In May 1991 I did an interview with Max Mosley for Autosport magazine. I make no bones of the fact that I supported Mosley openly at the time. Jean-Marie Balestre, the then head of FISA (the sporting arm of the FIA) had over-reached himself in his dealings with Ayrton Senna. This, Mosley said, was what decided him to stand for office. I think that the interview shows just how much things have changed in the ensuing 18 years.
I make no judgement on it…
Max Mosley Interview – May 1991
By Joe Saward
Max Mosley has perfect qualifications to be the FISA president and now he wants the job. He explains why…
When you read Mosley’s curriculum vitae, you begin to feel a little insecure. There is not a lot that he has not done in motorsport. Jean-Marie Balestre will be doing that this week and wondering if his hold on power is about to be broken.
Mosley’s candidacy is not altogether surprising, for people have mentioned his name as a potential future FISA president. He has always played down the possibility.
Max is the son of Sir Oswald Mosley, one of the brightest young British politicians of the 1920s and 1930s but, like many sons of famous fathers, he has suffered for it. History relates that his father founded the British Union of Fascists in 1932 and, in doing so, became a notorious name in British politics. Only now, sixty years later, are revisionist historians beginning to analyse Mosley in an unemotional light.
When the continental fascist parties went off the rails, fascism became a dirty word and during World War II Sir Oswald was interned. An attempt to form a new post-war pro-Europe party failed.
Max has inherited many of his father’s political skills. He was, at his father’s insistence, educated in Europe – to be an European. He is fluent in French and German. He attended Oxford University and was secretary of the Union – a job held by many high-fliers through the years.
In the sixties, as he pursued a legal career, he was also a successful club racer. He graduated to European Formula 2 before accepting that against such names as Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and Jochen Rindt, he was not going to make it big time as a driver, so in 1969 he formed March (‘M’ was for Mosley, ‘AR’ for Alan Rees, ‘C’ for Graham Coaker and ‘H’ for Robin Herd). The company grew to become the most famous racing car production manufacturer in the world. Max ran the company’s F1 operation and from that became involved in the politics of the sport through FOCA and, more recently, FISA. Today Mosley is the president of the FISA Manufacturers’ Commission. He knows the system and has seen its weaknesses. It is this which has prompted him to stand for the FISA presidency.
‘FISA,’ he says, ‘is not being properly run. The reason for this is that Jean-Marie Balestre has three other jobs that he does; he is the chairman of his ASN (the French Federation); he is the chairman of the FIA and is also involved in the setting up of a new French motor club.
‘This means that no-one can speak to him. For example, in my capacity as chairman of the Manufacturers’ Commission, I have sought a meeting with him since December. We have still not had the meeting. The FISA Secretary-General and people like that at FISA cannot talk to him, nor can the presidents of the commissions. At the same time he doesn’t want people to get on and run things by themselves. The net result is that we get one mistake after another.
‘As a direct result of that championships are badly run. A short example is the Sportscar World Championship. At the beginning of this year the date for the closing of entries was changed. That immediately put two of the teams out of business. This was done without any consultation at all.
‘There was then the opening up of Le Mans to anyone even if they weren’t part of the world championship. That was done by telex vote of the FISA World Council, without any consultation with the Sportscar Commission. That was such an obvious mistake that it was corrected a week later.
‘By then I think Bernie Ecclestone (FIA Vice-President, Promotional Affairs) had probably had enough. No-one could expect him to run that championship from the promotional side with this sort of thing going on.
‘We then get a meeting in Monza a couple of weeks ago where decisions were taken about next year’s championship where there was no consultation with the Sportscar Commission, there was no-one from Japan, no-one from the United States. He didn’t even tell me the meeting was taking place.
‘It is completely impossible for me to operate in those circumstances because I get rung up, for example, by General Motors and I have to say “Well, I’ve no idea.” They go and ring their ASN, the ACCUS and the ACCUS has to say: “We’ve no idea.”
‘It’s even worse in Japan. You have the second biggest manufacturer in the world, Toyota, which has a multi-million dollar programme about to start. They were not invited despite being on the Sportscar Commission.
‘Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems that this is a completely absurd way of trying to run things.
‘The third reason is there are things which are manifestly unfair in the way the FISA is run at the present time. Take, for example, the World Rally Championship. The real championship is the rounds which are run for the manufacturers and the drivers. Half of these are are monopolised by five countries around the northern Mediterranean which means that other countries in Asia, Africa, the middle east who ought to have a round of the championship – at least occasionally – have no hope whatsoever of getting one. That is wrong.
‘The fourth and final point is that small ASNs are put to huge expense whenever they have an international event. Motorsport at the top end – F1 – is so successful and big revenues are generated. Those revenues – both morally and politically – ought to be devoted more directly to those parts of the sport where funds are desperately needed.
‘We have all these problems and the general feeling is that the FISA isn’t functioning. And we have great problems coming up in the long-term to do with the environment, with political difficulties, with finances, which are not even being thought about.’
‘What is wrong at the moment is that the climate is such that, particularly in the World Council, discussion is not encouraged. Dissent is not encouraged and the collective wisdom of the people there is not used.
