Max Mosley ends his long reign as FIA president following a long and colourful career heading up the FIA. Love him or hate him, Mosley has been instrumental in developing the sport to the stage it is today with much-needed safety improvements being his main legacy.
in my presidency in 1994 we lost Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger,” said Mosley. “Their deaths led a fundamental re-evaluation of safety at all levels of motorsport. The benefits can be seen every weekend in race meetings and rallies all over the world. Without this progress the heavy crashes during the recent Formula One event at Suzuka might easily have led to another tragic weekend like Imola in 1994.”
The early years:
Son of Oswald and Diana Mosley, as a child Max lived in Bavaria, Paris and Ireland before returning to the UK to study physics at Oxford where he met future wife Jean. He later specialised in law.
Stating that he had found an environment where the name Oswald Mosley meant little, he started racing in 1966 before forming London Racing to compete in Formula Two in 1968. A year later, Mosley ended his race career and formed March Engineering with Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd.
The new team fielded two works entries at the start of the 1970 season as well as three customer cars, finishing third in the constructors’ championship. Despite financial problems, on-track success continued initially while the team supplied more cars to various lower categories to make ends meet. By the end of 1977 Mosley left to become the legal advisor to the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA).
Similar to the modern-day Formula One Teams Association (FOTA), FOCA was formed in 1974. Mosley represented the body in the bitter conflict with the Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) in the early 1980s and was instrumental in helping draft the original Concorde Agreement, the agreement that separated the rule-making (FISA) and commercial rights (FOCA). Mosley left the sport in 1982 to work for the British Conservative Party.
The return to motorsport:
Along with designer Nick Wirth, Mosley formed Simtek Research in 1986 and returned to the sport with FISA, challenging Jean Marie Balestre to the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) presidency in 1991. Having sold his share in Simtek, he lost out to Balestre, but challenged again in 1993 and won the presidency. FISA and the FIA were merged into one entity.
Safety shaped the early years of Mosley’s presidency after the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994. He announced the formation of the new Advisory Expert Group to be headed by Professor Sid Watkins. Over the years, the group was responsible for a reduction in engine size, implementation of the HANS device, increasingly stringent crash testing and the introduction of grooved tyres aimed at reducing cornering speeds.
Controversial rights deal:
A deal with Formula One Administration (FOA) - formerly FOCA - boss Bernie Ecclestone followed in 1995 in which the FIA handed over the commercial rights to the sport for an initial period of 15 years. This incurred the wrath of prominent team owners and the European Commission. The deal was concluded in 2000 with Ecclestone taking over the commercial rights for 100 years for a mere US $300m payable to the FIA.
The sport continued to flourish commercially despite the ban on tobacco advertising, and Mosley was re-elected as president again in 2001. The teams had a new name for their collective group, this time the Grand Prix Manufacturers Association (GPMA) which threatened a breakaway championship free of the FIA and FOA. Very much like the more recent Formula One Teams Association (FOTA), the proposed breakaway plans came too little, but it was another turbulent time for the FIA president.
Will he? Won’t he?
In 2004, Mosley announced that he would stand down as president saying he had achieved all he could, only to reverse the decision a month later. The following year saw the Indianapolis-Michelin debacle when all cars running on Michelin tyres withdrew from the race due to safety concerns. This resulted in the farcical six-car US Grand Prix contended by the Bridgestone-fitted Ferrari, Jordan and Midland teams.
Mosley continued into a fourth term in 2005 and with the environment playing a bigger role in the sport, he pushed for road car relevant technologies to be implemented and a freeze in engine developments in order to try and reduce costs. The Ferrari-McLaren industrial espionage scandal dominated the headlines in 2007, while a similar situation involving Renault at the end of the season was a mere footnote to another turbulent season.
The well publicised News of the World revelations rocked Formula One in 2008 but Mosley denied all claims of Nazi connections, while there were mixed reactions from the car makers and various motoring organisations around the world. One man who did not come to Mosley’s defence was Ecclestone who called for his resignation.
Following a successful vote of confidence, Mosley continued his reign into 2009 where FOTA reiterated that teams could breakaway from the FIA-sanctioned series and form their own championship. Again, it the split came to nothing the teams eventually towed the line and signed an extension to the Concorde Agreement binding them to the sport to the end of 2012.
While BMW became the second manufacturer to leave the sport in 12 months following Honda's departure, Mosley invited applications to fill the vacant grid spots with the field opened up to 13 teams and 26 cars. However, while the cost-cutting measures proposed by the FIA ahead of the FOTA revolt fizzled to nothing, there remained a good chance that there would be an increase in the number of competitors in 2010.
Formula One has a habit of going full circle and in Mosley’s time as FIA president that has been especially apparent. As the sport ends another season of headlines being made off the circuit rather than on, the racing itself has generally underwhelmed despite the efforts by the FIA and its Overtaking Working Group to create rules aimed at improving the quality of racing.
As Mosley stands down, two candidates will contest the election to become the next FIA president - former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt (who Mosley has publicly backed), and former world rally champion and Euro MP Ari Vatanen. The two are very differing characters with the former seen as continuity and the continuation of the Mosley-style era, while the latter is believed to be more influenced by the demands of the teams and drivers. Despite retiring officially as president, It’s unlikely we have heard the last of Mosley who is preparing to publish his autobiography – and has warned his lawyers to be on standby.
“Being president of the FIA is a challenging role,” Mosley said. “The decisions that have to be taken are never easy. A sport as competitive and commercially significant as ours needs to have a robust approach to governance. One cannot shy away from taking decisions that may be unpopular. And one must accept that, as president, one will get the blame for unpopular decisions, even those taken for purely legal reasons. Frequently, however, highly unpopular decisions have proved to be absolutely right over the longer term.”
“Of course, in the last year or two, the degree of controversy about the FIA and my role as president reached new heights. In particular, we had to deal with the theft by a top Formula One team of the entire intellectual property of their main rival. More recently we had an extraordinary plot to crash a car deliberately during a race. Again, there was controversy but this time the car manufacturer concerned took action and the truth was quickly established. It has always been difficult, but these problems have to be tackled decisively if Formula One wants to remain credible.
“Finally I wish my successor and his entire team the very best for the future. The time has now come for me to step back and enjoy a much quieter life.”