x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Vatanen pledges new start

The FIA presidency hopeful calls for change, while an Indian consortium are set to buy BMW-Sauber in a deal involving a driver from the sub-continent.

Ari Vatanen, who hopes to be the FIA's next president, has said the organisation must get their own house in order after criticism.
Ari Vatanen, who hopes to be the FIA's next president, has said the organisation must get their own house in order after criticism.

Ari Vatanen, a former World Rally Championship title winner, has billed himself as the catalyst for change if he becomes the next Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) president. He is viewed as the underdog ahead of the October 23 election which pits him against Jean Todt, particularly as outgoing president Max Mosley has resoundingly endorsed Todt as his successor.

Todt, a former team principal of Ferrari, has plenty of support but Vatanen has said he should not be turned to solely as a vote against Mosley. "No, I am [not the anti-Max candidate] the new-start-for-the-FIA candidate. "I'll leave it for other people to decide whether Jean is tainted by Max's endorsement. "Max has said several times he wants to leave his legacy to Jean, who has said he wants to carry on the extraordinary work of Max. That's fair enough.

"But me and my team, we propose something different. We want an FIA based on noble values, honesty and transparency, where not only minorities benefit, but everybody benefits. If people see the FIA's reputation is damaged then it is an alarm call to get our act together." Mosley was at the centre of the dispute with Formula One teams over the introduction of a voluntary budget cap. Vatanen feels the FIA and the sport only have themselves to blame for the governing body's tarnished reputation.

"Remember, we are not just representing the 20 drivers in F1 who are the very visible part of our iceberg, but also what is underneath - the one billion automobile users," he said. "I'm not here for polemics or to point a finger at someone. We have to observe, assess and judge things truthfully. "If the image of the FIA is damaged, why? Because the FIA has been a battleground for family members, of humiliation, of personal victories and ego trips, you name it.

"We can only improve it in the eyes of the rest of the world if we improve our own behaviour. " An Indian consortium has applied to buy BMW-Sauber, which is seeking new backers after German carmaker BMW said it was pulling out of the sport at the end of the season. The deal involves Swiss driver Neel Jani, who features in the A1 GP series and whose father is Indian. An Indian already owns an F1 team with billionaire Vijay Mallya's Force India, but there is no Indian driver on the grid.

Last month team principal Mario Theissen said BMW-Sauber had several rescue proposals and had applied to keep their place in the sport next year. * Agencies