‘It’s obvious that before you get to be chairman of a national sporting authority you must have been through a tremendous mill – even in the smallest country – and when you sit these people round a table you have a tremendous collective knowledge. The president ought really to sit there, listening to the views, summing up, trying to get a consensus. The tendency at the moment is that the president sits and makes a very long speech, usually informing everyone about things they know already – like the state of F1 – and then there is no time for these people to put forward their views. And if their views are not in accord with those of the president they are not very well received anyway.’
And yet the World Council still votes with Balestre. Why is that?
‘Everybody in the FISA depends on the establishment for certain things which are vital to their interests of their country and their ASN – a rally, a local championship, whatever. If they do anything which causes difficulty there is the danger that they will lose the particular thing that is vital to them. So they think that in their interests of their club and their country they have to go along with it.
‘I think you have to encourage the people there to say what they really think and listen to what thy have to say, changing the whole atmosphere and style of running FISA. Talking less and listening more.
‘Typical of what I am trying to say is that the reason no-one has stood against Balestre until now – since the days of Basil Tye [The chairman of the RAC in 1981] – is not that everyone agrees with him, that there’s no-one there who thinks they could do the job better. It’s because they fear – rightly or wrongly – that the consequences could be adverse. That’s completely wrong.
‘If I am elected, if people stand against me and lose I will still want to work with them and equally if they won I would expect to continue working with them. As in any proper and civilised club it should be an open thing.
‘The idea that the FISA is the property of one man, and trying to take the presidency from him is like trying to take his house or his car, is alien to any properly run club.
‘Tremendous reorganisation of the commissions is needed. One or two new commissions are needed. It is essential to have a strategic planning commission immediately, to look at fundamental reform.
‘Overall the only area that works properly is F1 and, at the moment, that is the area where most time tends to be spent. I think that’s a great mistake. There are so many things in the FISA which don’t work that I would be devoting most of my time to them. I think if you had a similar system to F1 in other areas the whole of motor sport would be much stronger. F1 gets on and runs itself. I think that Bernie has created an arena which operates very successfully. The checks and balances in F1 are probably about as good as anything could be in an area like that. Everyone watches everyone else and FISA is supposed to be the sporting referee. I see no need for the FISA president to become involved in the thing at all. I think the FISA stewards should do their job and the starter and safety people should do their jobs. I think it is quite wrong for the president to interfere.
‘The present regime puts all its energy into F1 and I have to say, I think, with negative effect.’
Talk of Ecclestone brings up a common belief that Mosley is under the influenc of Ecclestone.
‘People always think of us two together,’ explains Mosley, ‘and I like to think of Bernie as being as close friend, but that’s a completely different thing to being under his influence. The thing about Bernie and me is that in 1971 we were elected by the F1 teams and, in one way or another, we were always the two elected representatives of FOCA. We worked very closely together. That continued until 1983. Since then, although we see each other and have discussions – particularly since I’ve been chairman of the manufacturers – we haven’t been working closely as it was before. We haven’t agreed about everything by any means. I’ve never worked for Bernie and I’m not in any sense under his influence but we remain good friends and I can work with Bernie.’
Even if elected president of FISA Mosley would still have to work alongside Balestre, who will remain president of the FIA, which, nominally, controls all the World Championships. Surely that would be a difficult situation?
‘FISA is technically only a commission of the FIA,’ admits Mosley, ‘however there are tremendous safeguards built into the FIA statutes to prevent any interference with the FISA. The only way to change that would be to change the FIA statutes and that would be difficult or impossible for Balestre as the sporting vote in the FIA is already big enough to hold it.
‘To change the statutes it is necessary to go the FIA General Assembly and there he would have absolutely no chance because once the bubble had been pricked and he had been defeated in the FISA an awful lot of people who are not that happy but are unwilling to come out against him would change sides.
‘I think that one of Balestre’s greatest weaknesses in having a good rapport with motorsport people is that, as far as I know, he hasn’t actually competed. I have and I think that creates a bond with the other motorsporting people around the world. We have all scraped and saved to get money together, we’ve got up at four o’clock in the morning, driven to some horrible little circuit or rally stage in the pouring rain. We’ve all lost the nut under the wheel and been through all that. This often transcends the difficulties that can arise. That may sound a bit emotional but it does actually work.
‘I think that if the revolution is quiet enough and calm enough the very real knowledge, ability and talents which exist will come out. At the moment I feel they are suppressed. I think there are some extremely able people at FISA, but no-one has ever heard of them. There are some people who would not be out of place in a government think-tank, but at the moment they play no role at all because they can’t stand the set-up. You don’t see them, but they are there, willing to be exploited.’
And what about the consequences of defeat?
‘I don’t contemplate the possibility of failure,’ says Max. ‘As far as I am concerned, I would be gone from the manufacturers commission extremely quickly, but I am out from that anyway because I cannot operate the commission any longer to the standards which I think are essential under the present regime. I’d have to stop anyway – as a matter of honour.
‘I think the reason that we will succeed with a massive majority has nothing to do with my qualities – be they good, bad or indifferent – because I think that people perceive that the existing regime is beginning to be a disaster for motorsport.’
Max believes he is the man to stop the rot. It is time to stop toeing the party line and champion a quiet revolution.
It is a move in keeping with the Mosley family motto: “Moderation in all things – especially in moderation.”