Poor old Max

Poor old Max. He’s very old now and not very healthy. I have not seen him in while and it was a little sad to find him in such a state, but that is age for you. Time moves ever onward and it waits for no man – nor any dog.

And in case, you are wondering I am not talking about the outgoing FIA president but rather a labrador that used to be mine, who is now nearly 16 and coming to the end of his days. He was named after Max Mosley, coming along at about the time Mosley became FIA President and having the same colouring. I also had a dog called Bernie, but he was way too much trouble and had to be given away after less than a year. But Max was not a bad dog. He had a habit of running away and causing mayhem in duck farms and slaughtering chickens just for the sake of it. He had a killer instinct, but he also had a great deal of charm. He was a crafty animal, but generally good natured – until he felt the need for some killing. The chicken-owning neighbours were none too impressed…

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It is odd that the day after I saw Max the dog again, Max the FIA president decided that he is leaving motorsport politics (or at least he appears to be). Instead he wants the FIA to support Jean Todt.

Oh Lord. Of all the people who might want the office, Todt is the one who I believe is the least suited to the role. I am not generally a contrary soul, but I feel very strongly about this. And here is why…

For me Todt is not a sportsman. He is a commercial pragmatist. He is not a man who has shown much belief in the ideals of sport. The best example of this was Todt’s fixation with Michael Schumacher. It was ordained that the German would win race after race for Ferrari, subjugating his Ferrari team-mates – often contractually. For me this is not sport. Todt spent his entire career a motor manufacturer man and he did what his bosses wanted, not caring whether it was sporting or not. There is no sign that he ever fought to change this. When the FIA decreed that Group B rallying should be banned because of the dangers – following the deaths of Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto on the Tour de Corse – Todt fought to stop the FIA from making that decision because Peugeot had invested heavily in the technology. He would not take no for an answer and even took the federation to court, threatening its very existence. In the end the FIA won and rather than accept the decision and continue to race in the WRC, Peugeot took its cars to raid rallying, where it enjoyed much success.

I did not meet Todt until January 1989 and the very first encounter left me less than impressed. We were in a town called Gao, on the banks of the Niger River, in Mali. Peugeot team-mates Jacky Ickx and (surprise, surprise) Ari Vatanen were fighting for victory. There were six days to go – six days! – but Todt decided that expediency was more important than true sporting values. Peugeot must win at all costs and so he decreed that his drivers must stop fighting. He took a 10-Franc piece and tossed it and declared that Vatanen had won. I was outraged and argued with Todt that it was completely wrong to do such a thing. He disagreed.

We never really got on after that.

I do not see him as a sportsman, but rather as a super-effective middle manager who was always willing to sacrifice what was right to ensure that his employer (and thus he) got what was required. It did not matter how this was achieved. To me, the argument that “I was only following orders” is not acceptable if the underlying “morality” is not right. Sport is not about winning at any cost. It is about winning in the right way.

Anyway, this what I wrote at the time:

“C’est la vie,” shrugged Ickx, playing the professional.
“I didn’t want to settle it in that way,” said Vatanen, not wanting to play the game.
It was, in all ways, an unsatisfactory way to settle the outcome of the last true motor sporting adventure.
Both drivers would have preferred to fight it out, away in the desert, without external dictates. Being professionals, they said nothing, but the hurt shone from each. These are not politicians, they are sportsmen and their great adventure had been tarnished; sacrificed on the altar of commercialism. It left a bitter taste in the mouth, far removed from the enthusiasm of which both Ickx and Vatanen had spoken in the days leading up to Gao.
“When you sleep out in the flat desert and you see the camel caravans coming past, you see ancient times and modern times meeting,” said Vatanen, waxing lyrical. “It makes you realise that things are not as black and white as you think and that what you value in normal life is not necessarily worth having.”
Not so for Monsieur Todt.
“The most important thing is having to face all sorts of problems and situations that you don’t face normally in your life,” said Ickx. “It helps you to know yourself much better. The sport is only part of it.”
Not so for Monsieur Todt.

Perhaps Todt’s bizarre adventures in North Africa will come back to haunt him…

35 thoughts on “Poor old Max

  1. Mosely supporting Todt: Further proof the old dog has learned nothing and barring his own involvement in motorsport politics, wishes to inflict himself via proxy.

    We witness not the graceful leaving of a wise and self-secure patron but rather the tempestuous and ugly flailing of egotistical and bratty child.

  2. Very well written Joe.
    But what does this say of the outgoing President?
    That he would support someone with these values leaves
    me questioning his.

  3. I don’t know either man, so my opinion is based entirely on the first hand reports of guys like you, but if what you and, for example, Mark Hughes have said about Todt is anywhere close to the money, he’s really the last thing the sport needs.

