Max Mosley, former FIA president and F1 team owner, dies at 81

2021 F1 season

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Max Mosley, the controversial former president of the FIA, has died at the age of 81. He had been previously been diagnosed with cancer.

Following a short career as a racing driver, Mosley was later involved in setting up the March Formula 1 team. After briefly leaving the sport to pursue a political career, he won election as president of the governing body of motorsport in 1991.

Mosley remained in the role until the end of 2009, when he chose not to seek re-election.

During that period, Mosley presided over a period of intense scrutiny for the sport following the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger in 1994. Mosley pushed through a series of changes to cars and tracks intended to improve the safety of drivers.

His uncompromising approach put him at the centre of numerous controversies over the following years, not least the bitter fall-out over the 2005 United States Grand Prix, where all bar six cars withdrew due to concerns over tyre failures.

By 2009 the FIA was locked in conflict with a group of teams as Mosley attempted to introduce drastic new rules intended to reduce costs. It was during this time the News of the World, a British tabloid newspaper, published extraordinary details of his sex life on its front page.

Although Mosley resisted pressure to resign over the report, he did not seek a further term as president, and Jean Todt was elected in his place at the end of the year. Mosley went on to fight a successful lawsuit against the News of the World, which later closed after details emerged of the phone hacking practices employed by its journalists.

However Mosley returned to the public eye in 2018, when details emerged of a campaign leaflet he published in 1961 advocating racist policies. Mosley, the son of fascist politician Oswald Mosley, told Channel 4 at the time: “If that leaflet is genuine, I am responsible for it and it shouldn’t have been issued.”

He is the subject of a documentary about his life, “It’s Complicated”, which is due to be released in July.

Todt said he was “deeply saddened by the passing of Max Mosley.”

“He was a major figure in F1 and motor sport,” Todt continued. “As FIA president for 16 years, he strongly contributed to reinforcing safety on track and on the roads. The entire FIA community pays tribute to him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

A Formula 1 spokesperson said: “We are saddened to hear that Max Mosley former FIA president has passed away. A huge figure in the transition of Formula 1. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 20 comments on “Max Mosley, former FIA president and F1 team owner, dies at 81”

    1. Rest in peace.

    2. Thank you for all the good you did Mr. Mosley and Rest in Peace.

      1. Well said @bascb; let’s recall all the positive things he did.

        That title of the documentary, seems apt.

    3. R.I.P

    4. R.I.P. Mosley.

    5. Despite all the controversies surrounding the man, when I think of Max Mosley the first thing that comes to my mind is the improved safety standards in F1 under his leadership and the way the FIA remained committed to continuously enhance safety even after him stepping down. Rest in peace Max Mosley.

      1. RandomMallard (@)
        24th May 2021, 16:01

        Well said @tifoso1989. The number of safety innovations the FIA introduced both in motorsport and to some extent on the road as well under his watch has saved countless lives

    6. RandomMallard (@)
      24th May 2021, 16:00

      While he is no doubt a controversial figure, what he did for this sport is remarkable. On his watch, F1 enjoyed it’s safest period in history mainly thanks to huge work from the FIA to make the cars and tracks safer. He also promoted the use of more green technology, helped set up the FIA Foundation and helped promote the ENCAP crash-testing program for road cars. While he was not always the most popular man, what he helped do for the sport has probably saved countless lives on track and on the road

    7. As well as improvements in motorsport safety, which have already been pointed out here, Mosley probably also deserves credit for opening the conversation about spending limits in F1. Though criticised as unworkable and draconian at the time, budget caps have now come into force, and – in time – will hopefully lead to a more sustainable sport.

      Much of the talk about the “breakaway” series that were mooted several times during Mosley’s tenure misses the point that none of the talk ever came to fruition, while he left F1 in a much stronger place than he’d found it. So, while he was undoubtedly a controversial figure, he got more than a few things right.

      I am sorry for his loss, and my thoughts go out to those who loved him.

    8. To me his “controversies” greatly outshine any good he did.
      And he definitely overstayed his welcome in FIA by many-many years, it would have been much better without him at the helm.

      Of course I don’t mean his passing makes me feel any good. I feel neither good, nor bad. The time has just claimed another human being. It happens every day and hour. I can’t and don’t have to mourn each such passing.

      1. Spot on

      2. Absolutely disgusting comment.

    9. RIP Mr Mosley.

    10. A larger than life individual, may he rest in piece

    11. Stephen Higgins
      24th May 2021, 16:39

      Indianapolis 2005.

      When Max put politics ahead of sport. And revelled in it.

      Was glad when he stood down.

    12. ian dearing
      24th May 2021, 16:53

      Deposed Balestre thank god; and whilst the great and the good were making sure they got their Senna funeral invite, he was one of the few who attended Roland Ratzenbergers, along with only five drivers.
      Thankful to him, Bernie and Sid for the F1 lives they saved over the years, and his efforts and support for NCAP.

    13. Uncompromising when it came to safety within the sport. Will have saved many many lives. Good autobiography too if anyone is interested.

    14. May his soul rest in peace. Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone were two inseparable names for me , just like Jean Todt and Ross Brawn. As a kid, I started following motorsports in 2003 ,essentially F1 and MotoGP. within a year or two I was deeply intrigued by the working of F1 as a sport and began taking keen interest in the non-sporting aspects of F1 . I , like any adolescent boy, was inclined to watch some adult pictures and clips, but I had never heard of terms like “Bondage” or BDSM ever before the controversy surrounding Mr. Mosley was plastered in news everywhere. All those events led me ( and apparently many other kids like me) to search for these terms and to know what these terms are. It was an unexpected discovery, and in my opinion, totally unwanted and corrupting influence on the mind of a kid, after all, I was just a keen enthusiast of formula one who loved to understand all the aspects of the sports both on and off the track.
      At that time, there weren’t much sources of independent news on F1 which I ,being in India, was aware about. I used to learn mostly from the official website and BBC sports, rest from blogs like Wolf F1,RichardsF1 of Australia and by Keith.

    15. A complicated man for sure…

    16. What an incredibly negative article about such a remarkable man.

    Comments are closed.