FIA president Jean Todt has hit the media trail in a limited way over the past couple of weeks – particularly in Italy – and has put some interesting ideas out there. Among other things he stated that any new circuit hoping to get an FIA licence will be assessed as much for spectacle as safety. He has even suggested that circuits should be ranked by entertainment value.
Todt has not had a high media profile since taking on the job a year ago, particularly on Formula 1, but lately has come out with some more comments.
Speaking to La Stampa newspaper Todt responded to the criticisms raised of the season finale in Abu Dhabi where several drivers found it extremely difficult to overtake, not least Fernando Alonso, whose world title hopes were dashed by exiting the pits behind the Renault of Vitaly Petrov and Lewis Hamilton who could not pass Robert Kubica.
“We need to encourage more overtaking,” Todt said “In Abu Dhabi, it was impossible. I’m speaking as the President of the FIA. Hamilton had fresh tyres and was two seconds [a lap] faster than Kubica and yet he failed to pass. From now on, before a new circuit is approved, we will evaluate the potential for the spectacle as well as the safety.”
At present a new circuit is subject to an inspection by FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting, which is primarily focussed on making sure that all the deliverables are in place in terms of infrastructure and above all safety measures meet current FIA F1 standards.
But Todt’s intervention indicates that the FIA wants to put circuit designers and builders under more pressure to make tracks on which cars can entertain.
Richard Cregan, the CEO of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has said that they will do whatever the FIA ask them to in order to improve the circuit.
In an interview at the end of last week in Gazzetta dello Sport, Todt said that he would use the FIA commission meeting this week to discuss the problem of overtaking and that each circuit should have an entertainment ranking, a mark out of ten and he would like them to push for improvements as soon as 2011.
Incidentally next World Council meeting is on 9 December at which the Sporting Working Group is due to report on team orders, having been mandated to come up with a new regulation in the aftermath of Ferrari’s team orders infringement in Germany this year. Speaking in Gazzetta last week Todt said that he “regrets” the decision which sparked the original ban on team orders, his call to make Rubens Barrichello give the win to MIchael Schumacher in Austria in 2002.
It’s not been much remarked upon in the media but Todt has also suggested in the last week that there could be a test for young drivers on the Monday after certain Grands Prix. He also said that the FIA was going to open a marketing department. Bernie Ecclestone’s FOM company has been advertising recently for marketing executives, so there is clearly quite a push on. It will be interesting to see where the FIA starts and FOM stops on these areas.