Max Mosley and the art of distraction

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The 2007 spying controversy has been brought up again

Steven Roy reckons the fuss over ‘medals’ is just a big distraction:

I have come to the conclusion that it is a grand deception. There is a technique in business where you take a small problem and make it a big problem. Then solve the big problem using the extra resources you have been given due to the size of the problem. Here I think we have the opposite situation. Bernie and Max did not want us to be complaining about KERS, the new cars, the business climate or Max’s imminent re-elction so they fed us a line and we bit. We have spent weeks discussing a medals system that no-one ever intended to introduce and giving them an easy ride on more important issues.

So what are the more important issues? Let’s take a look at some of the other stories that have emerged in the past week:

Cost cutting

Max Mosley is pushing for deep cost cuts, slashing budgets to ??50m per team. What’s more, according to James Allen, Mosley is prepared to force new regulations through without the support of the teams to achieve it. He has already begun making the legal case for it:

We are, how shall I put it, in a situation of force majeure […] Anybody can go to court and dispute it, but I cannot see a judge saying you are completely wrong, you should allow these people to go bankrupt, and what on earth are you doing?”


Mosley made an interesting remark when he revealed that Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlan – two technicians at the heart of the 2007 Ferrari-McLaren spying controversy – were to be allowed to work in F1 again:

It does seem a little bit mad to make them serve out even longer when the two teams concerned are all making love to each other. So, we have said we will let them forget it.

This remark seems to be aimed at undermining the much improved relations between Ferrari and McLaren.

Ban lifted on Stepney and Coughlan


Having said in 2008 he would not stand for re-election this year, Mosley has predictably gone back on his word. Now he is saying that he wishes to solve the sport’s major problems before handing over to someone else.

The implication is that if the teams accept his latest demands on cost-cutting he will step down. Of course, there’s no more reason to take him at his word now than there was last year. As Too Good said:

Once elected he will forget about all these initiatives till next elections, and go on his implementing his own whims till next election time. And wait somewhere mid-term he will definitely give public a false hope by public statements about walking into the sunset.

Old trick of old dog. This time around what that has accomplished is FOTA on his side and Bernie against him, things will change once he gets new term

Meanwhile Jean Todt, perhaps the only man who could be an even less popular choice of president than Mosley, has stepped down from the World Motor Sport Council. Perhaps he has some campaigning to do and wishes to avoid a conflict of interest.

Support for traditional Grands Prix

The FIA may act to support the British Grand Prix

Although Mosley has said he can’t encourage Bernie Ecclestone to reduce his prices for traditional rounds on the F1 calendar, he has suggested offering support to sporting bodies in six specific countries if they’re having trouble preparing for their Grands Prix:

The traditional [races] were the six that were in the championship in 1950 and have been there ever since: Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Monaco and Belgium. But so far, there has never been an ASN coming to us saying we have got a problem, so if they do then we will have to look at it.

Is this a sincere attempt to support F1’s racing heartland – or a cynical ploy to ensure votes come election time?

Superlicence row

The drivers have taken issue with Mosley’s demand that they pay an increased superlicence fee. He has been trying to get them to reveal details of their salaries which the drivers have, of course, refused to do.

Mosley argues: “It would be fairer if the superlicence fee was based on earnings.” But the drivers no doubt suspect that if they provide him with details of how much money they’re earning, he will use it to impose a salary cap.

A salary cap seems a waste of time when the majority of drivers need to re-sign their contracts this year anyway. Only Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa have signed deals for 2010. If the teams wish to pay their drivers less, they can offer them less.

Number of entries

Bruno Senna testing for Honda at the end of 2008

Mosley optimistically puts the former Honda team’s chances of making the 2009 season at 70%. If they don’t, F1 will be down to just 18 cars on the starting grid for the first race, the lowest number in over three decades.

Even more optimistically, Mosley expects there to be 24 cars on the grid in 2010. There would have been that many last year, had he managed to get regulations allowing customer cars passed, but he failed.


Mosley has also revealed he knows who informed the News of the World about his now infamous sadomasochism sessions with prostitutes.

According to Mosley, the person involved works in F1, their identity will be revealed, and it may come with sporting sanctions.

Sting culprit works in F1 – Mosley

Diffuser controversy

The Williams and Toyota diffusers are legal, according to Mosley. Or perhaps not. Here’s the FIA’s typically contradictory explanation:

The current FIA view is that Williams and Toyota have been clever and have exploited the wording of the rules in a clever way. But somebody may challenge it and the stewards may take a different view – it could happen.

Over to you…

Do you think the medals debate was a distraction to keep people’s minds off more important matters facing F1? What do you think is the most important problem facing F1 at the moment?

