Agag on how Todt helped secure motorsport's future
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It’s a cold and rainy winter night of 2011. Inside the small Italian Stresa restaurant, I find myself sitting at a small table near the closet, sharing a plate of pasta with Jean Todt, who had then been President of the FIA for a little over two years, and Antonio Tajani, at the time Vice-President of the European Commission, in charge of the industry portfolio, that includes the whole European automotive industry.

The conversation flows. A dinner between friends and, while we discuss where the future of the car industry is going, Jean comes up with this sentence: “The FIA should create an all-electric racing championship.” The ABB Formula E Championship was born, and it was none other than Jean Todt’s idea.

Two years earlier, back in 2009, when he had been elected President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, the state of motorsport was uncertain at best. F1 had been very close to a split, with a number of teams threatening to create an alternative competition outside of the FIA, and the exiting President, Max Mosley, a man with many achievements to his name, was forced to leave under difficult circumstances.

Jean Todt, FIA President.

Jean Todt, FIA President.

Photo by: FIA

After 12 years under Jean’s calm and firm stewardship, all of us that love and live motorsport can agree on one thing; how lucky we have been to have a man like him at the helm of the FIA.

Only a few weeks ago, F1 put an epic end to what has been one of the best seasons in its history. A new budget cap has been introduced, as well as a new Concorde Agreement that has given the pinnacle of motorsport a clear path to the future.

The ABB FIA Formula E Championship started racing in 2014 and has already delivered seven seasons of electric racing, becoming a strong and vibrant competition, with races in the heart of cities all over the world. Other competitions such as the World Rally Championship, with a strong new promoter, or karting, are also going strong, adapting to the new global landscape.

Jean Todt, President, FIA.

Jean Todt, President, FIA.

Photo by: Erik Junius

I have been lucky to witness many of these achievements, some at a distance, and others very much on the front line, as is the case of Formula E, where I had the luck to work hand-in-hand with Jean in the creation of our new championship. There are many moments where the role of the President was key for our success, and it would take a full book to describe them all but, as an example, when we launched the first model of the car, at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013, the only way for Jean Todt to be there was to wake up at 4 am and drive for six hours to make the event: he was there.

His obsession for the safety of the drivers was one of the best examples of true leadership I have ever seen. Many were against the introduction of the halo, and at some point, even I asked myself if it was a good idea. But Jean’s determination never wavered. Today, a few lives are owed to that decision.

On-road safety, his other passion, he has indefatigably traveled the world promoting safer road a driving practices, and using his influence both as President of the FIA, and as United Nations Special Envoy for Road Safety, to save lives on the road.

Alejandro Agag, CEO, Extreme E.

Alejandro Agag, CEO, Extreme E.

Photo by: Motorsport Images

As for me, what can I say. Jean Todt trusted me, and gave me my big break, the chance to become the promoter of Formula E. Over the years, he has always been there for me. Accompanied by his amazing partner Michelle Yeoh, and his son, my dear friend Nico, he and his family are a personal pillar for me. An example of hard work, honesty, determination. My deep and everlasting gratitude goes to him, and to all that he has done and will continue to do for our common love: motorsport.

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