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F1′s revolving door: Bourdais out, Todt back in?
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F1′s revolving door: Bourdais out, Todt back in?
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Jul 2009   |  8:52 am GMT  |  23 comments

Yesterday we got two pieces of ‘news’ which took no-one by surprise; Toro Rosso has dropped Sebastien Bourdais and Jean Todt is officially running to replace Max Mosley as FIA president.

Speculation about Bourdais’s position has been rife since last season and has mounted throughout this year. He’s a difficult one to pin down as to why it went wrong. On the one hand he had an excellent pedigree with a strong  run to become F3000 champion, but he had great difficulty getting an F1 team to take him. He went over to America and dominated ChampCar, winning four consecutive titles, but he was beating drivers like Robert Doornbos and Justin Wilson. He was considered untouchable over there and yet his feeling that F1 was unfinished business remained until he got the Toro Rosso gig, which has lasted for a season and a half.

I imagine that, like Cristiano da Matta, another ChampCar champion who retreated from Toyota with his tail between his legs, he will end up back in the States.

All I really know about Bourdais’ situation is that the engineers felt that he was often behind the car, as if things were happening too quickly for him. F1 cars are faster and more nimble than ChampCars, but drivers have made the adjustment before. ChampCars are perhaps more about mechanical grip, whereas F1 cars are about aerodynamics first and mechanical grip second.  In any case, he got the nod over Takuma Sato for this season after the team had tested Taku and he had gone quite well. A few races into the season, he was regularly being outpaced by his rookie team mate Sebastien Buemi, complaining about a lack of testing of the new car.

The team wanted to drop Bourdais, but felt that there was no point replacing him with a rookie. They have since had a rethink and are drafting in 19 year old Jaime Alguersuari, the youngest ever F1 driver.

The decision is timed to give Alguersuari the best chance of making an impression as in Hungary the car will get the Toro Rosso version of the update kit which gave Red Bull some 7/10ths of a second when it was introduced onto their car at Silverstone. Toro Rosso have been propping up the grid lately.

Bourdais has threatened legal action since the announcement, claiming that the team has breached the terms of the contract.

“I believe that nothing in my attitude, on or off the track, can justify this decision. It is an obvious violation of Scuderia Toro Rosso’s obligations in regards to the contract in place,” said a ‘shocked’ Bourdais.

Meanwhile Max Mosley’s letter to FIA member club presidents on Wednesday, endorsing Jean Todt as the man to carry on his work of the last 16 years was followed by Todt throwing his hat into the ring.

“It is my intention to continue and expand the outstanding work of President Mosley, who for 16 years has worked tirelessly to strengthen the FIA‘s major motor sport championships and to position the FIA as the voice of the motoring public, actively promoting safe, clean and affordable mobility for all, ” said 63 year old Todt.

One of the keys to winning this election is to have the right running mates and he has already named some figures to serve with him on the motor sport and mobility sides and the whole thing looks thoroughly well thought out. One of them is Nick Craw, the American who has worked very closely with Mosley on the Formula 1 side in recent times. He would head the FIA Senate, which is the body that has been entrusted with dealing with F1 in future, so Craw would become the ‘go-to guy’ in F1 terms. The FIA is a large organisation with many different activities and, although all the money comes from the sport, Todt would not by any means focus his attention on F1. There is also rallying, world touring cars, Formula 2, karting and then the mobility side which is everyday motoring.

With Todt you can be sure that he would only be doing this if he felt he had a strong chance of winning. He has been involved in FIA politics now for several months as a trustee of the FIA foundation and  as a member of the board which hands out the $100m fine McLaren paid the FIA in 2007 to motor sport programmes in developing countries.

The F1 teams have no say in who the next FIA president is, but most would be disappointed if it were Todt, given his history in the sport. Like Ron Dennis, he was considered a divisive figure, despite the respect held for his enormous success at restructuring Ferrari.

The question is, would Todt take the same confrontational approach as Mosley?  His scope for ‘dictating’ to the teams, their greatest fear, would be limited. With the Concorde Agreement soon to be in place, the mechanism for changing the rules is back to the old system, whereby it has to pass through the F1 commission, which is made up of teams, promoters, manufacturers, tyre makers and FIA representatives. It has not been used  for the last few years as there was no Concorde Agreement in place, hence all the trouble over budget caps.

Although it might appear that a Todt presidency would be good news for Ferrari, I believe that the reverse is the case, as there seems to have been a major falling out between Todt and Ferrari and FOTA boss Luca di Montezemolo. In any case, Todt would want to be seen not to favour his old team.

