Analysis: Vatanen's name not enough
|By Jonathan Noble||Tuesday, July 7th 2009, 11:47 GMT|
Ari Vatanen's high profile in the motor racing world may make him a serious contender to become FIA president, whether or not he ends up standing against Max Mosley in October, but the governing body's voting system means he will not just be able to rely on his own reputation.
The former world rally champion is a popular figure within the motor racing world. Beyond that, he has experience of politics, having been a member of the European Parliament from 1999 until this year, plus has had a role within the governing body as a trustee for the FIA Foundation.
However, success in the fight for FIA president is not just about the attributes of the single man standing for the top job - because it requires a whole 22-strong 'cabinet' list to be nominated prior to the election taking place.
This cabinet system was introduced in 2005, just prior to Mosley successfully winning another term as president after standing unopposed. The original aim of the cabinet system was to ensure that wild card candidates could not put themselves forward and hope to capitalise on merely a negative vote for the current president.
In a letter sent in 2005, prior to the FIA senate approving the cabinet system, Mosley said: "In order to be successful, a candidate for the presidency would need the open support and backing of major participants in the FIA.
"This would mean that the presidency would tend to go to someone with a team and a programme, both of which had broad support throughout the FIA rather than the backing of any particular interest group."
In a reminder document sent last week by the FIA to national motoring authorities worldwide, which has been seen by AUTOSPORT, the process by which the elections at the General Assembly on October 23 will take place were laid out.
It confirmed that the list of candidates for president may be submitted from September 11 to October 2. The document also said that an application to stand for president had to include the 'full name, position and signature' of each of the 22 candidates being put forward to form the 'cabinet'.
This core group of people must include a President of the Senate, a Deputy President for Sport, a Deputy President for Automobile Mobility and Tourism, five members of the Senate, seven vice-presidents of the FIA for Sport and seven vice-presidents of the FIA for Automobile Mobility and Tourism.
Assembling a 22-strong team ready to be so public in its support is not an insurmountable problem, but one big difficulty is that none of the individuals on one presidential hopeful's list can be present on another.
The FIA document said: "A list cannot include a candidate who is already registered on another list, on pain of ineligibility of the said candidate. Should such be the case, (and after the identification by the FIA Secretariat) the list reader must provide a replacement for the 'lost' candidate in the conditions set out in the FIA Internal Regulations."
The impact of the system is that it is almost certainly beneficial to the incumbent. So, should Mosley choose to stand again, he will likely have in place the strongest team with the most widespread support - leaving rivals with no option but to choose a team of different cabinet members who may not be anywhere near as influential.
Furthermore, if there is more than one candidate that chooses to go up against Mosley, then that could further dilute the strength of the members of each of their rival cabinets.
Should Mosley see through with his decision not to stand again, then his influence over elections could still sway matters. The candidate who has his support could end up with his best cabinet members - which would be a massive boost to the chances of success.
While the FIA and Formula 1 teams await with bated breath to see if Mosley will stand again in October's elections, the fight for the future presidency will be as much about what takes place behind closed doors up until October 23 as it will be about what happens in the ballot boxes on election day.