Mosley on McLaren, F1 engines, customer chassis and more

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Among the myriad development that have come from the FIA recently a detailed interview with Max Mosley gives some interesting new insights into the McLaren-Ferrari spying scandal, future F1 regulations, customer cars and more.

The interview was published in The Paddock, a recent addition to the world of F1 publications which has just published its seventh issue. It focuses more on the business and administration of Formula 1, rather like BusinessF1 before its collapse a few months ago.

The interview pre-dates some recent developments including the decision to to punish Renault and the FIA’s legal action against the Sunday Times but nonetheless it is packed with illuminating and forthright opinions from the mind of Max:

The McLaren-Ferrari spy scandal

Regarding Ron Dennis telling him about Fernando Alonso’s emails:

At that stage I’d already been told that some emails existed, by Bernie [Ecclestone]. Actually, he’d been shown a Blackberry, but at the time I thought he’d been shown the actual emails… Bernie just said: “I’ve seen these emails, they’re all in Spanish, but I’m told they’re very compromising”… They either came from Alonso or de la Rosa.

This is interesting because it shows that the FIA heard about the new evidence that led to McLaren’s eventual publication before McLaren did. Also the fact that Fernando Alonso and Pedro de la Rosa’s discussions were in Spanish suggests they weren’t disseminated beyond the pair to other engineers or drivers.

Regarding McLaren’s punishment:

Well, I thought then, and I still think, that from a legal point of view, we should have excluded everybody. I find it very difficult logically to justify excluding the team, and not the drivers. The reason the team was excluded is that the information had been used, and that gave them an advantage, and therefore the drivers also had an advantage. But the emotional view in the World Council, the hearts versus heads view, was that we had a wonderful championship here involving the two McLaren drivers, and we shouldn’t ruin it. As it turned out, they were absolutely right, because it was a wonderful end to the championship. And in the end, I think, arguably justice was done.

Asked directly whether McLaren were convicted without any hard evidence he responded:

This is true. For a lot of it, you had to draw the inference. For me, the key thing was the discussion between de la Rosa and Alonso about information from Stepney being tried in the simulator, and/or the wind tunnel, plus the information about the gas in the tyres and so on. We were given evidence to the effect that none of these things had been tried and that the decision not to try them had been taken by de la Rosa, without consulting any of the engineers. That wasn’t credible.

Asked about the inspection of the 2008 McLaren – the results of which won’t be revealed until February next year – he said, “I hope it will turn out that there’s absolutely nothing. But it would be utterly wrong for us not to look.” Last week The Independent said an anonymous FIA source indicated McLaren were in the clear.

F1 engine regulations

Mosley explained why earlier plans for small capacity turbocharged F1 engines were dropped:

First, there was a danger that the resulting engine wouldn’t be a ‘racing engine’ as we know the term – that it would run much slower and be very quiet. Second, and even more important, the duty cycle for the F1 engine would be so different from the duty cycle for a road engine, that it wouldn’t make a significant contribution to road engine or environmental technology.

On whether a ten year engine freeze is feasible, and whether F1 teams will have to cut staff:

I think they will. It had to be ten years, because if it had been anything less than that, they would have used their existing resources to start looking at the next formula. When we first started discussing turbos, for example, at least two of the engine manufacturers, and probably others, immediately started investigating them, long before there was even a hint of a rule.

Later he suggested that by cutting staff working on F1 engine development car manufacturers will free up resources to work on meeting the European Union’s target of cutting average CO2 emissions from road cars. Is Mosley telling the manufacturers how to run their own companies?:

There are not enough road car engine engineers working for the major manufacturers to achieve the EU’s 130g/km emissions target on time. If that’s the case, it’s crazy to have some of the best of these engineers working to make an F1 injector work marginally better, when they could be doing something that will actually help the main company achieve the EU target.

Improving racing in F1

He gave one of his shortest answers when it was put to him there little had been seen of developments based on research into improving racing in F1:

No, and you won’t [see any] until 2009. But the Overtaking Working Group recommendations are all done, and they’ve gone in the regulations. I think they’ll have a big effect.

