Jean Todt exclusive: How F1's 2021 vision is progressing
Ahead of the latest F1 rules summit in Geneva on Tuesday, Sky Sports’ Craig Slater finds out how FIA president Jean Todt and F1's chiefs have been working overtime on the sport's 2021 blueprint...
By Craig Slater, Sky Sports News
Last Updated: 23/07/19 12:08pm
Jean Todt's success at Ferrari was built on an indivisible inner cadre: Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne.
Ahead of an interview in the now-FIA president's Silverstone office at the British GP, out trooped Brawn, Nikolas Tombazis and Chase Carey.
Is this Todt's new inner circle?
As at Ferrari, Todt has an engineer, designer and driver. In Carey's case - a driver of hard bargains. In his negotiations with F1 teams he may need to be as uncompromising as Schumacher.
Are they having to work overtime to frame F1 beyond 2020? They'd been inside for 90 minutes. The meeting was scheduled for 30.
"I'm sorry to keep you waiting," says Todt on his arrival. "We just had a meeting to speak about the meeting we will host in Geneva with team principals, technical directors, drivers' representatives, the tyre manufacturer and the circuit directors. We take things very seriously to address matters.
"For 2020 we can still make some positive changes but mainly our attention is for 2021 where we have a unique opportunity working together to prepare a great future."
The light-hearted suggestion that thrillers at Spielberg and Silverstone might encourage F1 bosses to tinker less, brought a twinkle to Todt's eye.
"I do agree with you things are going quite well, but we must be ambitious and we still need to try to make things even better," he replied.
By bringing back refuelling, evidently.
"Ah, it is true," reiterates Todt. "I met the British press, it was a very open discussion and we spoke about a lot of things. What came out in the headline was my suggestion we should analyse the pros and cons of introducing refuelling.
"I don't say it will be introduced. We must make a very deep study."
So what does need to change?
"We need to create more unpredictability," explains the FIA president. "I was just mentioning to Chase, if you take the top five in the drivers' classification, after nine races they all have 100 percent reliability in terms of finishing every race.
"The cars are too reliable. So if we want to be more unpredictable we must have cars that are less reliable. In a way we make things too perfect."
That led onto a sympathetic nod to Lewis Hamilton's remarks regarding cars being too heavy. A view Sebastian Vettel echoed.
Vettel also let it be known future rules would influence whether he continued beyond next year - comments the president had less sympathy with.
"I must say I should be jealous," said Todt. "I think it's fantastic Sebastian Vettel, a four-times world champion - what is he? 32, 33? - he is saying 'depending on the rules I may stop'? I think it is a privilege a lot of people would love to have…"
"You think he should keep quiet and get on with it?" I ask.
"I will let you make your own interpretation of what I have said," replies Todt. That, at least, was said with a smile.
In Vettel's defence hadn't he had a rough time with the stewards recently? Without criticising them, did the president feel the rules could be framed to let drivers race in a less fettered manner? That drew a sigh.
"We are in the F1 world where everyone should be happy," said the Frenchman. "We are blessed people to have these kind of problems knowing other problems that exist in the world. People will never be happy with the judgement of the stewards.
"People will say 'You are crazy letting them run too wide. You must do something!' If you do something people will complain. If you don't they will complain.
"We must be sure what is done, is properly done. We must know where we draw the line or put the fence. That is the most difficult thing. With regard to the stewards - supported by the drivers' stewards we have - I must compliment them on the work they do."
Stewarding is one thing. Appeasing F1's various vested interests is another. Todt and his team need to create a concept that gives Carey a fighting chance of victory at the negotiating table - something he can get over the line.
"Is the Concorde Agreement on schedule to be delivered?" I ask.
"It is on schedule," confirms Todt. "I am a bit anxious about the final result but I will be anxious until the first race in 2021.
"We have a very strong responsibility. F1 is so big and such a spectacle we have the responsibility of making sure it befits the No 1 sport in the world."
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