Interview with Max Mosley

The following transcript is from an interview with FIA President Max Mosley conducted by members of the racing media and held Friday September 9 at Monza, site of the 1994 Grand Prix of Italy. Edited by Robert Heathcote, for SpeedNet. Special...

The following transcript is from an interview with FIA President Max Mosley conducted by members of the racing media and held Friday September 9 at Monza, site of the 1994 Grand Prix of Italy.

Edited by Robert Heathcote, for SpeedNet. Special thanks to Forrest K. Bond and RaceFax for the faxes... ---------------------------------------------------------------------

Jochen Mass: The fine imposed on Schumacher for ignoring the flag at Silverstone was very heavy. Isn't it a slap in the face for sponsors, who are always being asked to pay up for things like this?

Max Mosley: It WAS a very stiff fine, it was MEANT to be a very stiff fine, and if it out the team into such difficulties that they had to approach the sponsors, no doubt they would then sell the airplane, the helicopter, the yacht or other such facilities. We intended the fine to be felt, and I think it WAS felt.

Q. Vasconcelos: Going back to Wednesday, it seems that Benetton was well prepared and had a good lawyer. But it also appears that there was nobody as well prepared on the other side to contradict what Benetton said. Should the World Council not be prepared, as one would be in a court of law?

Mosley: That's a perfectly valid point. What happens is this: if, for example, they had pleaded not guilty, or had they said they offered a defense, such as "Charlie (Whiting) said we could do it," we had there a lawyer who in fact was available (to represent the World Council).

The Stewards presented their evidence and both sides had their lawyers. (The FIA) lawyer was present, and he had been briefed as far as the filter was concerned. But the moment that Benetton pleaded guilty, the situation changed. Instead of being out to (prosecute) Benetton, we listened to what they had to say (in mitigation). Their argument was that a filter was necessary only to clear the manufacturing debris within the pipe, and that once that debris had gone, and there was obviously nothing further to be found in the filter, it was unnecessary and the filter could be removed.

Now this was allegedly said, at a low level, between Intertechnique and Larrousse. And (Benetton) DID produce a letter from Larrousse saying this, and they also produced a drawing from Intertechnique showing how the filter could be removed. But you still had to leave the ring in, because the ring that held the filter was part of the assembly.

Now, at that point we could do one of two things. One thing, though, that we CANNOT do is to evoke something that may or may not have been said on TV, or in a publication. We either have to accept the facts as put to us, or we might say, "we don't accept what has been put to us," and adjourn the entire proceedings to, in this case, October 19, to bring in Intertechnique or, if we could get him there, Mr. Walkinshaw, then examine every detail of the Larrousse/Intertechnique relationship including the letter, etc., and we considered carefully what to do and thought that in the interests of the sport, and in fairness to the other teams who wanted a decision, fairness generally would not be served by following that procedure.

And once you have taken that decision, all you can consider are the matters that are placed in front of you, by counsel, on behalf of the person making his plea in mitigation. This we did. And just taking those factors into account -- being strictly legal and fair about it -- we decided that they WERE guilty, but that on the basis of the facts in front of us it would not be appropriate to impose a penalty. That was how it happened.

This is certainly the case in England, and probably also in other courts. Then you you listen to what they have to say, and nobody is out to get them. As I have mentioned before, we COULD have said, "no, we don't accept all of this, we are going to adjourn it to October 19," and have a full hearing then. For better or for worse, we felt that the best thing was to get it over and done with. This may have been excessively fair to them, but the moment they pleaded guilty there was nothing that our lawyer could then do. We didn't have witnesses there, people like Larrousse or Walkinshaw, we didn't have all sorts of people that we would normally have had there for a full enquiry. So we accepted what they said. And I think a similar procedure applies in European courts of law.

Q. John Watson: Under civil law, there are stated punishments for given crimes. Do you not think it would be appropriate to have the same system in motorsport?