Car manufacturers and customer chassis

A key tactic of Mosley’s in recent years has been to engage with car manufacturers at board level rather than just with their racing representatives. He believes this will make it less likely that ay of them might leave the sport at short notice:

We’re constantly told at team level that if we did this or that, the manufacturers would lose all interest in F1. At board level, they’re not thinking like that at all. In the end, what will make the board pull out is spending hundreds of millions to run in ninth and 10th places. We can’t stop them running in ninth and 10th places, because someone has to. But we can reduce the cost to the point where nobody on the board is seriously arguing that they should stop.

Asked whether he approved Prodrive’s plan to enter F1 next year anticipating that they would use a customer chassis and engine he said, “It wasn’t by any means sure in my mind, but it seemed possible, yes.”

Street races

It is often asked exactly how close Max Mosley is to Bernie Ecclestone. Given Ecclestone’s new-found fondness for street circuits, Mosley’s lukewarm opinion of them is interesting:

I’m not super-keen on street races. Permanent circuits are necessary for the infrastructure, the grass roots of motorsport, and they should be supported. On the other hand, having some street races is difficult to avoid. For example, a street race is the only option in Singapore, which is a major world financial centre.

…and retirement

He has a few thoughts on his successor:

I think it must be someone with a thorough knowledge of the sport, but also interested and informed about general motoring. The sport, and particularly F1, is the tip of the iceberg in the FIA. There’s a huge bit people just don’t see.

And spilling the beans:

And then I suppose I’d have to write the book. So many funny things have happened, I think it would cause a lot of amusement, and interest as well??

This is just a fraction of a comprehensive, insightful and probing interview. I strongly recommend you read the full article.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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18 comments on “Mosley on McLaren, F1 engines, customer chassis and more”

  1. “the fact that Fernando Alonso and Pedro de la Rosa’s discussions were in Spanish suggests they weren’t disseminated beyond the pair to other engineers or drivers”

    Keith, that could be simply down to the fact they are Spanish. Or, wouldn’t it? I think i’d be comfortable speaking to a mate, in our native language. Wouldn’t you?

    Also, if they were to be only doing so for secrecy’s sake, they would have figured that it’s official mail that they were using and hence avoided it, with the fear of being tracked.

  2. I tend to agree with Sri here, that fact Alonso and de la Rosa communicated in Spanish does not necessarily mean that the info did not get to others in the team

    but is seems to be interesting piece of an interview. is it anywhere online in full ?

  3. I’m sorry friends, there’s not a word written that can change my opinion of MadMax. For someone who has spent so much of his life in and around F1 he’s got no idea how to run it! He seems like a laywer trying to do an engineers job and he’s proven good at neither!

  4. There is so much to be examined here that I don’t know where to begin. Maybe I’ll do a post about it. But, considering how often we are told that Max is a lawyer, his thinking is incredibly muddled and self-contradictory.

    Just one point – Keith’s about the emails being in Spanish. I don’t think Keith was implying that they used Spanish as a sort of secret code but rather that it confirms they were personal conversations between the two drivers. As such, they were more likely to be theoretical discussions than actual plans to set the relevant departments to work on the info, particularly as nothing seems to have come of them.

  5. Hi everyone, you have a very interesting place here.

    As a spanish F1 fan (one of the weird spanish who watched GPs even before De la Rosa drove an Arrows and a Jaguar)i’m going to explain my point of view, obviously, in favor of Alonso.

    I can’t understand what is the supposed advantage that Alonso could find in the technical information of Ferrari. Even if Alonso could find out how Kimi’s driving was affected by any mechanical part, i can’t figure out how he could use it to take any advantage.

    My point is, that is senseless for me that Pedro and Fernando chated about the stolen info, and is even more senseless that engineers gave them that kind of information.

  6. There’s a very simple way to control costs AND help to equalize the competitiveness among teams: have the FIA give the teams the money—and only that money—that can be used in one season, and of course, give each team the same amount of money. Prize money would go to the team members directly for their personal use.

  7. Hi Clive!

    There was no intention to discredit Keith, in no manner what so ever. I enjoy reading stuff on this site of his, which is quite good! Now, i come from a country (India), where there are many languages spoken and even more dialects, than one could possibly imagine. Which is why, perhaps, i could understand this phenomenon better. It is a common sight in my country, to see people from the same region, conversing in their native language. So, i would think, it is more down to the fact that they are both Spanish, as a result of which, it is convenient/preferable for them to speak, in that language.

