The buccaneering image of the F1 driver driving as wildly on the road as on the race track may be an inaccurate stereotype, but it will be consigned once and for all to the nostalgic pages of the sport’s history books if new FIA president Jean Todt had anything to do with it. And he has made it plain over the past few days that he very definitely will have a lot to do with it, come what may.
In not so many words, Todt – who has had a longtime commitment to road safety initiatives, even in the days before he was elected as Max Mosley’s successor – has hinted that the FIA could be minded to impose sporting sanctions on any F1 drivers who lose their driving licences as a result of traffic offences.
Technically the governing body has always had the right to suspend a competitor’s racing licence in their event of their road licence being suspended, but that sanction has not always been imposed, in fact far from it. But now Todt is signalling that the sport must not only project an ecologically respectable image, but also a responsible one from the viewpoint of responsible driving on the road.
In an interview with Le Parisien newspaper, Todt said: "Last year, 1.3 million people died on roads in the world - 90 per cent in developing countries.
"The forecasts for 2020 are terrible, and they estimate that nearly two million people will be killed if no action is taken by then. Now, with a minimum of dialogue, that figure could be halved. This requires education, improved road networks, and the involvement of new technology on cars."
When asked if it would be logical and feasible for F1 drivers to face sanctions if they committed traffic offences, Todt said: "I have actually asked this question
"There is an incompatibility between the status of a role model champion, and a possible infringement on the road. A driver is a driver like the others. We are therefore trying to see whether to do something, and how."