News and views on motorsports

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Into The Mind Of Max

Some months ago, I posted an article highlighting Max Mosley's parental lineage. I must admit that in hindsight, the article was a little tasteless and so I would offer my apologies to Max because of it. Sorry Max. However, whatever ambitions Max Mosley had or still has in the political arena is limited because of that lineage. I was reading an article on Racefax (a fascinating must-read one at that called War Diary) and it appeared to me some of the much maligned Mosley's motivations.

It begins with the FIA Foundation. The trustee to this foundation of course is none other than Max Mosley. It was established with the monies from the proceeds of the sale of the commercial rights to Bernie. With it, the foundation champions road safety and conducts "environment and mobility research, and support motor sport safety research." It has been very influential. So influential in fact that Max Mosley was recently made a Chevalier dans l’Ordre de la L├ęgion d’Honneur in recognition to his contribution to road safety work. Evidence of that work can be seen in Europe where all cars are awarded a Euro NCAP safety rating. The Foundation also donates money to promote road safety throughout the world. All this is of course very commendable and one must applaud Max and the FIA Foundation for their contributions.

So as you can imagine there is a link between Formula 1 and the highly prestigious and influential FIA Foundation. This is confirmed by Max and was highlighted in Forrest Bond's article on Racefax, as evidenced by this press release by the FIA. Specifically, this particular statement from Max: "In the end, the FIA has to make sure Formula One works because it isn’t just prestige and things like that, also, in the defence of the ordinary motorist, there are an awful lot of politics and Formula One is a key that opens the door to virtually every politician and that is extremely important to us."

Bingo. there it is. "Formula One..... opens the door to virtually every politician..." As you might expect when the topic is road safety. Quite clever. Can't directly involve yourself in politics, then simply go through a different route. In many places in the world and even in the place I call home, people have a very dim view of politicians as nothing more than greedy shites out for power, glory and of course money ably aided by cronies. Perhaps Max has a more noble agenda in promoting road safety. Perhaps he's simply out to be seen as doing some good especially given his family's dubious heritage. Well, I think the FIA Foundation is a worth cause. I may be wrong but I see no evidence to the contrary.

Given that "Formula One.... is extremely important to us" it becomes clear to the rest of us just why he rules it with such an iron hand. The motivation you see is not simply the wanton exercise of power over a bunch of manufacturers and teams, its rather more than that. The Racefax article asserts that Max's intentions are none other than to remove the manufacturers from Formula 1 because as according to Frank Williams, "they're just too powerful for his liking." Indeed they are armed with endless amounts of money to pay for extremely bright lawyers. Max and Bernie aren't dealing with racing folks here (read team bosses), the manufacturers are hard businessmen. The manufacturers have their demands and they know the power they wield. Bernie may have been able to pull the wool over the likes of Ron Dennis and Frank Williams but BMW, Mercedes, Toyota et al are an entirely different kettle of fish. These folks have power themselves and could bring that power to bear on the FIA Formula 1 world championship in a manner inconsistent with Max Mosley's objectives.

The evidence is in the regulations. In the last few years and continuing on from here till 2010, Max is introducing a whole bunch of crazy regulations that are very much against the objectives of the manufacturers. Specifically, those regulations severely limit the scope for innovation and differentiation, something very much desired by the manufacturers to make involvement in the sport worthwhile. Money is not a factor for these folks. Neither the revenues from the sport nor the budgets required to win are importnat. The technology and attendant marketing exposure and prestige are very much so.

Yet here is Max drafting up some crazy regulations designed to piss these manufacturers. The forced introduction of the V8 engine so irked Mercedes, BMW and Honda that they threatened legal arbitration on the FIA. By rights, the Concorde agreement guarantees engine regulation stability. However, Max, invoking safety and cost concerns, managed via a safety clause in the Concorde, to force three bits of regulations through. These were the V8 engines, the one tyre per race rule and the two weekend engine rule. (*** See Postscript below). All of them incurring the wrath of the manufacturers.

