Years ago I concluded an interview with Bernie Ecclestone with a question about his relationship with Max Mosley. We all sit there in the press room, I said, and endlessly ask, ‘Well, are they joined at the hip, or what? Are they really at loggerheads about this or that? Or is it all a game?’
Bernie grinned. “I think we’d better leave it like that. It’s a good place to finish, isn’t it?”
Over the weekend of the Canadian Grand Prix, paddock chat suggested that, while their fundamental friendship remained, the two men had fallen out professionally, and in a big way. True or not? I asked Ecclestone about the current state of affairs.
“It’s very simple,” he said. “There was no problem until this whole business with Max was reported, but now all the chief executives of the big companies involved in F1 are saying that… perhaps he shouldn’t be the president of the FIA. And the teams are saying that, too. I’m in the middle, really. I have no problem with Max personally. He was a mate of mine before this all this came up, and he’s a mate of mine still.”
Ecclestone was in New York on June 3, the day of the FIA General Assembly vote (to decide whether or not Mosley should remain in office), and in Montréal, five days later, I was told by an FIA man that so livid was Mosley with Ecclestone that there had been no contact between them since – indeed, he said, Max had declined to take Bernie’s calls. Was that true? “Yes,” said Ecclestone. “Absolutely true. I’ve had no discussions with him since the vote.”
I confess that, since the start of this whole affair, I believed Ecclestone’s role in deciding Mosley’s future was pivotal, in the sense that I thought Max would only go when Bernie told him the game was up. Very late in the day – some would say too late – he finally gave an interview, in which he implored him to resign before the vote.
1977 French Grand Prix, Dijon-Prenois, France. Then owner of Brabham, Ecclestone, has a chat with the March Engineering team manager, Mosley.
So have the two men really fallen out this time, or is it merely what they wish us to believe because they’re working to an agenda, and it suits their purpose? There’s no doubt that fundamental differences exist in their ideas about the content of the next Concorde Agreement, but – maybe I’m wrong – still it’s mighty difficult for me to believe that their legendary ‘double act’ has been seriously compromised.
We live in interesting times, as Mosley is fond of saying. And potentially very damaging times for Formula 1. Watch this space, as they say.