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Todt warns F1 drivers to play it safe on the roads
Todt warns F1 drivers to play it safe on the roads
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Jun 2010   |  11:46 am GMT  |  117 comments

There’s a very interesting snippet in Le Parisien newspaper today in France, where FIA president Jean Todt says that F1 drivers who get into trouble on the roads, as Lewis Hamilton did in Australia this year, could face sanctions on the race track.

Todt is putting the “Make Roads Safe” campaign the cornerstone of his presidency, with the mission of saving five million lives on the roads during a decade of action.

High profile incidents like Hamilton’s “Hooning” charge, for which he is being tried in August, are embarrassing for Todt, who sees the world’s most famous drivers as vital role models for his campaign. Hamilton has been charged with deliberately losing control of a vehicle, for an incident where he did burn-outs as he left the circuit one night.

“There is an incompatibility between the status of a role model champion, and a possible infringement on the road, ” says Todt. “A driver is a driver like the others. We are therefore trying to see whether to do something, and how.

Last year 1.3 million people died on the roads, the majority in the developing world. Todt wants to use the vast communication platform of F1 to deliver powerful messages about making the roads safe and this is a clear warning to F1 drivers to keep themselves under control.

“The forecasts for 2020 are terrible, and they estimate that nearly two million people will be killed if no action is taken by then, ” adds Todt. “Now, with a minimum of dialogue, that figure could be halved. This requires education, improved road networks, and the involvement of new technology on cars.”

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To all those people saying “what he does outside of racing, shouldn’t effect his superlicence” – is just rubbish . .

I used to work on the Port where I live, I was a heavy machinery operator for nearly 10 years . . A few years back, I lost my licence outside of the Port – I also lost my job

My Boss said “if you’re not responsible enough to drive within the law, we can’t have you working here” – and I agreed with him


It’s quite a simple… Local/national government legislation is responsible for issuing licences to drivers to drive on the public roads which is regulated by the police and judicial courts system of that country. The FIA have only jurisdiction over licences issued for racing and no right to sanction racing drivers for offences committed on public roads.

The only plausible reason for the FIA to sanction any individual would be if that person were accused of bringing the sport into disrepute. In which case, Max Mosely, Nelson Piquet Jr and Flavio Briatore spring to mind far quicker than any minor public motoring offence by a driver in F1 or other series.


This really is a joke, is Todt slowly liking his power and letting it go to his head just as Mosley did? – Remember he wasn’t always the power freak he became.

The truth is there are probably NO drivers who don’t speed at some time and as others have said a lot of the speed limits are just silly.

Although up till this and Todt’s sudden announcement that the tyres are nothing to do with the teams (after all it’s only the teams that drive on them and design their cars around them so what do they know)?

Road safety has nothing to do with F1, get back in your box Todt and just leave F1 alone.


Generally I agree with M. Todt. However, I cannot agree that sportspeople are role models-look at some footballers (and Australian cricketers). But if they are going to support a road safety program, then they must be careful in their driving. However, what did Hamilton do? He wasn’t speeding, was he?

The law in Victoria inter alia defines “hoon driving” such that harsh acceleration making the tyres squeal is an offence. It also encompasses driving well over the speed limit, and street racing (which it was originally designed to catch).

What you and I would regard as acceptable in isolation is caught by overzealous officers.

It is my understanding that Lewis was not speeding, and that there was no danger to anyone, only that he spun the wheels/induced tyre sqeal.

I’m happy to be corrected.


I find it incredible just how many are saying Todt is wrong.

Personally I feel that some of the speed restrictions imposed on public roads are all but criminally foolish – like making the last few miles into London 40mph all night long. We need traffic to be kept moving and should have far more variable speed limits like the M25.

Back to this specific topic: Practically every “professional sport” has a requirement that its participants will not bring their sport into disrepute. Sadly far too few sports actually go anywhere near applying this rule effectively. For an F1 driver deliberately flaunting rules of the road definitely counts as such – do not forget they get fined/ penalised for speeding in the pit lane!

So Todt is spot on.

Having said that I fail to see how anyone who has seen Lewis driving close by could argue that he lost control of his car when stopped by police. His car control is awesome to watch and very precise! You can bet most F1 drivers would prefer to be cornering at speeds in excess of 150mph alongside Lewis in preference to Vettel… especially Webber!

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Surely, drink driving should be higlighted more than speeding.

If the FIA is worried about sending out the wrong message to fans on F1 personnel behaviour then why are they letting Flavio come back after being caught out as a cheat?!!


Don’t think that’s through choice; their ruling got overturned!


