Ecclestone hits out at Jean Todt


Max Mosley was forced out of his role as the head of the FIA, not as most people believe by ‘spanky-gate’, but because at the time he was forcing the teams into acting in a more responsible fashion.

In 2009, Max was demanding a budget cap be instigated in the region of $65-70m and the teams via FOTA had threatened to quit F1 and run their own series.

In actuality, Toyota and BMW bailed out the sport – citing the expense as the reason for their withdrawal.

A consistent theme in Mosley’s reign as the head of the FIA, was to reduce the costs in Formula One. Having failed to gain consensus amongst the teams to give up their hugely expensive of qualifying engines, Mosley unilaterally brought in the parc ferme regulation for the 2003 season.

This then rendered these wasteful engines – which were capable of running just a hundred kilometres or so – useless.

But times were also different. There was no F1 strategy group and no democratic forum for the teams to bring their influence to bear. And despite frequently appearing at logger heads, the BBC noted in 2003, “many F1 insiders believe these were just part of a well-crafted plan to strengthen their control over the sport”.

In an Interview with Eddie Jordan for the BBC, Bernie Ecclestone explains he believes F1 is “too democratic” and facing very grave issues which require more than “a sticking plaster”.

This idea of democracy in Formula One comes from the constitution of the newly formed F1 strategy group in 2014. The FIA, FOM and the teams each have 6 votes and for a proposal to go to the next policy forum, it must receive a majority agreement in the strategy group first.

Yet the reality is that were Ecclestone and Todt to act in concert, as did Mosley and Ecclestone previously, Bernie wouldn’t be complaining about a democracy. The FIA in conjunction with FOM out vote whatever the teams decide.

Jordan put this to Ecclestone: “You would just tell people what’s going on. You and Max would come in – and that would be the decision”.

“Max isn’t here,” retorted Bernie

“You saying Todt can’t do that?” questioned Jordan

Quick as a flash Ecclestone replies, “He doesn’t act like Max. Max speaks a lot of languages, is super intelligent….”.

The interview is edited at this point, which in fact accentuates the comparative implication Ecclestone has just made.

The irony of Ecclestone ruing Max’s absence may be lost on the F1 supremo. Many believe it was Bernie’s comment following the revelations about Mosley’s private life which eventually persuaded the president of the FIA not to stand for re-election. “He should go – out of responsibility for the institution he represents,” said Ecclestone after initially supporting Mosley.

Some believe Jean Todt is the worst thing that happened for F1. His repeated position is generally that he won’t intervene where there is no consensus. Clearly the antithesis of the Mosley/Ecclestone era.

Yet it could be that Jean Todt is deliberately allowing Formula One to slowly fall apart, as the inadequacies of the Ecclestone commercial model for the sport become exposed year on year.

Maybe then one day, there will be no choice but for a consensus to be formulated on the principles of how Formula One should be run in the long term.

37 responses to “Ecclestone hits out at Jean Todt

  1. People on social media only seemed to notice his Audi statement while this one was way bigger in my opinion.

  2. Todt could be playing a long game, let F1 flounder to the point whereby the FIA can take back the Commercial Rights of the sport then set out to modernise the Sport (or sell it to Red Bull to do it for them, let Audi in etc). Even if Prost were replaced there is no guarantee of knowing if the replacement would be any better. The FIA needs to reform itself, but there is little incentive to do so, unless the gravy train is under direct threat.

  3. Well, the problem is the teams are incapable in this day and age of acting in the best interest of the sport. We saw the last vestiges of that era disappear when FOTA was brought down by the gradual withdrawal of teams, likely with the prodding of Bernie. So allowing them a voice on matters not technical generally counterproductive. However the real issue is that the commercial tail is wagging the sporting dog and that is entirely a failure of Todt, as his financial mismanagement has allowed the situation to fester and ultimately placed his champagne lifestyle entirely in the hands of FOM. This situation directly contravenes the EU agreement that solved their last issue.

    • Todt/the FIA don’t have any financial control of F1, so how can they mismanage it?
      The Strategy Group is isolating Bernie. I would imagine Todt’s votes cancel out Bernie’s, leaving the teams in control of F1 – for the first time ever. Should Red Bull leave F1, Bernie will only have 1 friend in the group – Williams. What you sow etc…

      • Teams can’t rule with just a third of the vote. Bernie does have a small point, but not one that matters in the way he wants it to: since nobody has an outright majority nothing gets done.

      • Todt/FIA have regulatory control, and their own budget separate from F1 which has been so mismanaged that they went begging to FOM for a handout that has fatally compromised their ability to act in the best interests of the sport.