Mosley: This is a perfectly valid point, and there are a number of instances in the (FIA) code where a maximum penalty is specified. One that springs to mind is that the greatest fine that can be imposed by the Stewards is $50,000. Incidentally, if we reconvene the Stewards and discover something later, they will be given the right to impose an unlimited fine, which can then be appealed to the FIA Court of Appeal.

This exists all over the world, it is quite usual. But if you have those powers, the important thing is to have a proper, independent court of appeal. And we now have that in all cases, not just from the World Council.

Q. Heinz Pruller: Was your lawyer Mr. Causo?

Mosley: No, the lawyer for the FIA was Mr. Ian Titchmarsh. If you remember from last year's FIA prizegiving, he shared the announcements with Murray Walker. He is also a very competent lawyer. He defended Eddie Irvine in front of the Review Board and...(widespread ironic laughter) and ...I know he did an excellent job. I think perhaps Eddie was rather harshly dealt with, but that was not for want of any ability or endeavour on the part of Mr. Titchmarsh. He did indeed such a good job that I was informed. And that is why I decided next time we needed a good lawyer, to have him on our side and not the other side.

Q. Treuthardt: The members of the World Council must have known that the effect of removing the filter was to gain a performance advantage. And the rules clearly imply that all the refuelling rigs should be identical, so as not to provide a performance advantage. They did it, they got a performance advantage, and yet even then no action was taken. If I may follow my first question, I would like to ask if you did this in the interests of the sport.

Mosley: The point about getting an advantage is absolutely valid. But you see, what they were saying was that they thought they were allowed to do it. In other words, if you analyse what they were really saying, what they were saying was, 'we believe that the equipment was now without the filter.' You can argue about that, but that's what they were actually saying. Now the moment you accept that, then they didn't have an advantage, because what they were doing was using THE equipment. And the people who were using the wrong equipment would have a disadvantage. Now as soon as someone pleads guilty, you get into that area. But we never had to consider the guilt or otherwise, because they pleaded guilty.

Q. Treuthardt: Second point?

Mosley: As far as being in the interests of the sport, we thought it was definitely in the interests of the sport to resolve the Benetton filter issue, one way or the other, on September 7. We thought that public opinion, and the interests of the sport, and certainly the teams, would have found it very difficult to accept that we had adjourned the whole thing for six weeks, to have another look at it. Perhaps the result would have been different if we had adjourned: we don't know. But it would certainly not have been the right thing to do. The suggestion that we were lenient in the interests of the sport is incorrect, though. We were lenient because the facts in front of us drove us to be lenient. It may well have been that we would have been less lenient after an adjourned hearing, but we shall never know.

Q. Wagner Gonzales: Benetton claimed that the FIA's Technical Delegate (Charlie Whiting) had given permission for the filter to be removed. What is your feeling about this, and the decision of the "junior employee" to remove it?

Mosley: Well, the thing is that as far as the 'junior employee' is concerned, and his removing the part, once you accept that HE thought, at whatever level, that he could do that, then, immediately, the level of guilt changes. Now it was said by the team that Charlie said they could. What Charlie said he said was, "it's OK by me if it's OK by Intertechnique." In other words, (Whiting was saying) "go and ask Intertechnique, because it is not within my competence."

I think the junior employee thought, because of the Larrousse business, that Intertechnique had said it was alright. Or that was what was presented to us in Paris. And the whole confusion at that level -- (that it was) unknown to Briatore and to Benetton Formula -- was taking place. Now what was said at the beginning of the season was that if we caught somebody with ...it's always the same example: traction control ...I distinctly remember saying that if they deliberately used it, then this means that it is a fraud, like painting a race horse a different color to disguise it. It is analogous to that: if you deliberately change something on the car, with the intention of getting an advantage, you will be out of the championship. That's what we said, and it still remains the case. The problem we were faced with here is that it became apparent on the facts placed before us that this knowledge which is the essential element in deliberate cheating was missing. And from what we were told on September 7, it undoubtedly WAS missing. And as I have already said, we could have had a huge enquiry, who knows? But that's what was there, that's what we decided on.

