Jean Todt has hit back at Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s claim about his leadership as the former FIA president.
Former FIA President Jean Todt has responded to Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s claims that he left the FIA with a hole in its finances at the end of his term.
Todt held the position of FIA President for three terms before Ben Sulayem took office in 2021, not long after the controversial ending to Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s Formula 1 championship battle that season.
Ben Sulayem has publicly said that the FIA’s financial situation has been one of his concerns during his tenure as president, citing a $20 million deficit and a patent issue pertaining to the Halo.
Todt remained silent about the allegations initially, but he recently addressed them in an interview with L’Equipe. He is obviously unhappy with how his presidency seems to have been perceived.
Regarding the budget shortfall, Todt mentioned the Covid epidemic and noted that he worked hard to keep the FIA and the sport alive, adding that he also left the financial situation in a better state than when he took office in 2009.
“When I left, there must have been more than 250 million Euros in reserves,” Todt told L’Equipe. “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.”
During his tenure as President of the FIA, Todt also discussed the establishment of several racing series, which improved the financial standing of the governing body.
“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 added.
“It is true that we left one dispute unfinished when I left, the Halo trial, but it wasn’t swept under the rug,” Todt said. “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.”
Although Todt and Ben Sulayem seem to have different opinions about the FIA’s financial status in 2021, the former spoke up about the Halo lawsuit, acknowledging its legitimacy and asserting that no information was being withheld.
Todt proceeded to defend his tenure with the FIA, saying that while accusations made against him don’t have any significance, he believes there is no point in launching into allegations.
“I start from the principle that when one chapter closes, another opens and we do not allow ourselves to attack its predecessor,” Todt said. “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 (Formula One Management).
“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. 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.”
It is well known that there have been several cases where the FIA and Formula 1 have clashed during Ben Suayem’s leadership.
The FIA President was criticized by FOM for speaking out about reports of a Saudi Arabian bid for the commercial rights to Formula 1. The FIA and F1 teams disagree about the idea of an 11th team in the sport, and more recently, the governing body faced intense criticism for how it handled a “conflict of interest” claim made against Toto and Susie Wolff.