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Todt advised to act on Russian GP

NEWS STORY
04/09/2014

FIA president Jean Todt has been advised to cancel the forthcoming Russian Grand Prix for fear of the sport sending the wrong message.

The advice came from Ari Vatanen, who fought a bitter campaign against the Frenchman for the FIA presidency in 2009, but who has since resolved his differences with him and even been appointed to head the FIA's Closed Road Commission in addition to his role as president of the Estonian Autosport Union.

It is understood that personally Todt is against the forthcoming Grand Prix in Russia but that as president of the FIA his "hands are tied", he is unable to take a stance - a situation that echoes the sport's governing body's dithering over Bahrain a few years back.

However, the Frenchman is being advised by Vatanen who is urging him to make a stand as F1 heading to Russia at this time will be seen by many as condoning events in Ukraine and eastern Europe.

However, whilst Todt remains silent, following Bernie Ecclestone's mantra that 'F1 doesn't do politics' (huh!), Vatanen has spoken publicly of his opposition to the race going ahead.

"Jean knows about my comments, we spoke about it," the 1981 World Rally Champion told the Daily Telegraph. "We are friends. I think he partly shares my view. It is true that his hands are tied. I can say things much more openly and freely than he can.

"I'm not saying he agrees with everything that I say, but he has a much more reduced room for manoeuvre," he added. "He cannot do big moves one day to another. Any movement by people starting to talk about it and then it can spread and lead to action."

For Vatanen, a former member of the European Parliament, the choice is simple.

"Do we support the regime who is masterminding this bloodshed? Or do we say this is not correct?" he says. "It would send a message of acceptance if we went to Russia. It would say we condone, effectively, maybe not explicitly, but by our actions we condone what is going on because it is used in propaganda.

"It is often said that Formula One should not mix politics and sport, but the Russian regime is already mixing politics and sport in a blatant way, so we have to respond. It is for Bernie and the owners to cancel the race. It is an unprecedented situation since the Second World War, and we have to ask ourselves how history will remember us and what we did or did not do."

Other than the various contractual problems, not to mention the anger and frustration that certain parties in Russia would feel at such a (late) move, there is the fact that Ecclestone is a close friend of Vladimir Putin and even shares some of his views.

Chris Balfe

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by my tyres are going off, 09/09/2014 12:50

"You can make a case for not going to most of the F1 races. Let's not go to USA for their involvement in wars or UK for human rights abuse when 1400 children are abused in Rotherham. My issue is that those with a moral axe to grind (many do not even watch F1) use F1 as their weapon of choice. I'd take a little more interest in their opinions if they stopped using Russian energy or withdrew from their pension fund because it invested in Russian stocks and bonds. "

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2. Posted by Kate in California, 08/09/2014 6:17

"Putin and Bernie are best buds, eh? Why doesn't that surprise me?

Shame on Bernie, and shame on F1 if they go to Russia."

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3. Posted by Doug, 05/09/2014 4:39

"My post was to decertify the track. My phone changed the word. Sometimes I just hate it._"

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4. Posted by Doug, 05/09/2014 4:35

"Cancel it and certify the track. That is a message."

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5. Posted by gturner38, 05/09/2014 2:34

"For the people who are equating the Russian invasion of Ukraine with the Vietnam War or US policy, the key point for F1 is how the race is positioned. Dictatorships like Putin's and the Bahrain government use the race as a sign of being accepted by the global community. The US government doesn't use the race for propaganda at all. If anything, it's the sport and it's fans that try to make its presence in the US into a sign of success with local governments trying to cash in on it."

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6. Posted by jo6pac, 04/09/2014 21:33

"1. Posted by Oldbuzzard, 4 hours ago

Thank you as a fellow Amerikan even today we illegal wars going all over the globe and if that wasn't enough we support some of the worse dictators in the world were F-1 races held. On to the 1st Russian F-1 race and those that are going try and have a good time."

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7. Posted by Oldbuzzard, 04/09/2014 17:49

"The US GP was not cancelled when the US government was carrying on what could be the most illegal war of the 20th Century in Vietnam. In 2003, the US invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq and carried out a ten-year war there. The US Grand Prix at Indianapolis was not cancelled. I am an American and have worked in motorsports and F1 for many years. I don't condone the actions of Russia in Ukraine, but I think Jean must think long and hard about setting a precedent with Russia that may come back to haunt the sport of Formula One."

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8. Posted by MKI, 04/09/2014 16:27

"I thought one of any sport's federation's responsibilities was to be the final arbiter in any situation where its sport's standing or reputation might be compromised or sullied. But given Mr Todt's remarks this clearly does not apply to motor sport. Are there any other sports that are similarly governed?"

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9. Posted by Brewster46, 04/09/2014 15:31

"Xoanon - the City of Detroit is owed $80 Million in past due water bills. $80 Million. What would you do?"

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10. Posted by xoanon, 04/09/2014 15:21

"The USA has invaded and occupied dozens of countries, and at home they cut off water to the poor of Detroit, yet I hear no calls for the US GP to be cancelled ... Too many people believe Fox/Sky news"

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11. Posted by Darvi, 04/09/2014 14:25

"Jean Todt - I remember him, what's he doing these days? He seems to have become invisible - the FIA needs someone that will stand up to Ecclestone and Napoleon doesn't seem up to the job.

I agree with Vatanen, it is a shame that the vote was fixed in Todt's favour, Vatanen would have been much more active."

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12. Posted by stoney, 04/09/2014 13:32

"I don't personally see a scenario in which sport and politics can be disentangled cleanly in this process, to facilitate a move where the event can take place without being tarnished. I don't see a circle of people from all nations gloriously standing together in celebration of speed, with blind ignorance to the outworking of Russia's expansionist policy.

I do see a move in which no-one takes a stand and the event takes place, because the people "of power" are in fact enslaved and "powerless" to their own greed for money and/or that of sponsors, several of which will view Russia as an attractive market and have paid good money to be there.

But, Mr. Vatanen is a good man to speak out."

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13. Posted by f1khun, 04/09/2014 13:17

"Everyone seems to be mixing politics with Sports.

Where is the proof that Russia was involved in the MH17 downing? As far as I can tell, there are many parties that had more to gain then Russia for this incident. And they all had the means.
I do not want to write about the politics involved in what is happening, and I surely cannot predict the future. But there is no war in Sochi. Russia is a sovereign country that has not declared war on any other country. We do not like Russia because of their history, and moreover, because of the cold war, which most of us remember.

We are all fans. F1 fans. And a new track is always good for the show. We do not send a political message, we embrace our sport. I truly wish they race: after all, the Russian fans that are coming will not come to fight, they want to see the same sport you and I love so much!


"

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14. Posted by Chris SA, 04/09/2014 13:13

"This is not about a Russian backed team, this is a Russian held event funded by Putin. "Cancel it""

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15. Posted by scf1fan, 04/09/2014 12:53

"If for some reason the show does go on to Sochi, I might suggest one response that the teams could make . . . The could all place the flag of Ukraine on their cars for the weekend."

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