Photo: Bryn Lennon (Getty Images)
Based on social media comments criticizing the current state of Formula One, many people confidently believe they could run the FIA Formula One World Championship better than those currently in charge. I’m going to help those people out. I will lay out a rough guide to putting themselves in the best position to run the sport from scratch.
Ruling power over the category is divided equally between Formula One’s commercial rights holder, the teams that participate in the championship and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile. Two avenues are off the table immediately for most of us. The purchasing price of the sport’s commercial rights from Liberty Media would be in the range of billions of dollars. And, the entry fee for a new team entering Formula One is $200 million. The most affordable way to get a hand on the reins is to become the President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the sport’s governing body.
I’ll lead with the bad news. The deadline to apply to be a candidate in the upcoming presidential election on December 17th has already passed. The good news is that there are four years to prepare for the next election, enough time to fulfill all the requirements to become an eligible candidate.
First, there isn’t a minimum age to become FIA President. However, there is a maximum age limit. The FIA Statutes stipulate that no candidate can be 75 years of age or older on election day. The current FIA President, Jean Todt, is 75 years old and therefore ineligible to run again.
Second, FIA Presidents are limited to three four-year terms in office. Jean Todt, the current FIA President, is nearing the conclusion of his third term in office and again ineligible to run for re-election. Seriously. Jean Todt, don’t come back. It’s someone else’s turn to be president.
And third, candidates must be a member of an FIA member club. Membership isn’t a high bar. If someone lives in the United States, they can obtain membership in an FIA member club by being a member of the Sports Car Club of America. $85 is currently the annual cost of SCCA membership. The SCCA is associated with the FIA through the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States (ACCUS). ACCUS is an organization that represents the United States and many of its motorsport bodies at the FIA.
A candidate will also need the support of 18 member clubs to be on the ballot. The FIA does have a type for candidates who get elected president. International motorsport descends from the same late-19th century European aristocratic amateur sportsman heritage that saw Baron Pierre de Coubertin found the International Olympic Committee and the modern Olympic Games. Seven of the FIA’s 11 presidents have been European aristocrats.
This trend began in 1904 with the organization’s first chief, Baron Étienne van Zuylen van Nyevelt. Prince Paul von Metternich was the most recent aristocrat president, elected in 1975 and served until 1985. Metternich had a sporadic sports car career during the 1950s. He raced in the Nürburgring 1000 km, Mille Miglia, Targa Florio, Carrera Panamericana and 24 Hours of Le Mans. Also, if his last name sounds familiar, he was the great-grandson of the early 19th-century Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich.
After Metternich, Formula One largely influenced who held the FIA Presidency. Jean-Marie Balestre was elected president in 1986 after a lengthy career in motorsport administration, from karting all the way up to Formula One. Max Mosley succeeded Balestre in 1993 after helping the teams gain financial control of Formula One alongside Bernie Ecclestone. Jean Todt followed Mosley with his support in 2009 after leading Scuderia Ferrari to eight World Constructors’ Championships as team principal.
In conclusion, you don’t necessarily have to be wealthy to become FIA President. However, you might either have to be a European aristocrat or win the support of the Formula One paddock. Good luck in four years.