Formula 1 Insight

Fiddling While Rome Burns

"We keep hearing what a great job Max has done and yet the evidence is exactly the opposite. We have boring racing, shrinking grids and no Concorde Agreement in place. Max has proved utterly incompetent. His sole achievement is that he made Bernie richer than even he could have imagined."
Steven Roy

Max Mosley
Max Mosley

It is true that Max Mosley's tenure as FIA president is constantly lauded for his achievements, particularly in the area of safety. In fact and as Steven Roy has pointed out, his record is patchy to say the least and has resulted in F1 facing some of the worst crises in its history. Even his drive towards safety in the sport is tarnished by the fact that it was not begun before Senna's fatal accident at Imola, several previous accidents in the same place having made the need for change very evident.

There is more to the presidency than just safety standards, anyway. Only this morning, a Grand Prix dot com article discussed a strange email correspondence between FIA delegates, as revealed by the French Figaro newspaper. As GP dot com point out, the timing of the release is a bit suspicious, but I think there are many more conclusions to be drawn from it.

There is tacit admission of the political polarization within the FIA, for instance, it being accepted that some are Mosley appointees and likely to support him whatever happens, therefore, while others are able to act with more freedom. There are even those previously thought to be Mosley men who have lately revealed their own ambitions within the organization; Carlos Gracia's recent statements would indicate that he is one.

We seem to have accepted that the FIA will be a political organization and will contain such power struggles behind the scenes as a result. Yet we should remember that it is an association of motoring clubs set up to oversee motor sport and road safety. Is the degree of politicization encouraged by Mosley really appropriate for such an organization?

It is this politicization that I blame for the pettiness of the email exchange. With all power over important issues concentrated in the hands of one man, there is little for delegates to do but bicker over the hairstyles of drivers. With important issues looming over motor sport, the delegates are left to play with their toys.

The structure and composition of the FIA needs to be looked at closely and a return to the old system of FISA running F1, but overseen by the parent, the FIA, would seem a step in the right direction. And, before that can happen, the present president must move out of the way and allow an untarnished hand to guide motor sport into its future.


Steven Roy
I read the first paragraph thinking that it sounded familiar. When I saw the name at the bottom I realised why. Had I realised the use you would put it to I would have added the appalling state of the WRC where we now have substantially fewer than ten drivers in competitive machinery and earning any real money. Still its good to see Max's henchmen have the answer to that problem. I am sure if Loeb has a shave and a haircut a whole load more competitive cars will turn up and the stupid Super Rally rules will disappear. What a bunch of morons? Hopefully their replacements will pick up some of Colin McRae's fine ideas and we can have a rally championship worth watching again.

I would also have questioned the impact of KERS on Max's immaculate safety credentials. As a result of the introduction of this irrelevant monstrosity each car will be compelled to carry either a copious quantity of sulphuric acid or a flywheel rotating at 40,000 rpm. The consequences of either escaping its enclosure during an accident like Kubica suffered in Canada or Kovalainen suffered in Barcelona is worrying to say the least. I can imagine a KERS unit breaking apart and launching a 40k rpm frisbee into the crowd.

We also have night racing in Singapore where the circuit at one point turns sharp left and aims straight at the crowd. Imagine a pile up here with a few litres of 35% sulphuric acid becoming airborne in the direction of the spectators. Of course in addition to the acid cars that use batteries to store power wil be carrying a good few kg of environmentally friendly lead. When numerous industries around the world are dropping lead as a result of EU directives amongst other things F1 is going to be using more than it ever has.

On the sporting front F1 is struggling to maintain the minimum number cars it is compelled to have. The WRC is a pale imitation of its former self. The world sportscar championship has long since disappeared owing to the way Group C was allowed to evolve. All that was needed was a stricter set of regs and we could still be watching evolutions those fabulous cars. I genuinely struggle to see what a great job Max has done. His publicity is good but his delivery is poor.