        • That £300 million the FIA received from the sale of F1 didn’t go far. Especially as Mosley had first dibs into it. What other income has the FIA received from F1? I’d like to see some figures on the income you’re talking about.

          • From a 2010 article entitled FIA’s 7M euro budget shortfall, The report said the 7m loss represents 15% of the FIA’s 48m annual budget, while the commercial rights generate almost a billion euros every year for FOM.

            From the same article Experts said the FIA might have to revert to raising fees such as those paid by F1 drivers for their super licenses.
            But a spokesman for the Paris-based Federation said: “I can’t give you the detail but it is not the case (that there is a hole in the budget).”
            The FIA raised nearly 12 000 euros during the British GP weekend, mainly by imposing fines on F1 drivers for speeding.

            At which point I will remind you of the change in registration fees for the F1 teams which goes directly to the FIA, as well as monies from all the other series that they oversee. And i haven’t really gotten into the ASNs, but should you wish to become and associate member Any Club, Association or Federation which satisfies the requirements of paragraphs 1), 2) or 3) above, which has honoured its financial obligations and which may apply to become an Associate Member Can’t vote but you can give them money.

            From Appendix 1 of FIA Internal statutes Article 1
            :In application of Article 33.1 and 33.2 of the FIA Statutes, the Members alone owe their subscriptions to the FIA and personally ensure that these are paid

            AS to the size of the FIA from their page: The Secretary General for Automobile Mobility and Tourism is responsible …. As of April 2014, around 10 people of 6 different nationalities are employed in the FIA Mobility department, based in Paris.

            The Secretary General for Motor Sport… As of April 2014 more than 50 people of 10 different nationalities are employed in the FIA Sport division based both in Geneva and Formula 1 GP.

            The Chief Administrative Officer, based in Geneva,…. As of April 2014 around 40 people of 7 different nationalities are employed in the FIA Administrative division, based in Geneva.

            At this point you can, if you wish, continue to believe that the FIA does not have finances, or said finances may not be mismanaged. Certain things are harder to find than they used to be on the FIA site and I have other business to attend to so if you wish a copy of their actual budget I would tell you they are a non-profit and likely it is available somewhere, however you are on your own digging that one up. As far as mismanagement, I would refer you to the accusations of Phillipe Streiff w/r/t financial shenanigans and the Todt as a good starting point.

          • Hi Matt, great points, I took a lot from it. I’d just like to make two points…

            1) Jean Todt was elected in late October 2009. He would have begun having a look around at what he inherited a bit later than that one would expect. Your article is from mid 2010; so said mismanagement issues reported in your linked article would have already been in the works, with their own momentum, from well before Todt’s time of impact.

            2) To illustrate point 1, an excerpt from the same article you linked…

            “A report in the British Express newspaper claims the shortfall is due to the expiry of a fourteen-year run of annual fees paid by Formula One Management, headed by chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

            The deal, in which the sport’s commercial rights were handed over to Ecclestone, was signed in 1997.

            The report said the 7m loss represents 15% of the FIA’s 48m annual budget, while the commercial rights generate almost a billion euros every year for FOM.

            To my mind, this article actually illustrates acutely the damage done under Max/Bernie, the hole left that Todt had to try to fix immediately, and the dictatorship, unaccountable power he is currently trying to dismantle.

            I think the subsequent examples you’ve stated are symptoms of the poor systemic fundamental issues laid by Max/Bernie throughout the 2000’s.

      • What Matt said. Basically, the first EU investigation into F1 concluded with an agreement that required the CRH (commercial rights holder) to stay the heck out of regulating F1, including sporting and technical regs – which were supposed to be administered – like in any other proper sport – by the international federation (IF) that sanctions the series (in this case FIA).

        FIA has been completely compromised by the CRH’s cynical use of financial inducements, and Todt has failed spectacularly to ensure his organization upholds its responsibility to effectively govern the sport.

        That F1 hasn’t actually fallen totally apart is quite amazing, actually. Though it’s certainly unsustainable as-is, and there is yet to emerge a voice of reason or a visionary, inspiring, not-already-corrupted leader who can organize and/or encourage the other stakeholders to organize and act in the long-term best interests of Formula 1 (or at least accept being led down that magical path to sustainability).

        At the time of FOTA collapse, Dieter Rencken wrote that “F1 would miss FOTA far more that it realizes” (paraphrasing). … I’d say he was right.

