Q & A with Ari Vatanen

Ari Vatanen's bid to become FIA president will move up a gear later this week when he announces the 'cabinet' of supporters who will work with him if he is successful in October's election

Q & A with Ari Vatanen

The former world rally champion has begun canvassing support, having travelled to the German and Hungarian Grands Prix and having now begun visiting FIA members worldwide to talk about his plans for the future.

AUTOSPORT caught up with Vatanen to talk about recent events, how the early days of his campaign have gone and his reaction to comments he made about Jean Todt that provoked anger from the FIA foundation.

Q. You've visited two Formula 1 races since announcing your plans to stand as FIA president. How is your campaign going, and what is the feeling that you are getting from the people you've spoken to?

Ari Vatanen: Exactly as we are standing here - you are facing a headwind, and it is behind me. That is the overall feeling. Of course in the paddock you cannot gauge things exactly as there is a lot of misinformation going around, so therefore I limit myself to the task at hand - not try to figure out how many eggs I have got in the basket.

They will not hatch before October 23, and it is a secret hatching - so why waste energy on something like that. I don't know what is going to happen then. Of course, people have aspirations and in all modesty, I feel that most of those aspirations for a new start are channelled through me and my team. That is all I can say. It not against Jean, it is not against anybody. That is just what I feel.

How much of that that will be translated into votes on D-day remains to be seen, but I have never been worried about that. In the end itself, every second of this is worthwhile.

Q. The election is fought out amongst member clubs, and F1 teams have no say in the outcome. What is your reasoning for coming to the F1 paddock?

AV: Well, it is because of the visible part of it. You need the visibility; you need to get your message coming across because the public opinion also plays a role. So you cannot overlook any of the domains of the electoral process. The paddock is a hot spot where you do meet representatives of clubs of regions of various parts of the world, instead of travelling to India and South America - you can meet them all here. It makes total sense.

Q. How has the feedback from the teams been?

AV: I know the teams do not vote. And, as I have always been saying, and I was totally independent in the European parliament, I have consistently voted against manufacturers because when I have looked at any legislation I have always looked from the customers' point of view. So therefore I have always been in favour of liberalising and dismantling any monopolies.

But in F1, these teams are the customers of the sporting regulator, where they come to act with their money, not the regulators' money. So how can I say they are outsiders? If they go away because they say I have been badly treating them, who suffers? Me and my clubs. So let's get some basic principles into the equation.

If the equation as a whole gives the right result, then everybody is prospering. It is not rocket science, so that is why you need to take them into account, and their voice has to be heard. If you don't listen, then do you want them to go elsewhere?

Q. But the perception is that the F1 world championship belongs to the FIA, and the teams want to try and take it over and increase their powerbase...

AV: But that assessment does not have any truth in it...

Q. Are you confident that the voting members of the FIA are aware of that?

AV: Well, we need to explain that to them in clear terms. With paying actors, we provide the stage for them and if they are not happy with that part of the business plan, if you don't give them an attractive return on their investment work, and there is not enough visibility so they are always afraid of new change not done in consultation, and they have lots of daily troubles in running their businesses, then they will go elsewhere.

This is not charity work, they are not here wasting company work, and it is part of the business plan to make their respective companies prosper further. Their life does not revolve around F1. I would like to use this incredible potential that is in our family and turn it into a positive. This should be a sport like NASCAR where people are queuing to get into events, and on the last lap you don't know who is going to win. You don't know who is the murderer until the last page of an Agatha Christie novel.

Come on, what is wrong with this kind of prospect? Nothing. Plus money would then start pouring in. So if this has all stopped happening just because of personal clashes, power fights and what have you, then come on - no wonder what people on the outside think of the FIA, and what the people on the inside think. I am not once again blaming Max. We simply can do things much better if we see this is in our common interest.

Q. A lot was made recently about comments you made regarding private planes used by Jean Todt. Has that situation been settled and resolved now?

AV: I learned my lesson. I never said one word negative about Jean, and not one word negative about Max. In my track record in public life over 30 years I never criticised people personally. But I may make a mistake, and if I do then please forgive me if I do something wrong.

In my years in the European parliament I could not say the truth about my colleagues, so I said nothing - and I did not criticise them. Never. It is not my style. But it is also my role to also point out what kind of practices may go on. But I may have made a mistake, and people focused on one single comment and interpreted what I said about the FIA working as the FIA, and were our positions equal. That was all I said.

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