PARIS (Reuters) – Motorsport’s world governing body, the FIA, will announce a new president on Friday with the successor to Jean Todt possibly coming from outside Europe for the first time.
Former rally driver Mohammed Ben Sulayem, from the United Arab Emirates, and Graham Stoker, a British lawyer who has been Todt’s deputy president for sport since 2009, are standing for election.
Both can count on influential support in what looks like being a close call.
FIA vice-president and World Motor Sport Council member Ben Sulayem has Brazilian Fabiana Ecclestone, the wife of former Formula One supremo Bernie, on his ‘FIA for Members’ slate of candidates representing South America.
Robert Reid, who was co-driver to Britain’s late world rally champion Richard Burns, is Ben Sulayem’s candidate for deputy president for sport.
Long-time insider Stoker has Denmark’s record nine times Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen in his ‘FIA for All’ leadership team with the Dane set to take the deputy role for sport.
Belgian Thierry Willemarck, the current deputy president for mobility, and New Zealand’s Brian Gibbons, president of the FIA Senate, are standing on Stoker’s ticket to continue in their roles.
Todt, 75, a former Ferrari boss, is standing down after three terms of office. The Frenchman was re-elected unopposed in 2017.
Whoever wins the secret ballot will have plenty on their plate as the FIA deals with the Formula One season ending in acrimony at last Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The governing body has agreed to look into the decision-making process and clarification of the rules after a change to the safety car protocol handed the title to Max Verstappen and denied Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton a record eighth.
Mercedes have said they will hold the FIA to account, after dropping a planned appeal, and want to see actions as well as words.
Stoker has proposed appointing an F1 envoy to liaise between the Paris-based governing body and commercial rights holder Liberty Media.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)