    Vatanen is a racer, a world champion, and a man with political experience in the real world. I don’t know much about what he did or didn’t achieve in Brussels (my own experiences of of dealing with the European political system have left me wondering how anything *ever* gets done there – if you think FOTA have it hard, try sitting in a meeting with 27 way simultaneous translation some time!) but of the two, he seems far and away the better bet.

  4. The thing that I want to know and what makes me nervous is what is the current state of Todt’s relationship with Ferrari? Why wouldn’t Luca support him? What will the other FOTA teams think about that? After all there is some bad mojo and memories with Todt with his time at Ferrari. Would Ferrari throw away FOTA to get Todt in?

    I can’t stand the guy. He was partly responsible for ruining F1 at Indy with the Schumacher ‘payback’ switch in 2002 and the debacle in 2005 when he did everything possible to make sure the Michelin teams would not run. How can a man who has created so much controversy over the years be the remedy to an association that doesn’t need to create any more controversy?

  5. Great piece Joe and I agree with every word of it. The last thing the FIA needs is for Max’s choice off successor to be in the President’s office following orders.

    I think your comment

    “I do not see him as a sportsman, but rather as a super-effective middle manager who was always willing to sacrifice what was right to ensure that his employer (and thus he) got what was required. It did not matter how this was achieved.”

    dits Max as well as Todt. max has spent his time in power doing whatever Bernie wanted to maximise Bernie’s income. The last thing we need is someone protecting that legacy.

    Ari Vatanen would make an excellent president as he has no interest in being in power for the sake of it and is more interested in the sport and other work of the FIA than building his own profile.

    I think what the plan for Todt to stand does is show the utter incompetence of FOTA. How can they possibly have reached an agreement to get rid of Max but to allow his successor to stand? It’s not like max’s choice of successor has not been known for years.

  6. Todt would surely be in it for himself if he were FIA president? i kind of get that impression for some reason…he is not to be trusted…
    Also, if ever Ferrari seemed to be favoured in F1 – the Ferrari haters would have a field day!.
    Bit of constructive criticism here : i read your blog and listen to you on sidepodcast Joe. 99% of the time i agree with you and think you are ace! but not all of your fans hate Michael Schumacher…which i hold my hands up to. However you don’t like him and it makes me a bit grumpy when you diss him on ‘An Aside With Joe’ and in this post. Michael is an easy target for people who don’t like him and it can bring instant popularity to someone who says something nasty about him. Hard targets are drivers like Senna, Clark and Moss…all of them as talented – if not more – and as ruthless as Schumacher. Only the brave and audacious would dare speculate about their talents…

    S.

  7. Quote: Perhaps Todt’s bizarre adventures in North Africa will come back to haunt him…

    We can only wish. I think Max will call his buddies to support and pay for this election as they did for his vote of confidence. Accept if Ari has friends with deeper pockets than Max’s UEA sheikh

  8. With regret I read Nigel Roebuck’s comment on Ari Vatanen’s intention to run to be elected FIA President: “There are excellent reasons why Ari Vatanen should be the next president of the FIA – which is why it is unlikely he will be elected to the post in October.” How true this will turn out to be 😦

    I have followed F1 passionately for almost 30 years, but have never been so disguisted as during the Todt/Schumacher/Brawn era for the very reasons you describe. I can understand Mosley wanting Todt as his successor.

    FOTA should reconsider (again) and start an independent GP1 series with CVC.
    Maybe the WRC and Touringcars are soon to follow as they have the same objections to FIA governance. That will not change with Todt at the helm. Sadly….

  9. Well said. I don’t know very much about Ari Vatanen but I’m 100% certain I’d rather he was in charge of F1 than Jean Todt. I’ve also got a bad feeling that Max Mosley is only endorsing the Todt presidency bid because Todt has agreed to share power with him if he is elected.

    Which is the most dictorial government: Iran, Russia, the FIA or Zimbabwe? Max Mosley is certainly a match for Robert Mugabe at the art of clinging onto power…

  10. Not surprisingly, I agree that Todt would not be a suitable replacement for Mosley. How would Ferrari react to Ron Dennis putting his name in the hat?

    The FIA needs a cool, steady hand that will lead it uneventfully into the future. Partisans need not apply.