Q. Gonzales: Do you think mistakes were made by the FIA?

Mosley: Yes. Perhaps I did not say this clearly enough earlier on.

Number one, all our suppliers and consultants -- companies like Intertechnique and the computer people at LDRA -- will sign a contract requiring them to speak exclusively to the FIA, not to the individual teams or to the press.

That way, at least we will know exactly what has passed, and if anyone claims to have been told something, we will be able to disprove it. We also need, as I mentioned, a clear understanding with the teams that the top man is responsible, whether he knows or not. It will be up to him to know. We will also require the teams to ask us first about all technical matters where there might be any doubt or where the rules are unclear. That avoids these doubts. But we failed to do that before all of this. It wasn't clear. And it is difficult, particularly when part of the fault was ours, as it was in this case, then to condemn people. Sometimes you have to admit that you didn't do something quite right, and that you will do it correctly from this point on. Who knows? Maybe Benetton and McLaren were a bit lucky. But now the luck has run out -- it has stopped. There won't be any excuse next time, or at least they're going to have to be extremely ingenious if they are to find an excuse.

Q. Gonzalez: Do you agree that we need fixed penalties for certain offences? Surely it was not correct that somebody who didn't see a black flag at Estoril in 1989 should have been punished differently from someone who didn't see it at Silverstone in 1994? I am sure that you are aware of the suggestions that you only punished Schumacher so heavily to make for an interesting championship.

Mosley: The black flag is a good example. Taking Estoril in 1989, once Mansell had been shown the black flag, in this context of F1, it means that you must stop racing. You will automatically get no points. So, had Mansell not had the accident, and if he had continued to the end of the race, he would have got no points.

Equally, Schumacher got no points at Silverstone. Not because he ignored the black flag, but because the black flag was shown to him, signifying that he was (obliged) to stop racing. He could not possibly have got an advantage from failing to do what he was supposed to do: he could never possibly have got points because in effect he wasn't racing anymore.

In Mansell's case, having failed to stop for the black flag, he offered the excuse that the sun was directly behind the person holding the black flag, and that he would have seen only the sun. There was a video which supported his claim. On that basis, the World Council gave him a one race suspension.

Now, Michael Schumacher said he did not see the flag. We all saw what was seen on TV. If you watch the monitor from the car, you see not only the black flag that was shown on TV, but there was also the other black flag on the other side of the circuit. There were, in fact, TWO black flags. His offence was obviously graver than Mansell's. So... in reason and logic you can say that Mansell got one, so Schumacher gets two. Maybe three would have been too harsh. But it had to be more than one; it just seemed rational. Now maybe it is ALL too harsh, but it seemed to me and, I think, unanimously to the other members of the World Council, that (the two-race ban) was right. It must be said that even after an appeal to the FIA Court of Appeal, with independent lawyers and a full re-hearing, they came to the same conclusion.

Q. Jochen Mass:  There are still suggestions that Ferrari's car at Aida
was illegal, and they got off too lightly.  Can you comment?

Mosley: We think that the Ferrari device was illegal (but) you could produce an extremely good argument that it was entirely legitimate. We heard about it, and they did actually get to Charlie Whiting before he went to them. But everybody knew that there was something funny with (the Ferrari) in the untimed practice. We said to Ferrari not to run it (in qualifying) and they did not run it. But if Ferrari had claimed that it was legal, and had insisted on going to the Stewards, they would have had a completely arguable case.

Of course, this is also what we were saying (last week in Paris) about Ron Dennis's gearbox -- I would have thought less strongly arguable in Ron Dennis's case, but an arguable case nonetheless. With the Ferrari, it was very clearly arguable, so one could not possibly say it was cheating. It was a genuine (dispute of) the interpretation of the rules. Ferrari made one mistake, as I am sure Jean Todt would be the first to admit -- which was that they did not consult us to ask us whether we considered the device to reduce power in the lower gears to be traction control. We would have said that we did not consider it to be traction control, which clearly it was not, but we would have seen it as a driver aid. And on that basis we said we didn't want it to be used. But you could not possibly say it was cheating.

