The fact that the 56-year-old Englishman is giving up a secure and well paid job, which he has held for the past 12 years, suggests that he is confident that he will beat the 67-year-old Frenchman, despite the fact that Jean Todt has already secured voting commitments from clubs all over the world.
David Ward started with the FIA in 1996 when he became director general of its European bureau in Brussels. Prior to that he was policy advisor to John Smith, then leader of the Labour Party in the UK. The latter’s sudden death led to the arrival of Tony Blair and Ward’s departure from politics.
An active competitor in karts and later cars as well, he went on to play a key role in Max Mosley’s campaigns at the FIA, notably in the discussions with the EU over tobacco advertising, road safety, new car assessment programmes, environmental issues and the complex question of sports governance in Europe. He was also secretary general of the FIA International Court of Appeal. Ward’s biggest problem is likely to be the fact that he was so closely associated with Mosley, although in some sections of the FIA this might also be seen as a strength.
Mosley was a man of action, while Todt has adopted a much lower profile and a more cautious approach to change.
One theory about Ward’s candidature is that it is aimed to be the last chapter in the long-running relationship between Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley, which dates back 40 years to when the pair were team principals in F1, working to win rights from the FIA. The relationship has always been a curious one, with friendship tempered with rivalry. It was thought, 10 years ago, that Ecclestone had emerged with the upper hand when he leased the commercial rights of the sport from Mosley for 100 years, a move that made Ecclestone inordinately wealthy and made Mosley appear to have been either out-manoeuvred or even corrupt for having signed away such valuable rights for only $300 million.
At the time Mosley defended the deal, arguing that it was important because it legally established the FIA’s exclusive right to organise, supervise and regulate the Formula 1 World Championship and to own the copyright to the rules. This put an end to any possible challenges from the teams and car manufacturers. The two men fought vigorously over a ‘change of control’ clause, which Ecclestone was ultimately forced to accept. At the time there was no hint that Ecclestone might run into legal troubles and this was the one element in the deal that left the Formula One group open to a change. With hindsight, it is possible that Mosley’s long-term intention was to take control of the rights again and thus give the federation not only the legal basis for owning the world championships, but also the right to control the commercial side of the business. This would open the way for the FIA to use the money to further the causes of road cars and motorsport much more than it can at the moment.
Mosley’s FIA demise ended that possibility, but Ward could be the key to complete the move.