One of the most faithful and productive commenters on this blog has sent this link. It’s fascinating and I encourage you all to read it.
There are some interesting tie-in’s in this story. For example the Qatar connection. We’ll not forget how the miraculous last-minute payment of back dues of some of the Middle East and Gulf ASN’s pushed Jean Todt to victory in the 2008 FIA presidential elections. Nor his almost unseemly chumminess with the ruling regime in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
I’ve complained on many occasions about how incredibly . . . ineffective . . . the FIA’s “Action” for Road Safety campaign seems to be. I’ve seen countless photos of Todt and his ambassador for Road Safety (yes, Mrs. Todt) posing with Transport Ministers and even Prime Ministers of various countries, cutting ribbons for new stop signs, solemnly swearing grade school students to wear seat belts, etc.
SERIOUSLY? It was clear that in a part of the world where vehicle-related deaths are increasing at an explosive rate, the FIA campaign is rather more of a schmoozefest photo-op than a serious effort to make a dent in the problem.
I remember a conversation I had with David Ward in 2008. David was President of the FIA Foundation (and ironically, or perhaps not ironically at all . . ., Todt’s opponent in 2013); the Foundation is in fact the part of the FIA specifically charged with road safety - NOT the FIA proper. More of this later.
I spoke to David about using some of the Foundation’s money to organise a huge project. This would involve development (recruiting the right people to think this through) and implementation of a staged trauma care program for rural areas in the developing world. Only by ensuring that victims actually survive from the village level to higher echelons of care could we hope to have an effect. This project would proceed in multiple steps, culminating in an actual trial, with actual data generation, as to the efficacy and efficiency of the proposed system in improving outcomes on a large scale. In line with current “philanthropy”, it would be subject to rigorous metrics. Money, in no small amounts, would be spent improving survival and quality of life, not for official dinners and luxury travel.
It was clear that conflict between the Foundation and Todt’s FIA began almost immediately. The Foundation’s road safety campaign hit (sorry for the pun) roadblock after roadblock, and was essentially choked to death. The difficulties extended to the FIA Institute (charged with r & d and education). Parenthetically, this is almost certainly why progress on publishing the Medicine in Motorsport book stopped when Todt became president. The book was Max’s project, not Jean’s, and was therefore unceremoniously halted.
Things then got even more infantile, with Todt starting an in-house road safety campaign, taking the Foundation’s stickers off the Medical and Safety Cars, and replacing them with his own. All this was no doubt to better control the pursestrings, and to personally reap the various “rewards”, of putting his face on road safety. Problem is, if you don’t actually DO something for road safety, you kinda can’t become its face. In my eyes, it’s not so much a conflict of interest, as an immensely sad admission of defeat. This man has had one full five-year term (plus, soon, one more year) to accomplish something, anything, in the area of road safety. It’s not hard to imagine, given the resources available, that a well orchestrated campaign would indeed have made Todt a household name, almost a near-saviour for those who’d have benefitted from improved road safety.
Hearing about these UN pretensions helps all these kilometres (in first class and private aircraft, bien entendu) make sense. I think it’s been clear for all those willing and able to look closely enough that Todt has viewed the FIA presidency as a stepping stone. He has systematically hired up ex-Sarkozy staff, and I’d have thought this was rather with an eye to French national politics. Now that the UN route would appear to be (temporarily) barred, and that Mr. Sarkozy appears to be having his own problems, perhaps we’ll see manoeuvring with an eye to a national political position. Minister of Sports?
Looking back a bit, under Max and between 2005 (when Sid retired) and 2007 (my last season with the responsibilities of Medical Delegate), we had g-triggered Medical Warning Lights installed on all cars, made integrated accident simulation exercises mandatory before every F1 race weekend, and wrote and readied for publication a Medicine in Motorsport book.
At risk of sounding repetitive, I point out again that in 2008 Todt appointed Gérard Saillant, an orthopaedic surgeon with no motorsport experience, as president of the Medical Commission. The members of this body have several centuries of cumulative motorsport experience between them, and found their Chairman seat, formerly occupied by Sid Watkins now hosting . . . the above mentioned. He also appointed Jean-Charles Piette, a rheumatologist with no motorsport experience, as Formula 1 Medical Delegate.
I’d almost defy anyone to point out ANY advance in medical/rescue science, technique, or prevention (with the exception of the Zylon visor reinforcement, developed purely by engineers) applied by the FIA since 2008.
The lack of progress, I believe, results from leadership that views the organisation as a cash cow rather than as a means to an end. From a leadership that either doesn’t understand the stakes (worrisome indeed), or doesn’t care (a truly terrifying prospect).