Left field

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Mosley gives F1 teams a parting gift

July 15, 2009

todtBy anointing Jean Todt as his designated successor, Max Mosley has sent a pretty clear message to the troublesome Formula One teams.

They wanted him out but if they think they are going to get someone more amenable running motorsport’s world governing body, then they can think again.

In fact, they are mistaken if they think they have seen the back of Mosley himself.

As the Briton said in a letter to FIA member clubs on Wednesday, he hopes to play “a modest role” himself in any Todt administration after he stands down in October.

The Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) made their position pretty clear last month when Toyota’s John Howett, the group’s vice-chairman, said “we’d like someone independent… independent of any of the teams.”

Their immediate silence to Mosley’s letter was telling. As Alan Henry writes on the Guardian website, it “confirmed a deep-rooted suspicion that Todt is the favoured successor largely because he thinks like Mosley and, perhaps more worryingly for the teams, may act like him too.”

Todt might be seen as a Ferrari man, having presided over the golden Michael Schumacher era at the Italian team, but there is now a very different atmosphere at Maranello to when he called the
shots.

In fact, there is a very different atmosphere in Formula One. Period. You only have to look at Mark Webber’s victory for Red Bull in Sunday’s German Grand Prix to see that.

There has been no attempt by the team to rein in the Australian or make him less of a threat to team mate Sebastian Vettel, winner of two races already this season and now Jenson Button’s closest challenger.

Vettel is German, hailed as Baby Schumi and a favourite among the German speaking element at Red Bull. But Webber led the one-two at the Nuerburgring. It was his first victory but the sport was just as much the winner.

As Red Bull boss Christian Horner said afterwards, the only demand the team will make of the drivers for the next few races is to make sure they don’t race each other off the track.

It was never thus at Ferrari, with Schumacher the clear number one.

Among my precious possessions is a tape of the post-race news conference from the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix with Schumacher booed by the media as he walked into the room for
taking an entirely undeserved victory from team mate Rubens Barrichello at Todt’s command.

Barrichello had led from pole position to the last corner, where he slowed and let Schumacher win a race that mattered little for the championship. The outcry was heard around the world.

Todt has done great things in sport, winning world championships and running highly successful operations. Nobody could question his work rate or commitment.

Just how sporting a choice he would be is another matter.

PHOTO: Jean Todt sits in the paddock during the practice session of the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at Sepang circuit, near Kuala Lumpur, March 21, 2008. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

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