Max Mosley continues to insist he should be allowed to complete his term as FIA president and will fight for his career right up until June 3, when the governing body’s General Assembly is due to meet to decide his fate.
The revelations made by the News of the World on March 30 regarding Mosley’s private life have remained a hot topic for the media around the world as leading figures and organisations have been drawn to comment on whether the scandal should force the president to step down (see right). Mosley himself kept the scandal on the front pages by consenting to an interview with The Sunday Telegraph on April 20, in which he claimed his private life should have no bearing on his professional role.
Mosley believes he has been victimised and is suing the News of the World for invasion of privacy. He also claims he has received strong support from FIA members and appears confident he will be allowed to see out his term which ends in October 2009. Mosley has indicated he will not stand again for the presidency thereafter.
Here we present a diary of the events in the first two weeks of the scandal, a fortnight that might well be remembered as the defining moments of Mosley’s presidency. While Motor Sport’s position on whether he should remain in office is clear (see Matters of Moment, p11, and Nigel Roebuck, p14), we also include here a counter argument from our respected contributor John Davenport, who gives his reasons for why Mosley should stay.
Diary of a scandal
Friday March 28: Max Mosley meets with five prostitutes at a basement flat in west London, unaware that the afternoon’s activities are being filmed and recorded. The death of his predecessor Jean-Marie Balestre is announced the same day, and a statement of condolence is issued under Mosley’s name.
Sunday March 30: British tabloid News of the World prints an exclusive about Mosley’s activities (see right). Other news organisations, awaiting verification of the facts, are initially slow to react. Some take the story to the next stage, however, by contacting Jewish organisations for their comments.
Monday March 31: Quoted in The Times, Bernie Ecclestone initially tries to dismiss the story saying, “Knowing Max, it might all be a bit of a joke.” In the same paper Stirling Moss becomes the first major motor sport figure to suggest that Mosley’s future is in doubt by saying, “I don’t see how he can continue,” adding that the news is an “absolute shocker”. Meanwhile an FIA spokesman says, “This is a matter between Mr Mosley and the paper in question.”
Tuesday April 1: Mosley sends a letter to key FIA colleagues which is leaked to the media. In essence he admits that the basic story is true, but he denies any Nazi associations. He also says that he has been told by “an impeccable high level source” about “a covert investigation of my private life”. He confirms that he will take legal action against the News of the World.
Thursday April 3: After speculation about whether Mosley will attend the Bahrain GP a letter from the Crown Prince, telling him not to come, is leaked to The Times. With the teams now in Bahrain, BMW and Mercedes issue a joint statement. Mosley’s response, given via a spokesman, includes a biting reference to the wartime activities of the two German companies. Honda and Toyota also issue their own statements. Mosley calls for an Extraordinary General Assembly of the FIA to discuss the matter.
Friday April 4: Mosley launches his legal action against the News of the World. German’s ADAC and Holland’s KNAF become the first FIA-affiliated clubs to take a public stand. Mosley responds to the former with a letter saying that his behaviour was “harmless and completely legal”, and that he has “done nothing wrong”.
Saturday April 5: America’s AAA calls for Mosley’s resignation.
Sunday April 6: One week on, the News of the World carries interviews with some of the women involved, along with additional transcripts. It takes an aggressive stance against Mosley’s legal action, and says it will send copies of the video to the eight members of the FIA Senate and other interested parties.
Wednesday April 9: The FIA meeting is scheduled for June 3. Mosley loses his first legal battle when the High Court in London refuses to grant him an injunction banning the video, essentially because it is too late. The judge says it would be a “futile gesture”.
An alternative view
What is being forgotten is that sudden change is not a good thing for the FIA. Back in July 2004, with 18 months of his third term as president still to run, Max Mosley announced that he would be stepping down in October of that year. What happened? After considering the alternative candidates – who would have had at least six months in which to prepare themselves for the post – the FIA Assembly decided this was a step too far and called on Mosley to stay.
In October 2005, he was re-elected as president and the heralded ‘vote of no confidence’ from the Formula One Commission never materialised. With hindsight, this can be spun as clever political manoeuvring to achieve a fourth term of office. The reality is that the FIA delegates whose responsibility it is to decide such things felt that no other candidate could be trusted to administer the sport without fear or favour. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that they also considered that clever political manoeuvring was something they might value in their president.
The FIA is in the same situation now as it was then, with no universally supported or prepared candidate among those rushing forward to be considered.
If Mosley were to go tomorrow, the situation within the FIA would resemble downtown Baghdad.
Mosley has aroused strong feelings within motor sport, largely through his efforts to reduce costs, restrain excess, increase safety and relentlessly urge the sport towards a future in which motor fuel will be scarce and the racing of cars generally unpopular. We all know the sport must become “eco-friendly”, and at the moment the only force pushing us towards redemption is the current president. No matter what his private peccadilloes may be, we need him to stay for whatever period is necessary for a smooth and democratic handover to a worthy successor.
Should he stay?
Jean Todt: “When you see what motor racing was like 30 years ago, especially at the tracks, what he has accomplished is remarkable. The number of lives saved under his guidance is absolutely phenomenal. I’m therefore amazed to see that people are lingering on things which bear no relation to his position.”
Mohammed ben Sulayem: “Surely he did not break the law? I am a full supporter. God gave us a very amazing gift not to forget. How fast can we forget what this man did for motor sport? Where it was and where it is now. He did
not commit anything that weakens the FIA.”
Toyota: “Toyota Motorsport does not approve of any behaviour which could be seen to damage F1’s image, in particular any behaviour which could be understood to be racist or anti-Semitic.”
Honda: “[We are] extremely disappointed by recent events surrounding Mr Mosley and are concerned that the reputation of F1 and all its participants is being damaged.”
BMW and Mercedes: “The content of the publications is disgraceful. As a company (sic), we strongly distance ourselves from it. Its consequences extend far beyond motor sport.”
Mark Webber: “What concerns me is that the current scandal has brought the sport into disrepute. F1 simply cannot have scandals of this type.”
ADAC, Germany: “The role of an FIA president who represents more than 100 million motorists worldwide should not be burdened by such an affair. Therefore, we ask the president to very carefully reconsider his role within the organisation.”
Canadian Automobile Association, Leanne Maidment: “[It has] been distressing and it is CAA’s position that the best resolution would be for Mr Mosley to step down.”
Motorsport New Zealand, Ross Armstrong: “Sometimes it’s better to go than be pushed.”
AAA, America: “While this matter may be viewed as private by some, the damage to the image of the FIA and its constituents is clearly public. It would be in the best interest of all concerned if he were to step down. “
Motorsport Sth Africa, Beaulah Schoeman: “Every board member agrees that Max Mosley should step down. I haven’t seen the video but people’s private lives don’t concern us. It brings not only the FIA, but motor sport, into disrepute.”
Niki Lauda: “If Max starts to think about things without emotion, then there can be only one conclusion – he has to resign.”
Mike Gascoyne: “If he wishes to stay, it will devalue his office down to the level at which it is perceived, which is not good.”
On the fence
Ron Dennis: “This team is not involved, I am not involved. And I have no further comment to make on the subject.”
Vijay Mallya: “As the head of the Indian ASN [national sporting authority], I am personally pretty shocked. India is basically a culturally conservative country. [But] my sponsors here don’t know or care who Mosley is.”
Bernie Ecclestone: “I’m happy with Max, I don’t have any problems at all with Max. Max will know what he needs to do, he is the president, he is the one who will decide what goes on in the FIA, not me.”