On a rare visit to the F1 paddock, Jean Todt admitted he has “concerns” and is working hard on some of the sport’s current issues.
Often criticised for his apparently low profile and hands-off style to running the FIA, the Frenchman said the fact Red Bull and Toro Rosso are currently without ‘power units’ to use in 2016 is “frustrating”. “On the other hand, I do not want to judge too much about the situation,” he said. “There is always a reason why certain things happen. But we should give all the assistance we can so that they are at the start next year with a homologated engine,” Todt added.
Todt also admitted he is “disappointed” Ferrari wielded its famous veto on the issue of capping the price of engines for struggling customer teams. Although, as Ferrari boss, he actually used the controversial veto in the past himself, Todt admitted he is less in favour of the idea now, likening it to a “gun”. “It (the veto) started in the 80s,” he said, “when Enzo Ferrari felt isolated from all the British teams.
“But no one should forget that at the time Ferrari was the only team that built the entire car. He (Ferrari) wanted a kind of protection and the FIA gave it to them. “When I became president, I asked the question about whether it was still appropriate,” he said. “Bernie Ecclestone was of the opinion that Ferrari should keep it, and the other teams agreed. “I find it annoying now that teams have to struggle to survive, and that there are teams that do not have an engine for 2016. That should not happen.”
So it appears now that Jean Todt might be ready for a fight, with Ecclestone as his unlikely new ally. With Ferrari vetoing the price cap, the pair have instead proposed an alternative engine formula. But won’t Ferrari simply veto that as well? “The veto does not apply to everything,” Ecclestone suggested to Auto Motor und Sport.
Todt explained: “The veto applies only if the interests of Ferrari are directly affected.” The idea of a parallel, 2.2 litre ‘client engine’ is not popular, however, as it would require F1 to devise complex equivalency rules to ensure they can compete against the current ‘power units’. Todt argues: “We have managed to do it in the world endurance championship, where there are various engine concepts all competing on an equal footing. Why should it not also work in formula one?”
But he also admitted that the 2.2 litre proposal might be leverage to simply convince the existing manufacturers to think again about the cost cap idea. Told that he promised the manufacturers stable rules, Todt answered: “If they can agree on a price limit, then I would keep the engine regulations stable until 2020.”
But Ferrari says only it should be setting prices, while Toto Wolff insists Mercedes already makes a loss in developing and supply its title-winning engine. “The business plan at the moment means we lose money,” he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, “so the loss would be even greater if the price is lowered. “Motor racing is competitive and not a charity. Of course, it is legitimate for the FIA and Bernie to want to help the small teams, so we will listen to the proposals and discuss it,” Wolff added.
Finally, Todt commented on the sad plight of his friend Michael Schumacher, following reports even the F1 legend’s closest friends no longer visit him. “I see him and his family very often,” Todt said. “Michael is still fighting and I am very proud of him.”