In the end, Mercedes dropped the legal threat on the grounds that by the time the case would be heard, the V8s would already have been well under development. BMW and Honda though dropped their case after a meeting with Max. This was last year and I had highlighted this bit of curiosity in an article, with no conclusion. Its anyone's guess why these companies dropped the case. Perhaps they followed Mercedes' reasoning. Or maybe if I were being naughty, Max convinced them by rattling Euro NCAP or some other road safety matter in their faces. That would have had far bigger business implications for these manufacturers beyond the microcosm of Formula 1.

The Racefax article also cleared up another unsolved mystery. Well it was a mystery to me at least. And this was Paul Stoddart's behaviour in Melbourne last year. As we all know, he turned up with Minardis in 2004 spec which the FIA stewards denied, then sought a court injunction against the FIA to let his 2004 spec Minardis race and then turned up the next day with Minardis fully converted to 2005 spec bodywork. What really happened that day illustrates Max Mosley's political excellence.

Paul did indeed go to the courts seeking an injunction pending a legal case against the FIA. The case centered around key points of the Concorde Agreement that touch upon rule stability. Basically, the FIA read Max Mosley had acted against the provisions of the Concorde by forcing his 3 regulations on the teams. This being about the V8s, two race weekend engines and single race tyres. The judge agreed that there was a case and ordered the injunction pending the case. Maximillian, the clever sod, simply contacted the Australian sporting authorities, with a threat that if this case were upheld or even if the injunction was exercised, Austrlia would never again see any international motorsports ever again. No more Formula 1 and no more World Rally Championship.

Paul Stoddart, not wanting such horrible reprecussions on his nation, withdrew the injunction and the case and complied with the 2005 rules. You knew however, that behind Paul, was a whole bunch of teams and manufacturers. Yes, those folks who were absolutely up in arms that key points in the Concorde Agreement were simply bulldozed away by Max. The manufacturers themselves, fully aware about the negative image any legal action might have, had the perfect candidate in Paul Stoddart to bring about legal proceedings.

From the above you can now understand the GPMA's repeated calls for transparency in the commercial and regulatory aspects of the sport.

When Ferrari broke ranks signed up to the new 2008 Concorde, he gained a most powerful ally. Ferrari with parent Fiat broke, needed the extra cash and of course would do very well if they had a major hand in crafting the future regulations. The FIA in turn needs Ferrari because this team more than any other draws in the fans to Formula 1. Is it any surprise that these days folks like Jean Todt and Ross Brawn keep calling for budgets to be reduced? They're describing their predicament and throwing support fully behind the FIA.

All the while though, in the public eye and in the media, Max comes up smelling like roses. To the casual fan, he's a champion. The manufacturers are the ones painted as greedy, egotistical. And Max has a very clever way of twisting words around in such a way that ridicules whatever statement anyone makes against him. Just look at how Michelin was treated. The funny thing is, that looking at some of the comments on forums and errmmm... other blogs, some people even think his position as FIA president is merely a poor scapegoat against the big bad carmakers.

You might even think from reading some of his statements that these manufacturers are downright evil and that they deserve no money whatsoever from the sport. Digressing slightly, Ferrari covers their ass by asserting that they are not a manufacturer, rather they should be thought of as independents. Oh hell yeah. An "independent" that makes 5000 cars a year quite profitably. So profitably in fact, its profits dwarf that of giant Renault! Yeah, Luca, you're an independent f****** i****.

I have to sat though, that much as I hate the Max Mosley's regulations and behaviour, you have to admire the man for his methods. He is, as the English would say, a clever bastard. And intelligence, no matter how devious deserves some admiration. It helps him that things like the Concorde Agreement are confidential and away from the public eye. That way he moves around in secret all the while making everyone else look like the devils. The manufacturers and team bosses aren't all that innocent but they deal with a most formidable man. A man who seems to have bigger ambitions than simply dealing with a bunch of racing teams to be sure but one who uses those same racing teams to further those ambitions.

(***) Postscript: Apologies to CCCP. The current regulations are not intended to limit Ferrari's dominance nor are they as I had argued to you that they were intentionally favourable to Ferrari. Its much bigger than that as you can see.

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