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Formula 1

Mosley’s ‘Empire Strikes Back’ as Jean Todt is elected President of the FIA

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In May 2002 there was a Presidential election in France. Jacque Chirac, the incumbent President and ultra astute politician, found himself to the chagrin of many commentators, in a straight two way political shoot-out with the leader of the fascist Front Nationale (FN) Jean Marie Le Pen.  Despite Le Pen's vile and abhorrent utterances about race in France, he gathered support to his message, particularly in the South of the country, because he was going hell for leather against Chirac's administration that had been tainted as profoundly corrupt.  During the election many French voters made a great exhibition of their unwillingness to vote for Chirac by publicly holding their noses and fumigating themselves as they left the voting booth.

Fearing a setback to democracy, French voters returned Chirac to power. Despite fears of an upset, Chirac eventually won the election with one of the largest margins in French history.  A margin of 82% of the vote went to Chirac, and Le Pen hasn't been heard from centre stage of French politics since then.  However, the FN continued to be the third largest party in French politics till about 2006.

Over the past couple of months events leading up to  FiA election in France today have had nothing to do with political ideology,(as far  as anyone can tell), but similar to the French Presidential election of 2002,  it has been nothing short of being dramatic, acrimonious and peculiarly engaging.  To Finnish Ari Vatanen's credit, he managed inject some much needed excitement into the election process by running a very professional campaign. Utilising momentum for change in light of  Renault’s trouble's involving Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds to his own end like a consummate politician.

All things being equal, Vatanen might have won.  Unfortunately, he alienated the infamous 'Piranha Club' (to borrow a term from Author Timothy Collings) and subsequently burnt his bridges.  So, Max Mosley, the Darth Vader equivalent of the 'Piranha Empire' doing the bidding of Emperor Ecclestone, struck back with much force and alacrity.   Not only did Frenchman Jean Todt's candidature continue to secure influential endorsements leading up to today's election, but considering the margin of defeat for Vatanen, it's fair to assume that many of Vatanen's allies for some reason abandoned him.

According the FiA press release,  Jean Todt got 86 votes more than Vatanen out of a total of 196, with 12 votes invalid or abstaining, leaving Vatanen to pick up 49 votes to Todt's 135. Reuters reports that Vatanen was surprised at the Todt's margin of victory. “I didn't expect such a vast majority would vote for Jean Todt” he told reports. How could he have seen it coming?  Hardly anyone saw Todt on the campaign trail. That's politics from the Darkside.

Since the election, the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) has congratulated Todt, with Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo saying “I have always appreciated his ability, dedication and commitment”.  It seems like Max Mosley was telling the truth about the FiA, when he wrote that letter to Prince Feisal of Jordan earlier this month  warning him off Vatanen because he would lose badly. Many observers, including myself expected Jean Todt to win but not by such a wide margin. I'm absolutely satisfied that the outcome is legitimate so to me  there seems little point of Vatanen retaining legal council since the margin of the defeat negates any confusion about who really won. Yet, despite the outcome overwhelming tilted in Jean Todt's favour, I for one will forever suspect that some members of the FiA held their noses when they cast their vote for the continuation of Formula One's Piranha Empire.

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Charles is a regular contributor to TCF, he's based in London and can be found on twitter at @IBMsports
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