Max Mosley can’t stop talking about spygate

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I enjoyed American political drama “The West Wing” very much before it was cancelled two years ago.

I thought of it today, and how the president’s communications experts in the series would earnestly debate the implications of anything he said in public, when I read a new quote from Max Mosley.

The same care and attention is clearly not put into deciding what President Mosley has to say. Today he offered up this gem about the McLaren espionage saga:

Next time, whoever it was, I don’t think they would stay in the championship. In the case of McLaren everybody said ‘oh, a hundred million dollars’, but the alternative would have been to exclude them – and that would have been more expensive!

Let’s get two things straight. First, the espionage story is not only bad for McLaren, it’s very bad for Formula 1 as well. Depending on which side of the fence you’re on, this is either the case of a team being caught cheating and not getting punished properly, or a team getting a draconian punishment for an action that many of their rivals have also committed.

Second, everyone is sick of the espionage story. When McLaren said the magic words in December last year and gave the FIA cause to bring the matter to an end, the reaction from most people I spoke to was relief that it was over, not shock that McLaren had admitted anything.

Whatever your feelings about ‘spygate’, this was a very bad episode for Formula 1 and we’re all better off with the story dead and buried.

So why is Mosley bringing it up again? The only realistic conclusion that can be drawn here is that the governing body suspects another team has been spying. And innuendo of this sport is exactly what F1 does not need in 2008.

Two years ago the Michael Schumacher-Fernando Alonso title battle was interrupted by some really crass interventions by the stewards – particularly the dubious banning of Renault’s mass dampers and Alonso’s ludicrous penalty at Monza. Politics got in the way of what was a fine drivers’ championship.

Last year it was even worse. A spectacular three-way title battle was almost drowned out by interminable rows, not only about spying but the equality between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton and other controversies at Hungary, Fuji and Interlagos.

In 2008 F1 has to wean itself off this unhealthy preoccupation with scandal. F1 must serve up a sporting spectacle. The spying story is dead and buried and should be left to rot.

Two years ago there was talk of F1 getting a proper public relations front. Watching the president of the Federation de l’Automobile score a PR own goal by not only dragging up the spying story again, but admitting he didn’t punish McLaren strongly enough, it’s clear F1 desperately needs some proper public relations representation.

Photo copyright: FIA

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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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21 comments on “Max Mosley can’t stop talking about spygate”

  1. And I notice Renault were not mentioned at all by Mosley…

  2. Quite simply, I agree Keith. I too enjoyed the West Wing greatly, and feel the same as you about this recent regurgitation of the scandal. It’s only another year or so before Max will step down (fingers crossed, touch wood), and then someone with half a brain cell can step in and use common sense.

  3. Leave now Max before you say anything more to embarasses yourself and the FIA

  4. While I agree with putting the Ferrari/McLaren/cloak & debacle subject to bed now, I wonder if PR is the answer.

    Yes, it seems necessary at times — especially when we look at certain issues in racing, shaking our heads, because those we “trust” to be in charge are simpletons.

    However, once you hop upon that PR/PC bus, the only stops after that are entirely too abrupt … and often more injurious/scandalous than choosing to “walk the line” instead.

    For better or worse, most people either already know or will realize, in time, the truth. When they do, if it’s not also the PR/PC line they’ve been spoon-fed in order to “prevent” scandal and/or the appearance of any impropriety? Trust is truly, and irrevocably, lost.

    I do not agree with much happening within/without the FIA (nor with Mosley, quite frankly) — and feel likewise in terms of many racing series’ sanctioning bodies these days. Yet, as an American (and a NASCAR fan as well), I can honestly say that the lack of honesty in any sanctioning body is a cancer which doesn’t just erode the body, but also the Spirit. “PR/PC” or not.

    In this respect, I DO respect Mosley for being honest enough, however clumsily, to admit that he “might be a wimp” in Dennis’/McLaren’s regard, grin. I think that there is more than a little posturing and waffling going on there, but, ill-advised or not, at least it gives the “appearance” of “honesty”.

    Perhaps that, in itself, is his “PR”.

    GREAT job on EVERYthing, by the way — I love your site, and thank you for your talent and work.

  5. I think we should either stage an FIA coup, or make Max have a surgery to remove his voice box…

    [by the way – i dunno how it was done in England, but they ended the West Wing in the US because the actor who played the Vice President died a couple of years ago]

  6. Why is it that Renault not being punished gets dragged into discussion each and everytime there is a mention of spygate?
    Perspectively what Mc Laren did was far worse of the two(I wont argue that it has been done before by other teams and will prob be done again)… Mc Laren got two trials and got punished in the second one when actual hard evidence was found. Renault were not punished coz there was no hard evidence(read employees exchanging email about Moles)
    One thing is clear wrt FIA they dont care if you robbed the bank, what matters to them is if the money you looted was useful or not! It even helps if you dont deny robbing when asked!
    (Its a silly FIA world but atleast they are consistent about it)

    But seriously Max wont find what has to be said when even if it came and bit him on his rear!

