When your time is up...

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On June 3 the FIA General Assembly will meet in Paris to decide by ‘secret vote’ whether its president Max Mosley is fit to hold office following revelations in a British tabloid newspaper concerning the 68-year-old’s private life. Mosley himself called the ‘extraordinary meeting’, in the usual interests of fairness and transparency espoused by motor sport’s governing body. All very correct and democratic. Or to put it another way, one of the great political masterstrokes of a skilled tactician’s long career.

It really was brilliant. This meeting was always going to take time to organise, for all 222 members to be gathered in a room to study the case and take a vote. In fact, it has taken two months. Two months in which the gathering tide for Mosley’s resignation can lose its momentum and an internal campaign to gain support can be launched. 

It is far from impossible that the FIA, in all its pomp, will vote in favour of standing by its president on June 3. You don’t rule a global organisation with such fearful authority for so long without laying deep foundations of support. Mosley has many allies, and it would be a seismic shock if they chose to desert him en masse.

Meanwhile in the real world, motor racing and its figurehead are a laughing stock, an easy target for satirists, newspaper editors and anyone who has ever accused Formula 1 of being nothing more than a dirty, corrupt business masquerading as a sport. 

In some quarters it has been said Mosley’s actions have no bearing on his presidency, a view shared by Bernie Ecclestone in the first days of the scandal. But that’s nonsense. How can Mosley represent motor sport to governments and corporate boardrooms around the world with this stain on his reputation? With his usual charm, is probably the answer. But the reality is he can never be taken seriously again.

As for the circumstances of how he was set up, his protestations are an irrelevance to anyone other than Mosley. He has embarrassed the sport, that’s what matters. And the sickening context? The insinuation alone should have forced him to resign.

Presidents of countries would have no choice in such circumstances (Zimbabwe excepted). Corporate executives would not hesitate to fall on their sword. But not Mosley. He refuses to be ousted from office, especially through entrapment. He will do all he can to ride out the storm – even if it is to the detriment of the sport.

Giants such as BMW, Mercedes, Toyota and Honda felt compelled to speak out against Mosley and urged the FIA to ‘consider his position’. Not so the F1 team principals. They were conspicuous by their deafening silence on the matter in Bahrain, confirming our suspicions about how powerless they really are. If you didn’t know better, you’d have thought they were afraid of the consequences of speaking their minds…

This is no moral crusade on our part. The truth is simpler than that. The man who described fining a team £50 million for bringing the sport into disrepute as ‘lenient’ has disgraced his role as the head of a global sport. His position is untenable.

That this grubby episode is being dragged out until June 3 is an indictment of how our sport is run. For 17 years the president has wielded his power with huge effect, but great leaders know when to quit. Mosley has missed his cue.

Our magazine continues to expand its brief in the spirit of entertaining diversity. This month we introduce our new columnist Mat Oxley, who brings us a fascinating insight into the world of MotoGP. Mat is the authority on the modern ’bike racing scene and he will return to these pages throughout the year to report on the two-wheeled world. His first column, on p36, offers some intriguing parallels to the four-wheeled sport.

Also, be sure to check out p44 for details of our new range of archive DVDs, mentioned in this space last month. Motor Sport joining the digital age? Whatever next!

Damien Smith