  11. Thanks for that article 🙂 or blog entry or whatever. I also hope that enough FIA delegates remember Todt’s ruthlessness when they elect Mosleys successor. The qualities that made him very successful as a motorsport manager are the exact opposite of what’s needed to successfully run the FIA and keep a sport like F1 or WRC prospering. If Mosley ran the Olympic Games he’d probably decree that the runners have to turn up without shoes so the “cost of entry” comes down. Equally I’d bet money on Todt being really obtusive and dictatorial and generally annoy everyone in F1 if he gets elected. I wonder whether there’s something to be found in the FIA statutes that requires the current president to be impartial when organising the election of the next FIA president if he doesn’t stand again himself? Probably not, though, because Mosley is such an unbearable smart-arse.

  12. I tend to think Todt instead of Mosely will turn out to be the very dictionary definition of “out of the frying pan into the fire”.

  13. I agree this you 100%.

    But Todt is not alone with the coin toss. I seem to recall the 1968 U.S GP being decided the same way at the request of Ford.

    But Max to Todt, surely frying pan/fire.

  14. If Jean Todt is “elected” I will stop watching the Ferrari-farce that the FIA’s F1 will become.

    Do it FOTA, just do it. Save “our” sport.

  15. totally agree with you Joe. todt or little napoleon would be a train wreck for the FIA and the sport i adore . the circus would continue as is . Arie is a racer and was confident walking around the paddock in Germany. i wish him luck Ilast saw Mark at the restaurant just after the Melb GP and wished him luck before he flew out. really good drive to win…… i got a copy of your book at last and what a great read… would like you to sign it when you come to Melb next year Cheers Darrren

  16. Great article with a little irony and sarcasm. Thank you for that, I didn’t know Todt’s decision on that occasion ironically including Vatanen himself. Not only for that, Jean Todt shouldn’t be considered as even a candidate for that role due to his days in Ferrari.

  17. I totally agree that Todt would be disastrous, and if he stays true to form would use methods which if anything would be even more confrontational and less subtle than Mosley’s.

    It’s clear that it’s Todt the teams were thinking of in their comments, especially those of John Howett, when they called for an “independent” FIA president the day after Mosley’s initial announcement of departure: http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/76516

    Of course, Max seized on this, ignored Howett’s next words (“The federation is an independent body with its own constitution, and it will be their business who they elect as the future successor to their president”) and wrote to the FIA member clubs threatening to stand again. His rallying cry (no pun intended) was, and continues to be, that the manufacturers are trying to take over the running of the FIA and dictate their choice of president.

    Note the words Mosley uses in his endorsement of Todt: “I must emphasise he would not in any way be a motor industry candidate.” No doubt he will be keen to emphasise that Vatanen appears to have the nominal support of the European Car Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) as well as the FOTA teams (who he is keen to paint as “the manufacturer teams”), even though they are trying their best to make no pronouncements after Mosley’s reaction last time.

  18. Looks like a scumbag replaces a dirtbag. Can somebody dig up some serious dirt on Todt (his outburst at Hockenheim telling the GP2 stewart who relegated his son’s GP2 cars that had illegal front suspension will do for starters) so that this can be prevented. JT. go to your home in Malaysia and stay there for the rest of your life is my advice.

  19. Jean Toad? Yuck!

    Ladies and gent, i fear we have been traded down. From one dictator to another dictator, albeit with poorer dress sense. And i fear that the Toadster’s got even less moral threshold! (In a sporting sense).

    If the suave Ari couldn’t beat this Frenchy, i fear it may be back to the Dark Ages for all of F1.

    Balestre 2.0

    D Hon

  20. Ah the toad of toad hall has got a recommendation. I can just imagine McLaren getting a fair hearing when the next marshall carfuffle takes place can’t you? Let’s hope and pray this doesn’t happen. Someone who thinks team orders in sports is ok is not on the right thought path in order to govern anything. There should be a rule that if you are involved with a team you must wait 10 years to run for a position like this.
    The FIA may really come to be known as Ferrari Internaional Assitance.

  21. Acording to Mark Hughes in this week’s Autosport during the week leading up to the Germany GP Todt was in Africa aboard ajet belonging to the FIA to campaign. I guess this proves who unbiased Max is likely to be.

    Shaun,

    You can certainly say Senna was ruthless although not to the same level as Schumacher but to class Clark and Moss with that pair is ridiculous. Find me one example where either of them deliberately deliberately caused a collision.

  22. Actually there are flying rumours that Todt is not welcomed by Ferrari and that his departure from Maranello was far from happy (this makes sense considering the political mess and infighting he left behind).

    This is not the say that Todt will be okay because not aligned with the Prancing Horse, in fact you could read it that even at Ferrari they got tired of him and his methods!

  23. Firstly my thoughts are with poor old Max. May he have a relaxing and peaceful life from here on. The twilight of one’s life should be a time for reflection on all the joy that one has brought to others and the good times that one has had. May his old age bring him peace and happiness.