As Clive pointed out his safety reputation came in the wake of Senna's death. I feel that I have written the next bit 100 times but if we are to assess Max it has to be said. Piquet had hit the wall at Tamburello a few years previously. Had I been in a senior position in FIA/FISA/FOCA I would have sat down on the Monday morning and made sure no-one was able to hit the same (or any other) unprotected wall again. Nothing was done. Berger hit the same wall after that and the car burst into flames live on TV in front of a global audience of millions. Gerhard sat unmoving for over 30 seconds burning before a marshall showed up. We all thought he was dead. Had I been in a senior position in FIA/FISA/FOCA I would have sat down on the Monday morning knowing I had screwed up royally after the Piquet crash and made sure no-one was able to hit the same (or any other) unprotected wall again. Nothing was done.

Then Imola 94 happened. Barichello had a huge accident on the Friday. Roland Ratzenberger was killed on the Saturday and Senna hit that wall and died on the Sunday. Max gets a lot of praise for his actions following that weekend but could anyone contemplate being in a senior position having done nothing after Piquet hit the wall, having done nothing after Berger hit the wall and burned live on TV and turned up at work on the Monday following that awful weekend and not made safety your top priority. It is utterly inconceivable that Max could have done anything other than he did but 14 years later he is still receiving plaudits for his outstanding contribution to safety. Had he or the people around him done something after Piquet's accident we would not have had to sit through the horror of Berger's accident. Had he or they done something after that accident Senna may still be around today. Barrichello would still have had his accident and Ratzenberger would still have died but a totally predictable accident would not have had entirely unnecessary catastrophic consequences.
Date Added: 07/05/2008

Arun Srinivasan
I am sad the way events are turning up in F1's universe and about the change in it's image they've made. Even if 10 cars turn up, I am going to watch F1. But Max Mosley's situation is like anyother this world is facing now, incompetent and powerful people ruling and ruining millions of other lives ...
Anyways, Stephen Roy's comments are awesome, with anger and written in an elegant manner. I should add your columns to my daily dose of F1 reading.
Date Added: 07/05/2008

Excellent post, as usual Clive, and a masterful follow-up, Steven. I'm in the middle of a course and I'm having to tune out the instructor because this issue means so much to me. For the love of the sport, we desperately need change, but a move forward, not sideways like it has been.

It is so frustrating to me that there are so many great ideas being shared by people who clearly care and know what they are talking about. There is real clarity there. What is so muddied and unclear is who will take the reigns and how that will happen. I can only imagine what horse-trading is going on behind closed doors right now. But, God, I hope these voices are being heard.
Date Added: 07/05/2008

Don Speekingleesh
Mosley wasn't in charge when Piquet and Berger had their crashes, but he did have three years from when he took over to do something, and he didn't.
His reaction to Imola was simply the obvious knee-jerk reaction and nothing insightful.

Mosley has done nothing for the sport, and his road-safety work is simply what anyone in his position would have done. All he has done is make himself and Bernie insanely rich.
Date Added: 07/05/2008

Steven Roy
Thanks for the comments.

Mosley was Bernie's right hand man in the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA) prior to taking up his FIA position. FISA and FOCA were engaged in a war on several aspects of the sport and had Max (and Bernie) been serious about safety they could have highlighted the lack of action after the Piquet and Berger accidents. It says a lot that they chose not even to highlight these accidents to gain political advantage. Max like Bernie is a dinosaur from the days when accidents were acceptable and he only publicly took an interest in safety at the start of May 1994.
Date Added: 07/05/2008

I agree with everything Steven has said about Mosley's "safety advances" being reactionary. In most of motorsport, safety advances are reactionary; an incident must occur before someone asks "How can this be prevented?"

If the KERS is mounted where I think it is, I don't think there's that much danger of it hurting anyone that isn't already on the track, but it, like many forced evolutions of motorsport, makes sane people scratch their heads, much like the shrinking motor regulations do not save money since they force teams to develop a new motor from scratch, KERS is not really an environmental-friendliness tool.

An odd sidebar however, is that if Max was virtually handpicked by Bernie to run FIA, then in F1 we see what happens when the competitors get to completely control the governing body of a motorsport, whereas in the USAC/CART saga we see what happens when the governing body gets the last laugh on the competitors, and both situations have turned out dismal.

