There was little love lost in the fight to be Max Mosley's successor. But was Jean Todt's victory a week ago just the start of an escalation of hostilities?
The political machinations were particularly intense as the campaign went into its last couple of weeks. The antipathy between the two camps escalated notably. Not that it wasn't there from the moment Ari Vatanen announced his candidature. At that stage Jean Todt had yet to announce he would stand, but already Max Mosley as the incumbent president had expressed his approval of Todt as his successor.
That was the start of the trouble and Vatanen brought it up again in a letter to Mosley a week before the vote. That endorsement of one of the candidates over the other was, Vatanen said, just one of several ways in which the campaign was not being run to the standards of neutrality demanded by French law. Note the word 'law'.
Max disagreed, saying: "I know of no provision of French or any other law which prevents an outgoing office holder offering his personal view on who is most qualified to be his successor... It is not a violation of any legal principle for anyone to think that you are a less qualified candidate than your opponent for the role in question." A summary that offered both a legal opinion and a thinly disguised attack on Vatanen's suitability, rather in line with Mosley's earlier offering that Vatanen had not only never headed a big organisation before, but hadn't even run his own rally car - because that was the co-driver's job.
Very droll, but possibly inappropriate - and hardly in keeping with Max's plea of "calling on all candidates to avoid negative campaigning". In his letter Vatanen claimed that FIA staff members and employees of organisations dependent upon the FIA had campaigned on behalf of Todt. FIA Foundation director David Ward, said Vatanen, was one of those. Ward countered that he worked only part-time for the Foundation, four days per week. He was entitled to do what he pleased on his day off - including, presumably, campaigning for Todt.
Observers reported a week earlier that Vatanen had been asked to leave the room by Mosley when Ari had questioned elements of the voting procedure. Vatanen followed this up with an order from the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris to impose procedures on the vote that ensured it was 'fair and transparent'. This seemed to anger the president, if the tone of his response was any guide: "Had Mr Vatanen troubled to examine the procedures in place, he would understand that these in fact already provide more safeguards than those he is asking the Court to impose." But - perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not - a change to the voting procedure was subsequently made. It was going to involve personalised envelopes - leading to fears that the ballot might not be all that secret - but now it wasn't. Now the voter could choose his own blank envelope and form before heading for the voting booth.
But possibly the single most ominous line in Vatanen's letter of complaint was this one: "In addition, I further reserve all right to take action on account of the act previously committed against me." Given this, one wonders if even though the vote went in Todt's favour, might there follow a legal challenge?
All this had come before the claims made by the former Ugandan motor sport chief Jack Wavamunno that a representative of Todt - a man in line to be made vice-president of Sport should Todt be president - made veiled threats and offered to pay for his club's outstanding subscriptions, but only if he voted the right way. If true, such claims would constitute bribery and intimidation. Amid such claims - both Vatanen's and Wavamunno's - any real election would now have been annulled while the claims were investigated, and if found to be true prosecutions would follow.
Get back on track. Join today for unlimited access to all Autosport news and features.
Are you an Autosport magazine subscriber? Activate your online account
Your Autosport Plus membership includes:
- Unlimited access to Autosport's news - no monthly cap.
- Read the best motorsport features, analysis and opinion.
- Explore Forix, our comprehensive motorsport stats database.
- Choose from monthly, yearly and two-yearly packages.