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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21 comments on “Max Mosley and the art of distraction”

  1. Hugo Bourgeois
    7th February 2009, 13:35

    It is a commonly accepted thought that in times of crisis – such as we are in, now – measures need to be taken. Those measures are usually unpopular with the people directly involved. In this case, the fans of Formula 1. Often, though, the measures taken in times of crisis are far bigger than actually required by the surrounding economic elements. It is, therefore, not entirely unfair to assume that the measures taken by the FIA in terms of cost cutting are too big.

    Let me point out one or two “inconsistencies” that most of you probably have noticed as well:

    1. “Crisis induced” development reduction (although this has been appealing to very many fans for a very long time) vs. expensive KERS development.

    2. Severe cost cuts for the teams vs. hugely increased superlicence costs for drivers. (I remind you all of the quote by either Bernie Ecclestone or Max Mosley that teams should make “the drivers next to be touched by the crisis”.)

    These examples are symptomatic for what I think is the correct analysis by Keith Collantine. Unpopular measures are taken, for what I can only imagine is the (hidden?) agenda of the FIA (presidency?) and Bernie Ecclestone, and diversion is caused by making what is all in all a fairly ridiculous proposal on medals rather than points.

    I look forward to an analysis of the situations where Bernie Ecclestone has made other (equally preposterous?) proposals. Was he covering up back then either and what would that have been? What was going on last year when the McLaren – Ferrari dispute broke out, besides the scandal itself?

  2. HounslowBusGarage
    7th February 2009, 13:39

    Well, the medals idea came from Bernie, didn’t it?
    Currently it seems that Max and Bernie don’t get along, unless that’s a bluff too, and secretly they are both creating a smokescreen of medals to conceal . . what? Their joint failures to manage an international racing series properly?
    Bernie said Max should resign over Spankygate, so unless Bernie has changed his mind over that and they both hatched the dastardly plot *after* the News of the World article, I don’t think they’re in league.
    But I definitely think Max is going to go for re-election on the grounds that with F1 and WRC in such a bad state “this is no time for a novice!” Where have I heard that before?

  3. Yes, I think the medals debate was a distraction from more important things.
    Now there are some other issues, but these could be surely resolved in a reasonable way if the parties interested so wished.
    These matters now serve the same purpose as the medals debate – to distract attention from the central issue of racing : that the commercial rights of F1 were sold to Bernie´s company , that everything in F1 is done to raise maximum money for them, and that by keeping 50% of the proceeds there is no future for GP-F1.

  4. Classic slight of hand and misdirection. Nice summary…

  5. Bernie & Max both need to go. They’ve become so corrupt with power and money that they will do anything to keep it.

  6. It´s really difficult to know when Bernie and Max are fighting or just putting on a show. Are they on different sides of the fence or do they share the same interests?
    I´m new to all this politicking of F1 and just don´t know ….
    For sure at least Bernie must be feeling the heat and wants to distract attention away from his company, and I do not know how this affects Max.
    It seems to me that there is a bleak future indeed with the present arrangement.
    F1 is a success in spite of Bernie, not because of him

  7. I think Bernie honestly finds the ideas of medals an attractive idea and at the same time I think Mosley sincerely realises that it’s a bad idea.

    Besides, it doesn’t really take any attention away from all these other matters.

  8. Good Evening All,

    The answer could not be simpler.

    Exit Bernie and Max.

    Would Bernie be prepared to slash his profits to help

    Formula 1 in These troubled times, I doubt it!

    Best Regards,

    Chris Borg.


  9. i hope Mosley leave. What he said? just bla-bla-bla

  10. And who was at the head while F1 got into this ‘crisis’? Max should go before he gives people more reason to question him

  11. Without A shdow of a doubt. Max And Bernie, Enough is Enough.

  12. If ever there was a time for completely new thinking in F1 that time is now. Mosley & Ecclestone between them created the modern F1 spectacle and their far-sightedness in the early days was always to the good fortune of the sport.

    But….’power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’…..they’ve been running things for too long for their own good and much more importantly, the good of the sport.

    Bernie and Max….it’s time to go.

  13. Good Evening All Once again,

    The writing has been on the wall for a very long
    time. Surley this must be all about GREED!!!!!!!

    For The Love Of Formula 1 Get rid of The ScumBags.

    Best regards,



  14. One thinks Max might be a little mistaken with his facts

    The traditional [races] were the six that were in the championship in 1950 and have been there ever since: Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Monaco and Belgium. But so far, there has never been an ASN coming to us saying we have got a problem, so if they do then we will have to look at it.

    Germany didn’t have a GP in 1950. And there were 7 races, not 6.

    United States (Indianapolis 500, but it still counted for the WC)

    Ok the Swiss can’t hold any GPs, but he has added in Germany and removed the US from his recollection of the 1950 WC.