Todt and Ari Vatanen are the only declared candidates, thus far.

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23 Comments
  1. Gary Davidson says:

    It will be interesting to see actually how far this update puts Toro Rosso up the grid. I think we all remember the 2nd half of last season when the got the full Red Bull package. Problem is with the car in the hands of Buemi and Alguersuari I don’t forsee it challenging Red Bull’s rivals and taking points off them.

    It’s a shame for Bourdais that he won’t get to try the new STR, he was quite strong towards the end of last season.

  2. I fear a Todt presidency would be worse than that of Mosley and will drive even more fans away from F1. The man is devious and confrontational and has no respect from the other F1 team bosses.

  3. martin_tf says:

    Todt as FIA President will do a lot to quell any suspicion of an FIA Ferrari bias. Not.

    On a more serious note, I’d like to see Vatanen as President as he is an ex-driver, experienced politician and yet a relative outsider to F1. He may bring a refreshing perspective to it.

  4. Andy says:

    Interesting to see if the campaigning between Vatanen and Todt gets ugly, though I seriously doubt it. In my understanding, they are good friends, stemming from their rallying days, and just this summer Todt was promoting Vatanen to the European parliament in one his campaign events (in Monaco, I believe).

  5. Hey James,

    A very interesting article, that has raised a few questions.

    Are there any truth in the Loeb-STR rumours?

    You mention that only Vatanen and Todt are the declared candidates so far? Is anyone else rumoured to stand?

    If there was a third candidate then surely that would be more helpful for Todt. Surely it would devide the Vatanen support?

  6. Jamie Moles says:

    It seems strange to me that they would kick out an experienced driver for another rookie – especially when they are claiming that his results are poor in comparison to his team mate, but they both have less points than a car has wheels! Sounds like the team just want rid for some internal reason and he may have a strong legal case against them.

  7. Kenny says:

    STR have 2 million reasons for putting Alguersuari in a Toro Rosso. The money talked, Seb walked.

  8. john g says:

    from what i’ve read, jaime brings a large pot of repsol money with him… otherwise i’d have thought purely on performance there would be several others ahead of him, like klien or sato.

    as for the FIA presidency, getting todt in would hardly be the breath of fresh air that everyone is hoping for. his cabinet would be the same as mosely’s and he appears the sort of person willing to continue the ‘behind closed door’ dealings etc. i really hope ari gets in, he comes across as the perfect candidate in all the interviews he’s given. unfortunately, he’s probably a bit too straight and honest to get it

  9. jim says:

    Bourdais was sold out for 2 million.
    Lame…

    “Jul.17 (GMM) Jaime Alguersuari’s formula one debut is being powered by sponsorship from two major Spanish companies.

    It is expected that Toro Rosso will announce next Monday that the 19-year-old Spaniard is to be Sebastien Bourdais’ replacement for the Hungarian grand prix and beyond.

    Spanish media claim he is backed by the oil company Repsol as well as La Caixa, Spain’s leading savings bank.

    Press sources claim the companies are advancing 2 million euros to the Faenza based team, guaranteeing Alguersuari the race seat for the forthcoming Hungarian and European grands prix.

    Even if Toro Rosso decides to oust the rookie after Valencia, the team is able to keep the Spanish sponsorship funds, the newspaper Diario AS said.”

  10. Richie Mee says:

    And so, with depressing inevitability Todt enters the fray…. complete with vendetta’s, a torn-up fan’s wishlist and a glowing endorsement from self-appointed Dictator for Life Mosley.
    Vatanen comes across as level-headed – no agenda’s beyond his remit and political experience at the highest International level. Yet why do I feel like he doesn’t stand a chance?…

  11. Victor says:

    Seems as if F1′s worst-kept secrets are being confirmed one by one. What’s next? Alonso to Ferrari? :)

    Anyway, it’s quite a pity to see Bourdais being shown the door in such an unceremonious way, but this handling of drivers is rather characteristic of Franz Tost. Think back to the same period of 2007… Scott Speed felt he had a secure contract, yet Tost and the STR management showed him the door after Nurburgring. As for Seb’s future, I personally think it’s very closely linked with Peugeot’s sportscar programme. They have entered two cars for Petit Le Mans and I’m expecting the top two crews from Le Mans there, meaning that Bourdais will be there as well.

