Yeongam: Jean Todt completed his first year at the helm of Formula One’s governing body on Saturday with Bernie Ecclestone praising him for leaving the sport alone.
“What’s good about him is that he’s left us alone, Formula One-wise,” the commercial supremo told Reuters after accompanying the International Automobile Federation (FIA) president on a tour of the South Korean Grand Prix paddock facilities.
“He’s got on with the other things that needed looking after.
“It’s good for us and good for him I think.”
Todt, the former Ferrari F1 team boss, has attended few grands prix races this season while focussing more on rallying, road safety issues and visiting various member associations around the world.
The Frenchman replaced Briton Max Mosley, Ecclestone’s long-time friend and former ally, in the most powerful position in motorsport on October 23, 2009.
Mosley, a controversial and often confrontational figure who remained in office despite a sado-masochistic sex scandal that was splashed on newspapers front pages around the world, had endorsed Todt as his successor.
Todt has been low-profile but there have been media reports suggesting tensions within the FIA over statute changes and the direction in which he is taking the body.
Asked how Todt had done in his first year, Ecclestone replied: “I don’t know because he’s done a lot of visiting so it’s difficult to know what the result is going to be.”
However the Briton, who will celebrate his 80th birthday next week, was critical of recent comments made by FIA Senate President and Todt ally Nick Craw.
The American told reporters after visiting the site earmarked for a 2012 race in Austin, Texas, that the governing body would consider a proposal in November to change the statutes so all new circuits had to be inspected and approved at least 90 days before the first race.
Strict application of that rule would have forced the cancellation of Sunday’s race at Yeongam, with the final layer of asphalt put down barely two weeks ago and the FIA final inspection only last week.
“Is that going to happen again? No,” the Austin American Statesman newspaper quoted Craw as saying, adding that a change to the statutes “probably protects everybody’s interest a little better than running right up against the event and saying, ‘Golly gee, we’ve got it wrong.’“
Ecclestone rejected that.
“When Nick Craw runs the races, he can do what he likes,” he said. “Up to then he’s just a member of the FIA.
“The trouble is that people don’t know what they are doing and what they are talking about half the time. They don’t put any races on, we are the ones that put the races all on.
“We’d still be in Zandvoort, otherwise,” added the Briton, referring to the Dutch seaside track that last hosted a grand prix in 1985.
That track saw several fatal race accidents, including the deaths of British drivers Piers Courage in 1970 and Roger Williamson in 1973. Both were trapped in blazing cars with marshals unable to rescue them.