    I’m not saying that Germany shouldn’t be thought of as a traditional GP the same as Britain and France etc, indeed it should, but I think the US GP should be as well, its been a part of the WC throughout its history and should probably be thought of the same way as some of the Euro GPs.

  15. Albert Einstein said “You can’t solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created it”.

    It was Mosley’s “cost-cutting” and contradictory thinking, combined with the greed of Bernie and the manufacturers, that got F1 into this mess. It would be silly of Max to believe that more of the same from him, in the absence of the manufacturers and/or Bernie becoming less greedy, would solve the problem of economic mutually assured destruction.

  16. Thanks for picking up that comment Keith. I think you did a very good job of making my case. There are a lot of important issues that are not being discussed because so musch time is being spent on medals and super license fees. Both of these need to be resolved correctly but the reduction in the size of the grid, the commercial rights and other things highlighted by Keith are more important.

    For anyone like Arthur who is new to F1 politics here is a 30 second history lesson which will explain why I think Bernie is operating Max by remote control and the fight between them is just a mechanism to allow Bernie to criticise Max for his personal behaviour aand to allow Bernie to keep all the sponsors, dignitaries etc happy.

    Until the 1970s each team negoiated its own deal with each circuit. If Lotus didn’t like the deal offered by Interlagos they would not go to that race. Bernie got the teams togethe and formed FOCA (Formula Once Constructors Association) which negotiated collective deals and in return all the teams agreed to go to all the races. Bernie ran the Brabaham team and appointed a member of the board of March (a largely unsuccesful F1 constructor)as his deputy and lawyer. His name was Max.

    At that time the FIA’s sporting arm FISA ran all motor sport. Bernie instigated a few arguments with Jean-Marie Balestre who was its president and he started a few of his own. The end resultwas Bernie created a situation where Balestre was FIA president and Max became FISA president.

    Max used the FISA preidency to build a campaign for the FIA presidency and Bernie acted as a double agent. He assured Balestre that he was going to win while at the same time campaigning for Max. Max became FIA president and disbanded FISA so no-one could use that route against him.

    Without Bernie Max would be long forgotten in F1 circles and would only ever be discussed at all when the subject of his father’s politics or his mother’s interesting interpretation of history or his aunt’s relationship was mentioned on TV.

    Without Bernie Max would now be a failed physicist, failed lawyer and failed F1 team owner.

    1. Good Evening All,

      I am of the opinion that Marc Surer hit the nail right on it`s head.
      The F.I.A are not in a postion to design Race Cars.
      We Have 3 or maybe 4 of the top Teams that have all
      Know how in his field, why must the FIA get involved,
      surley McLaren, Ferrari, B.M.W. and Toyota, ought to know better. I .M O.

      Best regards,
      Chris .Borg.

    2. @Steven Roy
      That´s interesting ! thanks so much for taking the trouble to type all this down !
      I don´t know what to say then about all that´s going on — it seems to me that Bernie has got all the angles covered. A lot of what goes on must be smoke and mirrors then
      Cheers and thanks again !

  17. LOL. Nice job Keith, you’ve pointed out the very astute observation that deception tactics in F1 do exist. They are also de rigueur for American politics. ;)

  18. @chris borg

    I was always a fan of Marc Surer. He is a much underrated driver but he is wrong on this.

    The FIA could hire anyone from John Barnard who designed McLarens and Ferraris to Gary Anderson who designed Jordans and Stewarts to several other people. Any one of these people could design a better set of regs and Gary Anderson via his Autosport column did.

    The teams have all the technology but anyone who works for them has to respect their boss’s views. For example if the best thing to improve overtaking was to ban wings and that was Gilles Villeneuve’s view then no-one who worked for a team would suggest that because sponsors like wings and so do teams because a wing is a clearly defined area that can be sold as a package.

    For those who think I made a mistake mentioning Gilles Vileneuve I did not. We have had the problem that long. For those who may not know Gilles was the father of Jacques Villeneuve and he died in 1982. There is a quote attributed to him where he said that the problem with modern(circa 1980/81) cars is that if you run behind another car through a corner you lose downforce on the front wing. You then have to drop back from the car in front and if you can’t follow closely through a corner you cannot overtake on the following straight. What Gilles proposed was as he said to rip the wings off and throw them away, not reduce them, not to modify them but bin them. He then suggested that his ideal race car would have a big normally aspirated engine and 21 inch rear slicks so that you could slide the car.

    No-one who worked for a team could suggest that batch of mods because the management would not be happy. The tech regs have to come from the FIA and if they are not competent – which they are not – they should hire someone who is and give him a free hand.

    1. Perhaps Ross Brawn’s future role if Honda don’t get saved..??

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