LONDON (Reuters) - Jean Todt’s election as FIA president will keep Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone happy even if the Frenchman is a very different character to controversial British predecessor Max Mosley.
Formula One teams and manufacturers, who see Todt very much as Mosley’s man, will just have to grit their teeth and learn to live with the former Ferrari principal taking over the sport’s governing body.
Ecclestone, who has enjoyed a close relationship with compatriot Mosley since the early 1970s, will view the new president as a man he can do business with.
“I have known Jean for many years. he is a most reliable, gifted and trustworthy person,” the commercial supremo said last month. “He is determined and dedicated to whatever goals he sets himself and I admire and respect him greatly for everything he has achieved.”
Todt was the establishment candidate for the most powerful position in motorsport, and he takes office with a ‘cabinet’ of Mosley allies after a campaign managed by the FIA’s former head of communications.
The 63-year-old Frenchman, who was also backed by retired champion Michael Schumacher, made clear before Friday’s vote in Paris that he would not be rocking the boat even if his approach to the job was ultimately different.
“It is my intention to continue and expand the outstanding work of President Mosley,” Todt said in July when he announced his candidacy.
Britain’s Graham Stoker will be Todt’s deputy president for sport while New Zealand’s Brian Gibbons takes on the same position for motoring matters related to general mobility and tourism.
American Nick Craw takes over as Senate president.
Todt, who has had a prickly relationship with the media in contrast to his predecessor’s patrician charm, made clear on Monday that he expects his team to play a big part in the new-look FIA.
His first task will be to mend fences after a bruising campaign and bring unity back to a body divided in particular by Mosley’s involvement last year in a sado-masochistic sex scandal.
“I like action, I like to make things go forward and I am really happy to see that so many countries chose me but everything is yet to be done, in cooperation with all the clubs, to unify the FIA,” Todt said Friday.
“The day the election is over, everybody must share the same goals including those who did not support me. I am not closing the door to anybody.
“I disagree with those who say everything should be changed,” he added. “During the campaign, I spoke about constructive change and adaptation to the fact that things are different from what they were 10 years ago.
“We are facing a new crucial era for cars, the environment and global warming. And it has strong implications for motor racing.”
Despite his previous roles at Peugeot, in world rallying, and with Fiat-owned Ferrari, the manufacturers cannot count on any special favours from Todt.
“I must emphasise he would not in any way be a motor industry candidate,” Mosley said earlier this year.
Formula One’s immediate problem is in ensuring a healthy starting grid, in a harsh financial climate and after the exit of leading manufacturers Honda and BMW, as well as cutting costs and moving towards a greener future.
The sport’s image, rocked only recently by the race-fixing scandal that left Renault with a suspended permanent ban, is also in need of repair.
“It is true to say that over the years, and not only the last two, a lot of problems have arisen but Formula One remains one of the major sports,” said Todt, himself involved in several controversies with Ferrari.
“All the controversies have opened the eyes of people involved in this business and I am optimistic that things will improve.”
(Additional reporting by Bertrand Boucey in Paris)
Editing by Alison Wildey