Former FIA president, Jean Todt joins in the Ben Sulayem pile-on

Former FIA president, Jean Todt has hit back at his successor’s claim that he left motorsport governing body’s finances in poor health.

The Frenchman was speaking in reaction to Mohammed ben Sulayem’s claim that when he succeeded him as president in December 2021, days after the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the organisation’s finances were in deficit.

Todt’s comments come at a time Ben Sulayem is already under attack for the aborted investigation into Toto and Susie Wolff and claims that the pair shared privileged information courtesy of her role at F1 in her capacity as boss of the F1 Academy.

Ben Sulayem has claimed that on inheriting the role of FIA president he found the organisation to have a deficit of around $20m alongside a patent dispute involving the Halo device.

“When I left, there must have been more than 250 million euros in reserves,” Todt tells L’Equipe. “When I arrived in 2009, there were barely 40m, although the FIA had just ceded the commercial rights to F1 for a hundred years a few years earlier.

“I don’t call that a deficit,” he insists.

“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 or the Rally Raid Championship,” he continues.

“It is true that we left one dispute unfinished when I left, the Halo trial,” he admits. “But it wasn’t swept under the rug. It was well documented and monitored by our services. We presented it to the 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,” he adds.

While Max Mosely campaigned vigorously for Todt to succeed him as FIA president, Ben Sulayem was the outsider in 2021, with Graham Stoker thought to be the Frenchman’s preferred candidate.

Almost from the moment he won the election, Ben Sulayem has appeared to be at odds with F1, seemingly determined not to have its bosses free to dictate everything in the same manner as Bernie Ecclestone before.

Be it Andretti, his dismissal of the $20bn valuation of the sport – a move that caused F1’s bosses to call in the lawyers – or the recent investigation into the Wolff’s, Ben Sulayem has appeared to be in conflict with the sport, with no shortage of third parties eager to join in the criticism of the man, be it Lewis Hamilton or now Todt.

“I start from the principle that when one chapter closes, another opens and we do not allow ourselves to attack its predecessor,” says Todt, somewhat ironically. “Whether leaving Peugeot, Ferrari or the FIA, I never said a bad word. 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. Without going into detail, I can tell you that the income received by the Federation has very clearly increased compared to before. And 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,” he insists. “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,” he concludes in his parting shot.

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