the Briton was a stalking horse for another candidate, widely assumed to be Mohammed bin Sulayem.

But bin Sulayem came out in support of Todt, and no one else stepped forward for Ward to either support or oppose. His efforts to secure the full vice presidential list needed to run came to naught, either due to those controversial support letters or to the unwillingness of the FIA's conservative membership to support what was, in essence, a revolution. Men in blue blazers find it rather easier to stomach evolution, after all. They're more likely to keep their loci of power that way.

In a way, by pulling out now Ward has achieved his aims without having to suffer the rigmarole of a full election campaign. Standards of governance and transparency are now being discussed openly within the FIA, and minor electoral reforms are already underway, with others up for debate in future meetings of the relevant committees. It remains to be seen whether those discussions will lead to the brave new FIA world of Ward's ideals, but his Agenda for Change has put governance on the agenda.

© 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'.