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Time for Todt to emerge from the shadows

NEWS STORY
08/08/2010

In the nine months since his election as president of the FIA, we have seen little of Jean Todt. All that's about to change as the Frenchman faces his first serious test.

Thus far, it has to be said the Frenchman has done a good job, so much so that Pitpass has publicly admitted that many of its previous misgivings about his candidacy have proved wrong.

Unlike his predecessor, he is not confrontational furthermore he is happy to rule his kingdom from the shadows. Pitpass' fears that his reign as FIA president would merely be an extension of Max Mosley's, allowing the Englishman to continue running the sport, albeit by proxy, proved groundless, he has also swept aside much of Mosley's Praetorian Guard. In short, Todt has proved not to be the ventriloquist's dummy we feared him to be and has, thus far, shown himself to be his own man.

However, as much as he preferred to run the sport from the shadows, using persuasion rather than force, next month he will find himself under intense scrutiny when he sits in judgement of his former team. We say 'sits in judgement' when in fact the meeting will be chaired by the FIA deputy President for Sport, a move introduced by Todt with a nod to the findings of the Tribunal de Grande Instance. However, anyone who thinks that the FIA president will have no influence is either very naive or a fool.

Between 1993 and 2007 he led Ferrari to six drivers' titles and eight constructors' championships. Over those fifteen seasons, Ferrari won ninety-eight Grands Prix, just six shy of the Maranello outfit's total number of victories since the inception of Formula One until he took control.

However, the success didn't come easy, victory came at a price, the Italian team all too often mired in controversy. Be it Schumacher's methods on track or the legality of components the legendary team found itself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Yet, despite the controversy that surrounded the Italian team, there was a feeling that it was rarely taken to task, leading to the sport's governing body to be nicknamed 'Ferrari International Assistance'.

Next month, the FIA's World Motor Sport Council sits in judgement of Ferrari in respect of the claim that it manipulated the result of the German Grand Prix by issuing team orders.

Team orders were outlawed by the FIA in 2002, following the scandal over Ferrari's manipulation of the result of the Austrian Grand Prix when Rubens Barrichello was ordered to move over and defer to teammate Michael Schumacher in the final corner of the final lap. While team orders were subsequently banned, it is worth remembering that the one million fine wasn't for the manipulation of the result but the fact that the team went against podium protocol when a clearly embarrassed Schumacher invited his teammate on to the top step of the podium.

The team boss that day, the man who went to the Place de la Concorde to argue the Maranello outfit's case, the man who had also ostensibly given the order for Barrichello to acquiesce to his teammate was M. Todt.

To further complicate matters, Todt's son, Nicolas, is the manger of Felipe Massa, one of the two drivers at the heart of the scandal. Who wouldn't want to be a fly-on-the-wall when the two meet up for breakfast before and after the hearing.

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