Sunday 18 August 2019

Formula One chief Jean Todt sparks fury for comparing Paris terror attack death toll to road traffic accidents

Insensitive: Jean Todt used Paris tragedy to push his own agenda Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Insensitive: Jean Todt used Paris tragedy to push his own agenda Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Daniel Johnson

Jean Todt, the president of Formula One’s governing body, has provoked fury for making light of the Paris terrorist attacks by comparing the number of dead with road traffic accidents.

The Frenchman came under fire online and in the paddock for raising his main political hobby horse, road safety, when asked about the horrifying attacks which have killed at least 127 people. He is also at odds with Bernie Ecclestone, the sport’s chief executive, over the arrangements for a minute’s silence before Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

Speaking to French television station Canal+, the FIA President expressed his sadness at the attacks, before saying: “Do you realise that the number of people killed in road accidents is by far bigger than the number of people who died in Paris.”

The 69-year-old was branded insensitive for using this opportunity to raise his road safety campaign. It was all the more astonishing a comment given his nationality and the fact that the FIA’s headquarters are in Paris, at Place de la Concorde.

Todt has long planned to hold a minute’s silence before this Sunday’s race for road traffic victims, ahead of a major conference on the subject in Brasilia next week.

This will now be combined to pay respects to the victims in Paris, but it is understood that Ecclestone is railing against the plan and wants the minute’s silence to purely recognise the terrorist attack.

Todt added on Saturday morning: “We had already planned to do something at the occasion of the day of celebrations for road victims.

"Every day on our streets, 3500 people die. Every day there are 30 times more people who die than in the Paris assassinations.

"We had decided a minute of silence and of course we can't ignore what happened in Paris. We will thus have a moment of attention for what happened in Paris."

Todt also said it would be wrong for the FIA to do anything special just because its headquarters are in Paris.

"It's a bewilderment, the horror after this attack in Paris, but that could happen anywhere in the world," he said.

"We only are poor spectators in front of such a spectacle. Paris is one of the great capitals of the world and it's not appropriate to link the FIA to this tragic accident. But you can only suffer when you see such a drama and we hope it won't happen again".

The Frenchman also played down Lewis Hamilton’s Monaco car crash, despite the world champion being an FIA ambassador for road safety. Hamilton and the FIA were criticised by road safety charities for their stance.

But after a conversation with Hamilton on Saturday before practice, Todt said there were no issues.

“Sometimes you spend time on unnecessary controversies, which have no meaning,” he said. “When I hear, for example, the importance that was given to Lewis having a little incident on the road, we should not care about that. We should care about important things.”

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