  7. The was equal amounts of hard evidence produced at the second McLaren hearing, as there was at the Renault hearing. (To call them trials would suggest that legal procedure was followed.)
    The emails were not found until after, and are of no relevance to the verdicts.
    It’s quite clear that Renault got off, for something extremely similar to what McLaren were punished for. Which all shows Mosley is lying when he says teams will be punished in future – they’ll get off if someone complains (like Renault), or the whole thing will be ignored (Toyota, and Red Bull/STR/Spyker).

    The sooner Mosley and his petty vendettas are kicked out of the sport the better.

  8. I don’t think this article is about the main things Mosley had to say. He clarified that in the future any team caught again will be excluded, and that it is unacceptable for any information in written or electronic form to be taken from one competitor to another.

    That is an important clarification, defines the crime and the punishment for it. So nobody can say they did not know.

  9. Here’s a little more of what Mosley had to say:

    If you are prepared to check, and we have demonstrated that we are, then somebody using such information would be very unwise because in a modern F1 team you cannot do it without leaving traces and we will find those traces.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Ron Dennis repeatedly invite FIA inspectors to take a look at the 2007 McLaren car? And the FIA never did?

    In which case “If you are prepared to check, and we have demonstrated that we are” is not true.

  10. It’s up to the competing teams to help put any spying controversy to rest and not the FIA. I don’t think anyone would want to suggest that the FIA should keep mum even when something fishy is going on, just for the “good sake of F1”.

  11. If something fishy is going on then he should name names and charge the guilty parties.

    But I don’t think anything fishy is going on. Mosley is annoyed that McLaren weren’t thrown out and he wants to tell people that the next team to get into trouble for this will be thrown out.

    There is no benefit to be had from making remarks like this. All it does is focus people’s attention on the inconsistency of past verdicts in the spying cases (perceived or otherwise) and the idea that at least one F1 team was caught cheating.

    It reminds me of the time a few years ago when he said that at least one team had been using traction control illegally. It just made the FIA look incompetent, and F1 too by association. For if the FIA knew a team was cheating, why not name them and punish them?

  12. Oh come on, how can you read that something fishy is going on into what Max said?? My guess is that he was asked and replied, albeit in not the smartest way. And as already mentioned, at least he admits why McLaren weren’t excluded. Obviously this doesn’t really help in any possible future cases…
    And please, why can’t people just stop harping on about how Renault were unjustly not punished while the poor, poor, little McLaren team was. This is beginning to sound like the tragic whining of an Arab song!
    I don’t think it makes any sense to go into the facts here anymore even though the same sad fantasy stories of “what really happened” get spread about whenever there is the smallest reason for it, a la “Darling, I just went down to the shops to buy some eggs, btw, WHAT HAPPENED TO RENAULT COMPARED TO MCLAREN IS UNFAIR!! IT REALLY IS UNFAIR!!!”

  13. The reason Renault keep getting mentioned (particularly when it’s relevant – like here), is it’s solid proof Mosley is not suitable to lead the FIA.

    The interview was with, so he couldn’t have had an easier interview.

  14. I find Mosley’s comment connected to Trulli’s recent statement that he (Trulli) is suspicious that “some” team or teams are still using some form of traction control.

    As for Mosley utilizing any form of PR person, it runs contrary to his personality. His enormous ego wouldn’t stand for himself out of the limelight.

  15. The FIA does not need a PR agent, it needs honest and transparent leadership.

  16. What’s the lastest on the lawsuit with Martin Brundle? I am hoping that this might be the undoing of Mosley

    *fingers crossed*

  17. Not heard anything new on it for a few weeks.

  18. Max Mosely already has a PR agent attached to his office (to be fair, given the way F1’s profile has increased since he took office, most likely any other president of the FIA would have done the same). His name is Richard Wood (or was in 2005; he may have been replaced since then) and he has the unenviable task of massaging Max’s written messages whilst attempting to keep a straight face when Max shoots himself in the foot. More PR is not the solution. A good sort-out at the FIA, combined with less power-seeking, some organizational ability and a recognition that motor sport is sport first is the solution.

    There wasn’t enough proof to legally punish either McLaren or Renault and in any case the way the hearings were conducted wouldn’t have allowed a conviction even if the evidence itself had been adequate (in that most of the important questions were avoided, and questions that were only tangentially relevant were used instead). Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the various political controversies was seeing the extent to which the powers that be would go to deny us the truth, whilst claiming the whole time that their behaviour represented “transparency”.

  19. One more thing – Max Mosely said something very similar back in 2004, immediately after the Toyota/Ferrari case. Teams formally accused of information theft – 2.

    Teams Max believes have committed formal information theft – 1.

    Teams thrown out of the championship – 0.

    If that’s not evidence of how seriously we should take Max’s statement yesterday, then what is?

  20. George, Trulli’s staremtne was made long after Mosley made his. Trulli’s statement is related to the new ECU on the cars, while Mosley was talking about traction control being used a few years ago when it was supposedly banned .

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