I don’t see how one would judge drivers’ behaviour on the road. Policing of the roads is so heavily influenced by local politics i.e. popularity, not necessarily wisdom. Local authorities might heavily punish something, that would elsewhere receive no attention at all, or even applause.

If one suggests that the law should be rigidly obeyed (although I personally am not 100% comfortable with that), then so should its prescribed punishments; they should not be embellished.

If one were to propose that judgement of a driver’s conduct be independent of the law, then the only fair way of doing things would be to have all the drivers under permanent observation; an absurd notion.

All that said, I do think that any drivers who were so inclined could help promote road safety. Not in terms of encouraging people to rigidly obey nominal rules, but by encouraging general good practice. For instance, they could remind people not to smoke, drink, or use the ‘phone while driving, or they could spread the word about advanced observational techniques. An intelligent approach to driving would almost certainly result in safer and more efficient travel, than mindless adherence to ever more prescriptive rules.

Sterling Mindenhall

Also, FTA: “Hamilton has been charged with deliberately losing control of a vehicle”. I wonder if he considered challenging that (if that is indeed the language used in the charge). Wheel spin does not inherently mean the loss of control of a vehicle. There may be very high rates of correlation, but wheel spin is not a sufficient condition for loss of control.

I’m sure he just wants to let the bad press blow over, but that’s a bit of an absurd claim that he lost control of it.


If you ask me, I think Todt is off on the worng foot. His job as FIA president should be more concerrned with safety of the drivers ON THE TRACK, because off the track drivers are governed by the same rules that govern the rest of us.. eg Lewis Hamilton

He should focus more on encouraging technological innovations in F1, like going faster, cheaper and safer. Road cars now do 200Mph easily these days, F1 cars should be racing at 250 mph plus by todays standards. After all F1 is the pinnacle of motor racing, right?

Sterling Mindenhall

If most of these deaths are happening in the developing world, then there’s little Todt (or anyone else) is going to be able to do about it, other than through highly gradual, and very indirect, means.

Having driven for years in developing countries, there are some constants I’ve noticed:

1. The crash-worthiness of the vehicles is uniformly atrocious for all but the wealthiest of people. That will improve over time, but it’ll take a long time to happen, and the economy will need to have such a surplus for the average person that people will justify buying a more expensive car. And however much they improve, their cars will always lag the ever-increasing safety margins of average first-world vehicles. This has nothing to do with Ham’s Great Hooning Debacle of 2010.

2. Most of the deaths I saw (or heard of) were due to car-pedestrian incidents, and none were due to the driver having fun with his car. It’s usually the tragic (but completely obvious) result of incredibly high population densities, vehicles that neither stop nor turn well, generally chaotic traffic patterns, etc. I’d like to see the stats of Death by Hooning by country, per capita. Guessing the statistical significance isn’t even there to compile the data. This has nothing to do with Ham’s Great Hooning Debacle of 2010.

3. The medical care given the injured is much worse in the third world, and is often completely unavailable. In fact, I heard of one case of a public transit driver backing over a little girl to finish her off after accidentally hitting, lest her possible recovery end this guy’s only means of supporting his (very hungry) family. Those who do have access to hospitals rarely have the money for real treatment, and the hospitals themselves are often tragically incapable of doing much more than very basic procedures. This has nothing to do with Ham’s Great Hooning Debacle of 2010.

I could go on. License tests are generally much easier, aren’t kept up, etc. People in the developing world don’t tend to view death as the Worst Possible Outcome. We’ll write a thousand laws before we’ll let anyone die. They’re too busy trying to survive to absorb the added bloat of the attorneys, lawmakers, and policing required to support such a society. Heck, the drivers rarely even wore seat belts. Why? Uncomfortable, and, you know, if God says it’s your time to die, that seat belt’s going to do nothing. This may sound incredibly tangential, but don’t underestimate the power of widely-held priorities.

To think that third-world drivers are following the off-track antics of F1 drivers and patterning their driving habits after them is to completely misunderstand the issues at hand.

I’ve liked Todt’s management of the FIA thus far, but this is just stupid. Whoever originally thought that racing drivers should become the poster boys of road safety was, frankly, an idiot. It’s bad for the image of the sport (like anyone expects men who should be gladiators to obey posted speed limits that are frequently ridiculous), it’s bad for the drivers, bad for the sponsors, and is all too reflective of the overly sanitized state of modern motor sports.

