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Todt defends FIA presidency after Ben Sulayem criticism

The former FIA President turned United Nations Global Envoy has kept quiet during his successor's term, but has spoken out to defend his record.

Jean Todt Mohammed Ben Sulayem
To news overview © XPBimages

Former FIA President Jean Todt has defended his tenure in charge of Formula 1's governing body after criticism from successor Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

Todt stepped down in December 2021 after three terms to be replaced by Ben Sulayem, a 14-time Middle East Rally champion, and key figure in organising the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2009.

As well as dealing with the fall-out from the controversial title-deciding 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Ben Sulayem has also highlighted the financial situation and deficit of the not-for-profit FIA as a key issue he had to rectify, with a figure of over $20 million USD mentioned.

Todt, who is now a United Nations Global Envoy for road safety, defended his record and pointed to the effect of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction new FIA World Championships such as Formula E and the World Endurance Championship to justify how he left the FIA to Ben Sulayem.

Todt speaks about Ben Sulayem

"When I left, there must have been more than 250 million euros in reserves," Todt explained to L'Equipe when asked about Ben Sulayem's comments.

"When I arrived in 2009, there were barely 40m [euro], although the FIA had just ceded the commercial rights to F1 for a hundred years a few years earlier.

"I don't call it a deficit. When I left, the budget had been multiplied by almost three, with many new competitions and sources of income, such as Formula E, the World Endurance Championship and the Rally Raid Championship.

"It is true that we left one dispute unfinished when I left, the Halo trial. But it wasn't swept under the rug.

"It was well documented and monitored by our services; we presented it to the FIA Senate and the World Council before I left, and the current president attended this presentation.

"This was a lawsuit brought in Texas by an engineer who owned a patent that was only valid in the United States and for a short time. So when I left, there was nothing secret, and only one ongoing case, that one.

"But I wasn't surprised, I knew who my successor was. I know the character."

Todt also rejected the notion that he was annoyed at Ben Sulayem speaking against his predecessor, with the incumbent keen to return power to the FIA members under his presidency.

"No, it doesn't matter to me, I start from the principle that when one chapter closes, another opens and we do not allow ourselves to attack its predecessor," Todt continued.

"Whether leaving Peugeot, Ferrari or the FIA, I never said a bad word. There is no point in launching into allegations, especially when they are false.

"The reality is what I just told you. And I will add something regarding the revenues of the FIA: it was under my presidency that the Hundred Year Agreement and Concorde Agreements between the FIA and F1 were renegotiated before Liberty Media became the owner of the FOM (Formula One Management) [in 2017].

"Without going into detail, I can tell you that the income received by the Federation has very clearly increased compared to before.

"Its position in the governance of F1 has also been restored. It now has a third of the votes, along with FOM and the teams. It's night and day with previous agreements.

"You can't stop someone from criticising or disagreeing, but everything I have done during my presidency has always been approved by the Senate and the World Councils.

"Everything that was put in place during my mandate was turned upside down."

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