We all know that Ari Vatanen is a great rally driver – in his late 1970s, early 1980s heyday he was the archetypal balls-out driver, and in between trashing the occasional car he found the time to thrill fans and win the 1981 World Rally Championship.
In the intervening years he’s not lost his touch behind the wheel either: to this day he remains a fixture on the annual Paris-Dakar Rally, an event he has won four times. If nothing else, those victories show that he’s learnt to temper some of his on-the-limit enthusiasm with a slightly more measured approach.
But does this qualify him to be FIA president?
Alone, of course it doesn’t – but as well as being a great driver,
Vatanen’s spent years trying to be a great person (I interviewed him
once, in a dusty, humid tent in Mauritania, midway to Dakar, and he
smiled as he told how he’d spent the boat trip from Europe to Africa
reading a book on self-improvement, as other drivers partied). From
1999 until this year was using this to good effect as a popular Member
of European Parliament (oddly given that he’s a Finn, he worked as an
MEP representing a region in France), and he’s also acted as a trustee
of the FIA Foundation, so he knows his way around the place.