Frankly, the FIA should be there to handle the sporting regulations aspect of F1, and nothing more. Even then, I think that’s a little bit of a stretch. If the American Automobile Association attempted to run NASCAR in a similar means as the FIA, it’d last all of thirty seconds. The lunacy of having Vehicle Dynamics Expert Max Mosley dream up technical regulations is something everyone seemed to miss when we went back to slick tires. But, I digress.


Beautifully put, Stirling, and I don’t mind if you “digress”, I enjoy listening who has a person who has a clear thought on a subject! BTW, I agree with all your comments!!!



I agree with anything that has to do with stopping people from behaving stupidly in public roads. I’m a very conscious and prudent driver and I do so as a way to show respect for others. A car can be a lethal weapon. It is a very serious thing.

Nonetheless I would also say that Hamilton seems to be more rigorously judge upon by the public than other drivers, which is unfair.


Not in the slightest. Grand Prix have to be about the battle on the track, however much the FiA want to meddle. Of course the drivers should behave on the roads, and the courts are there if they don’t, but it’s ridiculous to suggest it should impact on the sport.


I haven’t read any posts above, but I will in a few minutes, but I feel so strongly about the above subject that I’m putting my dollar fifty’s worth in now. My advice, if you wish to reduce some of the carnage on the roads that occurs with young people, then ban TV coverage of the new craze of “drifting”, I know it’s easy to cover, and can be quite exciting and entertaining, but many of the spectators get the urge to go out and practice it, and on the same roads that we and our children are driving on, ( and our parents and grandparents). I have quite close contact with youthfull drivers, and Ive noticed to my horror that many of them practice drifting on the roads these days, and build and modify cars espesially for it, but it was very rare prior to the advent of this new entertainment colled “drifting”. So make it less high profile, don’t show it on TV, and make it clear that on the first offence, the offender’s vehicle will be consfisicated with no chance of claiming it back!!! While you’re about it you could ban all the kid’s cartoons that show that sort of behaviour!!! And here in NZ, ban people under the age of 25 from driving modifyed cars as daily drivers. And make them have to have, say, at least 50% of the price of a car they want to buy as deposit in cash before being able to buy it. And limit the engine size till a certain age unless certain skills can be proven, eg have had circuit racing or rallying experience and club membership with competition licence, etc.

Well, I reckon thats worth at least $1.50, and I feel a lot better now I’ve got it off my chest!!



Are race car drivers statistically more or less likely to do something stupid on the road?

I may be wrong, but I assume on average that it is less likely because they get their kicks from racing. I heard Lewis in a recentish interview say that he doesn’t really drive that fast on the road because he doesn’t need the thrill.

[yes yes I know he got done for speeding that one time. my point still stands though. 😉 ]

N. Machiavelli

I have mixed feelings about this.

I think F1 drivers driving a bit over the speed limit on the roads should not be a huge problem, because they can drive well and they will certainly be driving a first class car. However, I think things like ‘burnouts’ or ‘doughnuts’ are childish conduct and should not be performed on public roads by ANYONE, whether he holds an FIA Super License or not. It is a question of “there is a time and place which is or is not appropriate”.

From another angle, there are the examples of Mike Hailwood, Mike Hawthorn, and Frank Williams. Two of these men died in road accidents, and the third now uses a wheelchair. So the idea that a skilled driver will not come to harm is quite obviously false, as these examples show.

( I am aware that in one or more of the above cases the driver mentioned was not at fault, but my point is that his

skill could not save him ).

In the end, I believe the F1 drivers should NOT be above the law, and if they are caught breaking the law they should be punished like the rest of us, because the public roads are NOT a playground for irresponsible conduct.

Having said that, Todt’s campaign is “public relations” pure and simple, and will serve no one in terms on increasing road safety.

Further, speed limits alone do NOT create safety, and only

a simple-minded fool would believe this could be true. Driving safely requires both skill and judgement, and speed alone does not create danger.

There is a saying among aircraft pilots :

“The superior pilot uses his superior judgement to avoid

needing to use his superior skill”.

If you want to drive very fast, do it on the track. Race driving belongs on the TRACK, period. And it’s great fun,

as well as being a good learning experience.


Todt’s humming ‘If I ruled the world’ to himself in the mirror as he shaves. He might even go ahead and do it, but delivering a secondary penalty (and given the FIA’s proven history of arbitrary hissyfits) after a country’s civil authorities have had their way isn’t going to connect the FIA with delivering road safety in any meaningful way in anyone else’s head but his.


Hamilton was accused of “intentionally lose control of a car”, not for speeding….

but c’mon, HOW can you “INTENTIONALLY LOSE” control of a car… if its intentionally then you didnt lose the control… if you lost control then it was not intentionally….


