Max Mosley, 1940-2021

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Max Mosley, former president of the FIA and previously a racing driver and F1 team manager, has died aged 81.

For 16 years from 1993 to 2009 as president of the FIA, Mosley was the chief figure in motorsport’s global governing body. He oversaw significant safety changes which saved countless lives in Formula 1 and beyond, and negotiated Concorde Agreements which dictated the financial and broadcasting terms for all teams in F1.

It was the work to make racing cars safer that occupied much of Mosley’s early years in the job. He was first elected as president of FISA – the body’s former sporting arm – in 1991, before winning the FIA presidential election two years later.

The deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger during the 1994 Formula 1 season stunned the sport and the watching world. The first fatalities at an F1 race weekend for more than a decade prompted Mosley to form the Advisory Expert Group to improve all safety matters as well as pushing through significant regulation changes in the pinnacle of single-seater racing.

Bernie Ecclestone, Max Mosley
Unlikely allies: Ecclestone and Mosley
Mosley’s second term began in 1997. This four-year stretch was dominated by a lengthy battle with the European Commission, which suspected the governing body’s control of motorsport was anti-competitive. This was settled by 2000, when the FIA accepted a solely regulatory role in charge of F1, with commercial matters placed in the hands of Bernie Ecclestone.

The former owner of the Brabham F1 team had co-founded the Formula 1 Constructors’ Association (FOCA) in 1974. The entrepreneurial Ecclestone, well on his way from used car dealer to billionaire F1 kingpin, formed an unlikely and successful working relationship with the Oxford-educated lawyer.

Meanwhile the FIA’s work in areas beyond motor racing was becoming ever more diverse. Under Mosley’s watch it became heavily involved in road safety advancements and introduced the EuroNCAP crash testing programme.

His fourth and final term, from 2005 to 2009, was perhaps his most controversial. Increasingly at loggerheads with F1 teams over costs, matters came to a head at the 2005 United States Grand Prix where the majority of teams, all running Michelin tyres, discovered their rubber was incapable of withstanding the forces of the banked final corner on the Indianapolis road course. Seven of the 10 teams withdrew their cars, and several of them pointed a finger at Mosley for failing to facilitate a solution.

The second half of the decade was a period of deep political rancour in Formula 1. In response to the global financial crisis of 2007-08, Mosley pressed for drastic cost reductions, at a time when well-funded manufacturer teams were spending huge sums. The sport was rocked by a series of massive controversies: McLaren’s ‘Spygate’ scandal in 2007; the ‘Crashgate’ affair which Renault were at the centre of in 2009, and another involving Mosley.

The News of the World’s publication of salacious details of Mosley’s sex life in a front-page story in March 2008 put Mosley under enormous pressure to resign. He did not, but chose not to seek a further term at the end of the year. He dedicated himself to campaigning against press intrusion, and within two years revelations about the News of the World’s journalistic practices led to the newspaper’s closure.

Before his most famous role, Mosley was a racer himself and made one non-championship F1 start in 1969. But he was aware he couldn’t match the stars of the day and instead set up his own race car manufacturer.

Mosley’s March team won two F1 races
The creation of March, which would go on to take two F1 wins as a works entity, built up Mosley’s connections across motorsport as he sold cars to customers in multiple categories. It also led him to working with Ecclestone for the first time and creating FOCA, and built him enough political clout of his own for him to seek his own political career in the eighties.

However a route into mainstream politics never seemed a realistic option by dint of his birth. He was the son of British fascist Oswald Mosley, who married aristocrat Diana Mitford in Nazi Germany at the house of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

Mosley was involved in further legal battles with newspapers in the months before his death. At the end of 2020 the High Court rejected his legal action against the Daily Mail relating to the News of the World trial. Two years earlier the Mail had revealed an election pamphlet from 1961, published by Mosley in support of a candidate for his father’s far-right Union Movement party, which contained racist statements about immigrants.

His life is due to feature in a documentary film slated for release in July this year, titled: “Mosley: It’s Complicated”.

Mosley is survived by his wife Jean Taylor and son Patrick; their first son Alexander died in 2009.

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Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
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22 comments on “Max Mosley, 1940-2021”

  1. I don’t much have to say about Mosley,the article speaks by itself. I just remember that when I was a kid in the late 90’s, on the grid he looked to be the good guy as opposed to Ecclestone being the bad one of F1 powers.

    1. Thats a nice observation I shared as a kid.

  2. Jack (@jackisthestig)
    24th May 2021, 20:12

    As controversial as he was at times, he was unflinchingly effective when it came to improving safety in motorsport and road cars as chairman of Euro NCAP. Anyone who survived a big crash in a car built since the early 2000s probably has him to thank for their life.

    1. Firstly FIA banned active cars and we had Imola 1994. Then he started to improve safety. However, the issue of safety was brought to spotlight in early nineties when AMuS crashed several cars and publicized the results. Obviously a lot earlier than FIA.

    2. The other thing I remember about him was that he was the first one to seriously attempt to reign in the ridiculous amount of money that was being spent by the top (and some not so top) teams in F1. We, the fans, and pretty much everyone else could see that uncontrolled spending was going to ultimately bring F1 to a crisis point but the “teams” wouldn’t have it, because they were unwilling to entertain the possibility of losing a perceived advantage.

      I find it quite ironic that one of the people that resisted his attempts to bring about budget caps is now involved in the development and management of them.

  3. He lived an incredible life. His achievements since the news of world scandal alone dwarf most other lives. But he was certainly a divisive figure, which is true of just about anyone influential.

    1. His father was a monster, and he himself had monstrous tendencies, and he got stuff done with all of that dirty old money. I was never a fan of his, but he did dedicate himself to motorsport, so I can respect that aspect of his life. A chapter closes.

      1. How was his father a monster?

        1. Oswald Mosley was the leader of the British Union of Fascists. He was a racist. He used political violence. He was good friends with Hitler and Goebbels. Also, had affairs with both his wife’s little sister and stepmother.

      2. After more careful research, I revise my opinion of him: He was scum across the board.

  4. Indianapolis 2005.

    1. Imagine if Michelin’s tyres were fine throughout the whole weekend.
      – All 20 cars would start Indy 2005 as usual.
      – Some shock DNFs would have happened to Renault and McLaren.
      – Chaotic moments everywhere.
      – Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi lead the Top 6 with probably 6 laps to go.
      – Results are the same, but the outcome was different…

      1. And somebody could have died…

  5. He was better than most Mosleys, for what that’s worth.

    1. Zach (@zakspeedf1team)
      25th May 2021, 5:01

      Being “better than most Mosleys” is such a low bar to clear it’s not worth anything really.

      1. It may even be worth less than zero.

    2. JackFlash67
      25th May 2021, 7:26
      Henry Moseley (subtly different spelling) was one of the biggest losses to Physics of the early 20th Century, wreaked by the Great War. This is the bench mark of the name-sake.

  6. I did Not See this coming.

    1. Accidental Mick

      Nice to see him gone. Now we only wait for the evil dwarf to pop his clogs and we can start afresh.

      1. Jesus Christ

  7. A completely unbearable narcissist and megalomaniac. It was always all about Mosley. His power plays altered the outcome of championships, and almost broke up the sport. Being forced out was a fitting end, and it was a joyous day for F1.

  8. I have an opinion
    25th May 2021, 11:04

    We heard about the biographical film a month or two ago. I wonder if he knew his days were numbered and he commissioned the film himself.

Comments are closed.