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The manoeuvres of Mosley

By Ian Hughes

Max Mosley
Mosley was appointed as FIA president in 1993
Radical change and controversy are themes repeated throughout Max Mosley's reign as president of motorsport's governing body, the FIA.

But in his fourth term of office, the 68-year-old came to the wider public's attention and under scrutiny like never before, when the News of the World alleged he had taken part in a "Nazi-style orgy" with prostitutes.

Mosley apologised for causing any embarrassment but denied his actions had any Nazi connotations, and later launched legal action against the newspaper.

He also made it clear, right from the start, that he was determined to continue in his role despite the revelations.

On Tuesday he survived a vote of confidence to stay on as president of the FIA, but it was far from a ringing endorsement as more than a third of delegates did not back him.

A motorsport insider told BBC Sport he felt Mosley's decision not to resign at the time of the initial allegations was "a catastrophic political misjudgement".

And after initially supporting Mosley, F1's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone later declared his friend of 40 years "should go out of responsibility for the institution he represents".

Considering the nature of the allegations, it was pointed out that a senior figure in any other public office - or in a major international company - would have conceded their position had become untenable.

Not so Mosley, who defended his behaviour as "harmless and completely legal".

The allegations had greater impact because of Mosley's background.

His father is former MP Oswald Mosley, who was the leader of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s. And Mosley, born in 1940, was also schooled in Germany not long after the Second World War.

Certainly his style of presidency has a very strong authoritarian streak to it, which I think does intimidate journalists and people who work in the sport

Damon Hill
Yet Mosley's stubborn stance was indicative of his character. He had already made many enemies in his 15-year tenure as FIA president with an approach that suggested he felt he was beyond questioning.

Former world champion Damon Hill told BBC 5 Live on Tuesday: "Certainly his style of presidency has a very strong authoritarian streak to it, which I think does intimidate journalists and people who work in the sport."

Mosley - along with his long-time associate Ecclestone - has ruled the sport in ways that have sometimes been perceived as Machiavellian - even if many of the things he achieved have much merit.

Last year, Mosley publicly called former world champion driver Jackie Stewart a "certified half-wit" after the Scot criticised his handling of the "spy-gate" scandal involving McLaren and Ferrari.

The remark was at odds with his undoubted political skills, and gave a glimpse of the ruthless operator lurking beneath the measured, suave exterior.

There are plenty of stories of Mosley's temper erupting behind the scenes, of anger unleashed at those who dared to cross him.

Yet Mosley would have pursued a career in politics had he not been advised against it because of his family history - he was once described as the best prime minister the Conservative party never had.

Instead he chose a career in law, after gaining a degree in physics from Oxford University, and went on to become a barrister.

And it was his legal - as well as political - background that helped him shape the future of motorsport's elite competition.

As Ecclestone's lawyer during a bitter dispute within the sport in the early 1980s, Mosley played a key role in drafting the Concorde Agreement that settled the issue and still governs F1 today.

By 1991, Mosley had become president of the sporting arm of the FIA. And two years later, he was elected president of the whole federation - just as the sport was about to enter a time of crisis.

During qualifying for the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, Roland Ratzenberger smashed head-on into a crash barrier and died from his injuries.

The three-time world champion Ayrton Senna was also killed when he careered into a concrete wall during the race the following day.

Then, during practice for the Monaco Grand Prix - the very next day of competition - Austrian Karl Wendlinger suffered a serious accident which left him in a coma for weeks.

Ayrton Senna's wrecked car after his fatal crash at the San Marino Grand Prix
Mosley put safety first after the deaths of Senna and Ratzenberger

After the tragedies, a headline in French newspaper L'Equipe read simply: Stop this.

As an amateur racer, who had competed in the 1968 Formula Two race at Hockenheim in which double world champion Jim Clark was killed, Mosley had already been well aware of the terrible dangers of the sport.

And so he set about bringing in wide-ranging changes to make Formula One much safer.

These included reducing engine capacity, introducing grooved tyres to reduce cornering speeds, redesigning circuits and ensuring there was more rigorous crash-testing of the cars' chassis.

Through the FIA, Mosley also involved himself in road car safety and takes pride in the part he played in the introduction of the Euro NCAP crash-test standards.

The programme has undeniably improved safety in modern cars and Mosley has stated it his greatest achievement as FIA boss.

In addition he has pushed for Formula One to begin developing environmentally-friendly technology, which can also be applied to road cars.

To this end, Mosley put in place a 10-year ban on engine development, in order to ensure manufacturers spend more of their budget on 'green' issues.

Although the moves are highly commendable, there is some suspicion that his motives were driven as much by the need for F1 to safeguard its future as they were for safeguarding the future of the planet.

Mosley's involvement with motorsport began in the late 1960s when he began racing and reached the level of Formula Two after forming the London Racing Team.

After realising he was never going to be a world champion, Mosley co-founded March - a racing car manufacturer - and oversaw the company's legal and commercial matters.

The company then moved into building F1 cars and built up a dominant position in American Indy Car racing in the 1980s.

Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley
Ecclestone and Mosley have stood side-by-side for almost 30 years
Mosley, however, extricated himself from March to concentrate on F1 politics. Despite his abilities in this area, he was involved in a number of spats with F1 car makers over his plans for the sport.

He announced in July 2004 that he intended to quit his FIA role at the end of that season, saying that he found discussions with team owners increasingly tedious.

But he subsequently decided to stay on after the FIA senate asked him not to step down.

Mosley also had public rows with Ecclestone, although many F1 insiders believe these were just part of a well-crafted plan to strengthen their control over the sport.

But whatever team owners, manufacturers and F1 fans may have thought of them, few would dispute that the pair formed a brilliant and powerful alliance.

And when the scandal broke around Mosley's alleged activities, Ecclestone said: "Assuming it's all true, what people do privately is up to them. I don't honestly believe it affects the sport in any way."

Ecclestone also said at that time he felt there was no need for Mosley to resign.

However, he later changed his view, saying: "Everyone I speak to in a position of authority in F1 says he should go. It's regretful he's not made this decision."

Among the FIA's members, significant member countries such as Germany and the US made it clear after the vote they felt Mosley should resign regardless of his success.

And as the dust continues to settle, it remains to be seen whether Mosley will be able to control the damage from a scandal that now seems destined to become the most defining episode of his time as FIA president.




see also
Mosley set to face vote on future
03 Jun 08 |  Formula One
Mosley should go, says Ecclestone
31 May 08 |  Formula One
Mosley hits back in war of words
29 May 08 |  Formula One
Mosley sues over Nazi orgy claim
28 May 08 |  UK News
Mosley aims to stand down in 2009
20 Apr 08 |  Formula One
Mosley sex scandal 'may cost F1'
06 Apr 08 |  Formula One
Defiant Mosley takes on critics
05 Apr 08 |  Formula One
FIA to hold Mosley crisis meeting
03 Apr 08 |  Formula One
Mosley will not attend Bahrain GP
03 Apr 08 |  Formula One
Defiant Mosley vows to fight on
01 Apr 08 |  Formula One


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