      • @Gregor @!¿WTF¡?
        Agreed guys.I put this forward some months ago. Todt does not have financial control of F1. That is almost entirely in the hands of Bernie/FOM/CVC. It is worth repeating that the FIA/Todt have been very successful in their franchising model for WRC, WEC, GT, RallyCross, WTCC, F4, F’e etc. These have a clear model of FIA dealing with the rules in conjunction with the teams, and the commercial franchise holder. Together with the promotion and financial side being handled by the franchise holder. Every one of those categories is growing in both popularity and fan engagement. F1 is ….? Not because of Todt/FIA, but almost entirely because of the commercial franchise holder, and the engine manufacturers. Remember the current engine rules were created by the engine manufacturers/teams, who, all but Ferrari, were threatening to leave if they couldn’t have the road relevant technology. Todt/FIA could/can force through rules, but it would be pretty stupid if the teams said no thanks and goodbye. I think Todt is being very smart, though risky, in allowing all parties to paint themselves into a corner. Every decision that the teams and the commercial rights holder have recently made, has been lose lose for both parties. The new engine rules change for 2017? could be the tipping point, where the FIA/Todt finally get back control of F1. Can we really see manufacturers, wanting to swallow the extra development costs, and not pass them on to the teams?

        “Only recently he impotently asked manufacturers to cap engine costs to 5m, to which he was shown a number of middle fingers”

        You answered it in the sentence. He has no power over commercial matters, and neither should he. EEC?

        “I would expect that Todt’s legacy will be of presiding over the ruin of F1. The death of Caterham seems to be only the very beginning…

        How can you link Todt to Caterham? How much did they spend, and ended up as the worst team on the grid. Put that firmly at the door of Fernandes, and the ineffectual car designs they produced. Drivers were also questionable.

        • Iain:R8 – Brilliant post, well said!

          Matt may have been confusing the budget of the FIA with the more important power dynamics of who has greater sway over F1.

          I agree with your points, Todt appears to be playing the long game.

          As a long-time fan of F3, let me just add F3 to that list of series that are now more significant and more healthy thanks to the FIA’s recent work.

          • No, not confused, but if you recall the FIA now has shares in FOM and that came about due to FIA not being able to meet it’s budget as best I can recall late 2013. I remember reading one article in particular about it, but it’s get ready for work time so I will have to look for it later.

            My point was that without the need to suck the teat of FOM, FIA could do more about many issues and they can’t because they depend on FOM, not in the sense of doing their job and generating commercial revenue for the sport, but because their deal with FOM is underhanded and without it Todt could not live in the style to which he is accustomed.

            I would posit it’s possible Bernie backed them into a corner a bit, and take the point some of these issues predated Todt’s ascension, however Streiff’s accusation against Todt and Saillent, as well as the accounts of Todt bringing in his cronies and sycophants (on the medical side at least) convince me there is plenty of blame for Todt as well when it comes to putting the FIA in a financial position that essentially neutered their ability to regulate the sport in its own best interests.

          • Very good points about the medical side of things. In relation to that, the term “clusterfuck” comes to mind, on various issues. The leadership in that area, by Todt, has been less than exemplary; and seeing as we are comparing and contrasting Max v Jean, and that I have fairly hammered Max, I do believe in credit where credit is due. I’d say in that area of safety, medical issues etc, Max showed great leadership and implemented many great circuit and car safety initiatives to F1.

          • Very good! I’m ready to be convinced.

            Till then I’ll subscribe to the view posited on this page that Todt’s goal is regain greater influence upon F1, and that he’s playing the long game to watch the collapse FOM’s weakening business model to then enable the neutering of the 99 year commercial rights contract.

  4. One of the greatest writers, fabulists and story tellers to walk the face of this planet, around 600BC (give or take), was a slave named Aesop. Aesop won his freedom by advising various kings and city-states. He is also credited with a plethora of various fables; one being “The Wolf and the Lamb”.

    I’ll try to keep it short, but in summary the fable explains to us how futile logic and debate can be in the face of a person with intent who has a position of unaccountability and power. We must always understand the nature of things before we can change them.

    I prefer the Townsend version of the story, which goes like this:
    -A wolf, meeting with a lamb astray from the fold, resolved not to lay violent hands on him, but to find some plea, which should justify to the lamb himself his right to eat him. He then addressed him: “Sir, last year you grossly insulted me.” “Indeed,” bleated the lamb in a mournful tone of voice, “I was not then born.” Then said the wolf: “You feed in my pasture.” “No, good sir,” replied the lamb, “I have not yet tasted grass.” Again said the wolf: “You drink of my well.” “No,” exclaimed the lamb, “I never yet drank water, for as yet my mother’s milk is both food and drink to me.” On which the wolf seized him, and ate him up, saying: “Well! I won’t remain supperless, even though you refute every one of my imputations.”-

    Moral: The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny, and it is useless for the innocent to try by reasoning to get justice, when the oppressor intends to be unjust.

    We must always try to understand the nature of things, and it’s in that point that I believe Jean Todt understands the world of F1, the tyrants among him, the levels of accountability, and more importantly unaccountability, and acts accordingly.