    I’ll reserve judgement on the Todt matter as of this moment. Politics, whether in real life or in sport, are a real bore and annoyance when they take up more column space than the event itself.

  12. PaulL says:

    “Although I have criticised the FIA strongly, I have never aimed it at Mosley personally,” Vatanen told Spanish newspaper AS.

    “But it’s not good that a leader stays in the post for a long time, and when that happens, the best thing is a change. And I represent that change, a new era with more freshness.

    “On the contrary, Jean Todt represents the old era, and it’s not right that Max wants to impose a new leader, and that he uses the power of the federation to support his campaign. The FIA is not a kingdom; it’s a republic where the leaders are chosen democratically.

    “At Ferrari they don’t want Todt to be president, and so they have told me, because they think they sport would lose credibility. The same would happen if it was Ross Brawn or Flavio Briatore running. The president of the FIA must be someone neutral.”
    —————————————

    I support Vatanen’s views. He’s the best pick for FIA president.

    You reckon if Todt gets in he’ll tell the Ferrari engined Torro Rossos to hold up Hamilton? :)

  13. vicweir says:

    I read a while ago Jean Todt saying of himself that his worst personal failing was the bearing of old grudges!

    A very honest self appraisal, but after recent events, a character defect that should disqualify him from going anywhere near the FIA in general or F1 in particular, I’d have thought!

    1. James Allen says:

      You are right; it’s in my biography of Michael Schumacher. It is a very good point.

  14. Stu says:

    So this new driver is going to be the youngest F1 driver ever in Hungary and will be racing in his home GP in Valencia. Call me sceptical but that’s their headlines guaranteed for the next 2 races. Anything else, as they say, is gravy.

  15. onyx says:

    James
    Wasnt Bernie supposed to have sorted F1 out within 48 hrs(said on Monday)!!!Surely he’s ‘lost it’ hasnt he?!
    Also not much news from Cosworth considering they are supplying 3 teams!

  16. Snail says:

    You are right; it’s in my biography of Michael Schumacher. It is a very good point.

    What is in your bio of Schumi?

    Lack of context is the cause, I’ve no idea which posting you responded to. The previous blog layout with replies in context was better.

    As was the comments not being in small text in grey (they were in larger, black text).

    Please modify the CSS and the reply mechanism. Its unusual for a redesign to go backwards in usability.

    Other than these criticisms, good blog.

    1. James Allen says:

      Snail, I was referring to the point about Todt saying he bears grudges. As to the comments, we are working on something with better usability.

  17. Malcom says:

    If Jean Todt cannot see the destructive actions taken by Mr. Mosley, then he is definitely not what F1 needs to be, as the head of the FIA. Mr. Todt said, ” It is my intention to continue and expand the outstanding work by President Mosley “…..outstanding work by President Mosley…..What outstanding work? Creating an enviornment of crisis, which nearly brought about a breakaway series, is hardly what I would consider to be …….outstanding work. F1 now needs a calming influence, and not more turmoil, which might be brought about with the election of Mr. Todt.

  18. Jonathan says:

    Am I the only one to notice that Todt’s letter to the FIA announcing his candidacy really sounded as if it had come from the pen of Mosley?

  19. Rudy Pyatt says:

    The Bourdais move does seem cynical and motivated by sponsorship considerations more than anything else. To say it’s performance ignores the fact that points have been thin on the ground for both drivers in the team this year. That says more about what’s being driven than who is driving it. But, as noted above, they’ve been here before, with Speed and with Liuzzi. Truth is, STR has yet to keep a stable driving line-up for two full seasons, and I wonder if they ever will under this management. That’s not the way to make progress.

    Todt means more years of the same crowd in power, kinda like the name Jerry Garcia’s bluegrass band: Old And In The Way.

  20. Matthew Bewers says:

    The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t is what I say. We all know Jean Todt but who knows anything about Vatanen?

    Anyway, wasn’t Todt linked to the FIA President’s role a few years ago and said that he wouldn’t stand for the post! Now he’s really keen to go for it!! Why is this…?

  21. Rick J says:

    Some very good points have already been made here against the suitability of Jean Todt for FIA president. Heaven forbid there be a continuation of the Mosley style. I truly hope Ari Vatanen wins the presidency. In the final analysis Motorsports are all about drivers and driving. Everything else exists to provide the means. The FIA needs to be able to draw on a driver perspective to best serve the interests and objectives of the sport. Given his other political experience I think Ari Vatanen is a great choice.

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