The despicable point, and the question to ask is, why does it take a Nazi sex scandal to get Max out?
Date Added: 07/05/2008

I must add that Steven Roy often writes articles for F1-Pitlane. He is well worth reading as his knowledge and understanding of motor sport is extensive - have a look when you get some time.

I am tempted to answer Chunter's last question with the reply that any excuse will do, but I won't. ;)

It has been clear for a while that Max is making a terrible mess of F1 regulations and it is a pity that he did not go earlier. The sooner he is made to go, the better for the sport. I don't think we can blame the appointment of officials from within motor sport for Max's excesses, however. There are many former drivers and team owners who would have done a far better job, surely. Any candidate for the presidency must have a deep understanding of motor sport and, through that, a logical and clear vision of what needs to be done at this stage to get things back on track. It will be a hard enough job now but, if Max stays much longer, it will be almost impossible.
Date Added: 07/05/2008

Pink Peril
I am so over S&Mosley that I could barely muster up any level of outrage any more. Reading that email exchange however, caused me to dig a little deeper into my well of outrage for this missive.

I had read somewhere that S&Mosely's original ambitions lay towards politics, but he was discourage from entering that arena due to his family history. So what does he do instead? When Bernie installs him in the FIA as his own personal stooge, Mad Max realises that he can turn the FIA into his own personal fiefdom, moving his pawns and chess pieces at will.
It is clear he holds all the power, and his lackeys none as evidenced by that ridiculous email exchange - among other things.

A recipe for disfunction, ineptitude and incompetance if ever I saw one.

My solution is sack the lot of them - all 228 FIA members. Start over with a clean slate, change the way the whole board is set up, get people from differing backgrounds so a better concensus is acheived.

Oh, and put Steven Roy in charge ;)
Date Added: 08/05/2008

Seconded! :D
Date Added: 08/05/2008

Alianora La Canta
The pursuit of power over others is the root of all evil. When FIA officials think they should have power over driver hairdos, it becomes clear that the desire fr that sort of power has percolated a long way down the hierarchy. While there are probably some FIA officials who remain untouched by the blight, these e-mails do go some way toward explaining why the FIA is in such a mess.

It wasn't just that one power-hungry man squashing power out of the hands of others. It was that power-hungry man encouraging systems that in turn encouraged his underlings to copy his power-hungry antics on a smaller scale. No wonder the FIA tends to elect the most power-hungry of the power-hungry as its leader...
Date Added: 08/05/2008

Steven Roy
It looks like Clive and I have managed to stir things up nicely.

To pick up on Pink Peril's point about me taking over I think I should point out that part of the politicisation process Max indulged in was disposing of FISA and centralising all the power in the hands of the President of the FIA. While I have had involvement in road safety my interest is really in the sport so I have no interest in being President of the FIA.

The first thing Max's successor should do is re-introduce FISA and give that organisation total power over motor sport. The only other input the President of the FIA should have is to set up and initial structure and very limited procedural framework and write a rule in the FIA statutes that says no-one in the FIA/FISA hierarchy can hold more than one position.

Then he should appoint Sir Jackie Stewart to oversee the re-construction of FISA which should only take him two years. I am sure he can manage that without my input.
Date Added: 08/05/2008

If there is one person in F1 I would like to give a hard slap to, it would be Max Mosley...

F1 has been destroyed under his watch and the sooner he goes, the better for F1...

His father was friends with Hitler and was part of the British fascist movement in his time, and Max was his favourite son. Max tries to mimic his fathers philosophy and as expected, has destroyed F1 to the point racing is a rare event in F1... it's all about cruising to the finish these days, pretty much in the order you qualified.

Max's dream has been to remove the racing element of F1, and replace it with a game of chess.... what a bloody idiot!!! If I want to see chess, I would prefer to see it played by grandmasters, not bleedin F1 drivers...

Hope he chokes on a fish bone...
Date Added: 14/05/2008

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