    In the end, Bernie, like the wolf, will do whatever he wants and justify it as he pleases, even if he intended to try to have a reasoned inclusive discourse with the teams, stake holders or track owners. Jean knows this. So Jean is slowly engineering a world of accountability around Bernie, via the teams, amongst other things. He has done well clearly because the wolf is howling. In the end, it was Max that sold the rights, and it is Max who gave Bernie the unaccountability to rip apart the teams and the sport.

    In my opinion, the legacy of Todt will be that he slowly dismantled Bernie and the commercial rights holders unaccountable strangle hold; from matters of sporting appeals, to how technical directives and rules are made, to installing various new groups. It’s all to dismantle Bernie’s ability to simply leverage off every situation.

    Will it be perfect. No. But, there is much to undo, and Todt has to undo it wisely. To me this explains why he seemingly sits back on occasion to watch the inevitable unfold. This isn’t an idiot and as I said, the wolf is now howling. Try not to listen…

    • “So Jean is slowly engineering”

      This is giving our Little Jean way too much credit… I don’t think the guy is engineering anything. Only recently he impotently asked manufacturers to cap engine costs to 5m, to which he was shown a number of middle fingers. He is desperate to help small teams, yet he has no more regulatory power over F1…

      “the legacy of Todt will be that he slowly dismantled Bernie and the commercial rights holders unaccountable strangle hold”

      I would expect that Todt’s legacy will be of presiding over the ruin of F1. The death of Caterham seems to be only the very beginning…

      • I agree. Todt is not some insightful, patient, sagacious hero here. He’s an ineffective, likely-corrupt politician either unable or unwilling to deliver on his organization’s mandate (and responsibility) to be good stewards of the sport.

        • I suppose time will tell. You and others may be correct, who knows.

          I do find it interesting how short memories are though, especially in regards to the horrendous climate and ferocity of events in F1 between Max and the teams, and the teams and the teams, during the mid to late 2000’s, with 2009 being nearly the end of F1.

          Memory is a funny thing.

          Anyhow, for now, I am content that someone is making Bernie feel he needs to howl… And without a single word.

        • “unable or unwilling to deliver on his organization’s mandate”

          From memory Todt was elected on a cost-cutting mandate, yet pushed through the cost-inflating V6’s…

          • That’s was clearly part of his environmental mandate… The manufacturers chose to spend as they did, in particular Mercedes, as Hippo has pointed out many times.

            But again, hardly sounds impotent to me. It sounds quietly capable in fact.

      • Ahhh yes, the engines…

        I suppose those same middle fingers were given to Bernie, time and again, as he did everything possible to get his beloved naturally aspirated V8’s back. But to no avail.

        In a (recent) time gone by, with Max playing in unison with Bernie, those old engines would have returned and the massive manufacturer investment lost.

        But with Todt, hmmmm… Interesting.

          • Exactly…

            Hardly impotent, wouldn’t you say, considering they are here and Bernie couldn’t wind them back?

            The wolf howls, but he’s alone.

  5. Between a rock and a hard place, or something like that. That we still ponder what Max could and would have done in Todt’s place underlines the frenchman’s shortcomings. Include me among those who doubt he is engineering anything but simply trying to not be left behind.

    • “That we still ponder what Max could and would have done in Todt’s place underlines the frenchman’s shortcomings.”

      I think that reflection simply underlines human nature more than anything else. But a comment on that would be way too long for here and irrelevant to my point of Todt, at least trying to, dismantle the Bernie/Max governing foundations that F1 is still paying for now. It was under Max where the real systemic damage was done. That he finally tried to impose a (ridiculous) budget, that nearly tore F1 to shreds, is neither here nor there for me. That teams entered based on that budget cap not being ratified is also on the Max/Bernie era.

      • @!¿WTF¡?

        Isn’t it funny how some people like to rewrite history. Revisionism is alive and well.

      • Was it manufacturers leaving because of the budget imposition? Or that imposed only because they left anyway?

        It hurt the grandee teams in peculiar ways, and caused in the end chaos at the back end, with the likes of Fernandes bleating he went in assuming the budget cuts, (I know, different cuts) were a given. (excuses, probably, see FI)

        Crucially a well financed, and well advised, midfield was thrown out.

        The entire balance changed.

        Into the chaos you sling hopes and dreams of democracy. Just a few contradictory variants, and leave autocratic personnel with enough authority to play with the rules. In case anyone gets any ideas.

        The FIA supremo washes his hands.

        “You all sort it out!”

        So many moving parts, it’s a three cups trick, surely?

    • “That we still ponder what Max could and would have done”

      Come on, Verstappen is good, but he is not ready to run the show 😛

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