Hamilton should now better as a role mode. He’s a typical english sheep.shagger but hopefully he will not do it again


I think we all know that most accidents are not caused by breaking speed limits by 5 or 10 or 20 mph, but by inattention and lack of concentration. Most situations you meet on the road are avoidable if you’re concentrating and reading the traffic situation as far ahead as possible. Speed limits, and most other traffic laws are pretty blunt instruments for controlling what drivers do ; their main attraction is that they make people think something is being done, and they also raise rather a lot of money.

Getting after F1 drivers for going a bit fast, or pretending to lose control of their cars to give the fans a buzz, seems a pretty tawdry way of giving credence to this make-believe system.


I live near the Chelsea FC training ground and often see kids hanging around for hours at the entrance hoping to catch a glimpse and get an autograph from their football heroes. How these players conduct themselves on and off the pitch have a huge influence on many young people. Sadly in football the powers that be don’t seem to be doing much about it, IMO.

The road stats make scary reading. Although I don’t blame F1 drivers for this I do support Jean Todt’s stance in encouraging F1 drivers to realise their responsibility outside of F1.

Whether sports people like it or not they are seen by many as role models. Personally I would rather look elsewhere for my role models, but there you have it.


So Todt is planning on having the WRC with no drivers next year then?

Since when have the likes of Loeb, Makkinen or Ari Vatanen for that matter ever stuck the speed limits travelling between WRC rally stages?

And do we seriously think Todt has never sped in one of his Ferrraris????


I agree with Jean Todt, but only conditionally.

If a driver marginally exceeds the speed-limit, then they should not be punished by the FIA; however, if the charge/offense is moderate or extreme (greater than 25 km/h over the speed limit, or any source of demerit points, etc), then there should be sanctions.

The idea above to do PR work as punishment is definitely an excellent idea, but that only serves its purpose so well for moderate offenses. If a driver does something extreme, such as going 100 km/h over the speed-limit and then crashing into a house, or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, then bans should definitely be handed out.

These drivers are professionals, and should act as such; furthermore, if they commit an offense, the punishment should fit the crime.


My other half is a Doctor, she is expected to maintain a high standard outside of work and if she were to get a criminal record for something that is not even related to her work, then she could face being summoned in front of the GMC…

…if that is the case for doctors, who are not in the public eye. Why should it be any different for professional racing drivers who get paid millions to have the privilege to drive very fast for a living?

I agree with Jean Todt on this one, personally I would make it a condition of having a super-license that you do not incur any driving related charges in any jurisdiction.


You can’t compare a doctor to an F1 driver… A doctor has a duty of care to all patients and have to be 100% trustworthy in every respect in order to successfully fulfil their role. An F1 driver doesn’t have that responsibility – Their job is to go as fast as possible and that is it.

People say they are role models… so what? Looking up to someone doesn’t mean you have to copy everything they do. I look up to pretty much the whole F1 grid… Button got caught in France doing i think 140mph but I wouldn’t do the same and if I did that wouldn’t be Button’s fault, it’d be mine.

People need to take responsibility for their own actions. Punishing F1 drivers within the sport for driving offences on public roads wouldn’t save any lives at all.

Stupid people will always do stupid things.


Engineers in Canada are much the same; as professionals, they are expected to act as such, and if they are found guilty of misconduct, their licence is revoked.

“(j) conduct or an act relevant to the practice of professional engineering that, having regard to all the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded by the engineering profession as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional,” (Professional Engineers Act, Ontario, Canada)

If racing drivers are professionals, I see no reason why they should not be held to the same standards. Of course, going 2 km/h over the speed limit should result in a 3-race ban… just the same as going 100 mph over the speed limit should result in a penalty of some sort.


I can see how this one would divide opinion, but personally I think it’s quite a good idea. Like it or not, racing drivers generally are role models to other people because they are in the public domain and have reached a status many dream of but few attain. I take Charles Barkley’s point but when you consider that they gain many benefits from the exposure it brings, to my mind they can’t complain about the consequences at the same time. No one forced them to become elite sportsmen, after all.

A more important racing-specific issue is that ultimately the road is not a race track, and the drivers should recognise that fact and abide by it. To adopt a contrary position is bordering on hypocrisy, particularly when a number of drivers have endorsed the “Make Roads Safe” campaign. While I’m not sure Lewis’ indictment really warrants much in the way of additional penalty, I think it is something worth considering.

On the F1 driver being in a road car incident, I do seem to recall a certain Mr Schumacher having an unfortunate prang in a Fiat van…


Perhaps someone should ask Frank Williams what he thinks of all this.


Harsh, but completely valid point.

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