    About your point that it is just personal chit-chat. Now, if they really wanted to keep this conversation private, then as i said, they would not have used official mail. Official mail is tracked, almost in all companies. So they would have avoided it except only in two extreme cases:
    i) Both Alonso and De-la-Rosa are very very mentally challenged. Which they can’t be. Each driver is subjected to a stringent psychological evaluation test, to see whether they are mentally that strong, or not.
    ii) They would have planned it, to get themselves thrown out of McLaren. This, however, is not so likely, because if their involvement were proved, their super-licences would have been revoked. They could have probably been kicked out of F1, or, even if allowed to continue, no top team would ever want them.

  8. Max just admitted that he chose to come to the conclusions that he wanted to, without evidence. He inferred that McLaren used Ferrari info, when there was no direct evidence, no smoking gun, just an email that could have been construed as gossip.

    He can refute until he’s blue in the face that he has no axe to grind (or bury) with Ron, but his actions speak louder than his weak explanations.

  9. im starting to wonder if mclaren will even be on the grid in 2008!

  10. well this answers a suggestion I were made earlier on this investigation/trial of mcclaren that the em’s were sent in spanish as they alonso and pedro were spanish – stands to reason – but that this was used to say that mcclaren were guilty of using ferrari info – isnt proof positive it would be thrown out of a scottish court as not proven – supposition is not proof. The other thing that has come to light is the little man bringing it to max’s attention – who told bernie?? maybe someone in ferrari?

  11. The answer is quite simple, Alan: Alonso showed Bernie the emails (probably on his Blackberry) after Ron had advised Max of their possible existence. That was the story at the time, anyway, and Max is just lying when he says that he was aware of them before Ron spoke to him. At the time, Max agreed with Ron that they probably only existed in Alonso’s imagination and it wasn’t until Bernie stepped in that they took the info seriously. Therefore, Max is either lying now or lied when he spoke to Ron. Since this is the first time that he has asserted that he knew about the emails before Ron brought them to his attention, I take it that he has swapped events in his mind and now believes the new version.

    Why should Max lie about the timing of his being informed of the emails? To throw people off the obvious conclusion that Ron would not have mentioned the matter to Max had he known of the drivers’ involvement in the affair. That would make it clear that Ron has been honest all along, to the extent of his knowledge at least, and Max can’t bear that.

  12. Thanks for that Clive – but isn’t amazing how facts? seem to change with the telling as you said the more max says it the more he beleives it right enough

  13. Clive, I quite agree with your comment, because I remember quotes from Mosley acknowledging Ron’s phone call, giving the impression that he had just heard it from Ron for the first time.

    Max is just an attention grabber, and I’m quite surprised he doesn’t join the top 3 drivers at the post race press conference.

    By the way, has it been confirmed, that the 2 drivers used the official email system or thier own private emails when discussing those details.

  14. ” Also the fact that Fernando Alonso and Pedro de la Rosa’s discussions were in Spanish suggests they weren’t disseminated beyond the pair to other engineers or drivers.”

    The Fia report (3.8 to 3.21) says there is mails from and to Coughlan, obviously in english. The discussion could be partially in spanish, but the source of the discussion was in english.(it is not mentioned the spanish language in the report).

  15. You guys are hilarious, people commenting as if they have been in Max Mosley’s head the whole time and knew exactly what he said and when. I don’t know if it makes any sense, but the press actually have their own agenda and don’t necessarily relay all information exactly the way it was presented to them. This happens even when it’s unintentional, but just go ahead and twist the info your way to suit your needs. I’m not defending any of his actions, I do think that he should’ve retired some time ago myself, but it makes sense to not think eveything written in the tabloids is the honest truth…

  16. By your reasoning, Michael, we should just accept whatever Max says, whether it contradicts his previous statements or not. Unfortunately, we have memories and can recall what was said on previous occasions, as reported by all news sources (in fact, I doubt the tabloids had anything to say on this particular matter – I don’t read them myself). If Max was misreported at the time, then was the moment for him to protest – to merely come out with a totally different story now shows that he has either forgotten exactly what happened or is trying to mislead us.

    When someone gives one version of events and then later changes it, we are entitled to point out the error and wonder at the reasons for the change.

  17. When I see the name Mosley in the head line, or Hamilton, it’s easy to pass over the article. Mosley is a cancer in F1 and Hamilton a headache. I need a drink………
    a tall cold one, high octane.

  18. c’mon people… who wants to see max mosley leave? or get sacked?(that will never happen)

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