    Now back to motorsport…

    Indeed it is only correct that there is competition for the seat of President. It is after all a democracy, not a dictatorship. We just have to pray that the correct descisions will be made by the sages.

    It should not be of any surprise to us that Todt’s name has been thrown into the ring. All dictators have to have henchmen waiting in the wings to continue their World domination.

    Ask Bernie, he’ll explain…

  24. Given Joe’s little rallying story above, if Todt does get in, will his first act be to reverse the team orders ban in F1?

  25. “For me Todt is not a sportsman. He is a commercial pragmatist”.

    Joe, does the Presidency of the FIA perhaps demand the latter more than the former?

    In the weight of the current journalistic frenzy I am finding it hard to like Todt (and to dislike Vatanen) but I cannot help but wonder who is the man capable of running a large international organisation.

  26. Does the annointing of Todt at least confirm that Max is not anti-Semitic?

    That would have to be the silver lining, as the installation of this lugubrious Napoleon would most surely be the cloud…

  27. Steven Roy,

    Hi mate,
    I wrote the comment a bit wrong there. Moss and Clark never deliberately coursed a crash in their day – it would have been tantamount to attempted murder – and of course they were very respected drivers. I was just venting a bit of frustration about the relentless Schumacher bashing that we have to hear about on the Internet.
    I think Clark mentioned that he had a lot of negative press from the UK in the BBC documentary about him though. Hamilton suffers the same thing – but with Schumacher it’s on another level. The German is just starting to talk as a normal ‘nice’ guy in interviews now; he is being a bit more open. When he raced he could come across as cold. As a result people will always sway towards the negative. A good example was when he nearly hit that idiot who opened a gate across the road in front of the Fiat van he was driving. The press called him (Schumacher) arrogant for getting angry with the man. I would have been angry…and i’m sure Moss, Senna and Clark would have been to. They are just human after all.
    Just to finish off : as far as i’m concerned all the drivers i have mentioned in this comment i regard with the highest respect – but isn’t it about time Michael Schumacher was seen in a more positive way. Us Brits seem to hate winners for some reason…

  28. Awesome article,

    Thanks for writing! Give Max a big hug from the Netherlands and may you and your family enjoy his love for another 15 years.

    Gr,
    Jeffrey

  29. Gents, just have a look at the two contenders’ www and you’ll see a huge difference- one is humane, humourous and fast, the other is full of o-so-yesterday pdf files, no contact button and no pics of his fat cheeks..
    I rest my case

  30. That was an illuminating article Joe! Even I own a Lab & wanted to name him Max, but decided against it for obvoius reasons! The man is such a disgrace.

    I attribute the success of modern day ferrari to Jean Todt. He is the architect of this modern day team.They were no where after the death of Enzo in 1988. He quickly transformed a struggling team into a winning one. although some of the dubious, dirty, cheap tactics might never been forgotten, the man must get some credit for transforming the team. the point I’m trying to make:

    1) How can a team, which owes its success in recent time not be supportive of the man who guided them to success?
    2) How can a man, who got a platform, in the form of ferrari to demonstrate his managerial skill( I know they were cheap & dirty) no be supportive of his former team?

    His ties with Ferrari are too deep & too strong for him to be able to provide transparent governance.

    Jean todt is a name everyone associates with 3 things

    1) FERRARI
    2) SCHUMACHER
    3) CHEATING

    I’m not sure if people would associate his name with

    1) HONESTY
    2) TRANSPARENCY
    3) FIA PRESIDENCY.

    Hence imho Todt must not be allowed to contest the election, if he does contest I’m damn sure he’ll win, because he’s got the backing of the red Italian mafia & S&M Mosley.

    Remember this!! Anyone endorsed by Mad Max has to be mad. Bad company spoils even good people. Max & Todt have been very close to each other since the latter’s retirement from Ferrari. So we don’t know yet as to how much Jean’s been influenced by Mosley. Mosley is like a pandemic.

    And finally haven’t we had enough of one “Jean?? Remember Jean-Marie Balestre, the eccentric fella? It was because of this man that we’ve ended up with Max Mosley 😦 & now Max is returning the favour by vouching for Jean Todt. Jean I tried to finish off the sport, Jean II will make sure he finishes it off!!Too many Jean’s & too many Max’s are bad for the sport. Isn’t it? so imho we do not want any more British or Frenchmen . We need someone who can “FINNISH” the job for us, the fans. So I highly recommend a “FINNISH” gentleman by the name Ari Vatanen who is ofcourse is from finland & is finnish. I’m sure he’ll finnish the unfinnished job at the FIA. 🙂

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