Jochen Mass: It is still the team's right to argue this in front of the stewards.

Mosley: This is all very complicated and legalistic, but it is important to remember that if a team writes to the FIA Technical Department to ask, say, whether a gearbox that changes up by itself is legal or not, and the Department writes back to say it is illegal, that is ONLY an opinion. The FIA, or whoever, does not have the right to say that something is legal or otherwise: we cannot change the rules. Equally, the Technical Department cannot interpret the rules; it can only give an opinion. The real interpretation of the rules is the responsibility of the Stewards, with the right of appeal. But we can, and do, express our opinion. But if the team were to disagree, they would be allowed to argue it out in front of the stewards. And of course the worst that would happen would be that they would lose the times from the session, or whatever.

We always have to bear in mind the background. When you think of the arguments about sports like football, with very low technology, while we have these incredibly high technology machines, which are changing and developing all the time and are dramatically different from one race to the next. Our regulations are extremely complex, made even more complicated by the fact that in the absence of an agreement they tend to be obscure in themselves, as for example with the gearbox regulations.

We have to interpret these rules, and everybody has to try to run things honestly. From our point of view, we have to be fair not only to the team in question, but also to the other teams. You will never get a system for running something as difficult as that to work perfectly. But I believe that after a very difficult time this year, we are about as close as it is possible to be to being as perfect as we can be. I am quite confident for 1995.

Q. Jochen Mass: Will the rules be made simple? At present, it seems that not even the teams can fully understand the regulations.

Mosley: The trouble is that we cannot change the regulations without the agreement of all the participants. All we can do is to interpret them. The essential element in interpreting rules is to do it quietly, BEFORE a race meeting, without a cloud of controversy. We are trying to set up all our systems to do that. And then our systems will be in place at the race meeting itself to check that everyone has followed the rule that was agreed. This will mean that when we leave the circuit in the evening -- even if there have been a couple of hours' discussion in front of the stewards -- at least we will have a result. We are getting to that now, but we cannot actually change the regulations.

In a funny way, I believe that even if we could change them, it would be very difficult to make them much clearer. They have to be clarified as the new technology appears, but preferably privately.

Q. Jonathan Palmer: Would it not be better to have the plank regulation based on a simple 90 percent of the original start weight? This would eliminate arguments about whether the loss of thickness was caused by normal wear or incident damage.

Mosley: What matters is if they run the car closer to ground than other teams. That is what we are trying to avoid. But in this particular case, the technical people all agreed on a rule whereby if the plank weighed below 95 per cent (in the race) or 98 percent (in practice and qualifying), then the team should be disqualified. Very subtly, they slipped in the provision that the weigh-in would be exercised if the wear went below 9mm. What that meant, of course, was that everybody would have a 9mm board (so) of course the F1 Commission put that back to 10mm.

But at the moment the teams have been invited to sign a document which says that the board must not be below 10 mm when they start. And if it is below 10 mm at any point at all, it is then weighed. Then the procedure is automatic: if it weighs under 95 percent (in the race) or 98 per cent (in practice or qualifying), the competitor will be disqualified, with no discussion. The object of this is to give the teams a clear measure, and to ensure that the teams are able to race against each other fairly, with nobody permitted a ride height advantage.

At the moment, though, this proposal is with the teams themselves.  They
can sign to accept it, or not.  If they sign it, we will agree.

At this race, though, (Monza), the existing ruling stands. If the plank measures below 9mm, you're out unless you can prove that the wear was due to an accident, in the sense of it being an unforeseen event, NOT deliberately running over the curbs.

Q. Murray Walker: Will you continue to demand access to confidential items, for example, the source codes for electronic systems?

Mosley: Well, it's a good point. The source codes are regarded by some people as confidential because they are (property of) big car manufacturers, for example, which use similar source codes on their road cars. Our position is simple. There are some things that we don't have to check, for example: suspension geometries.

But in any area that we need to check, because it is an area that might conceal a breach of the rules, then our position is very simple: if you bring it to a race meeting, we are entitled to check it. So, if your source codes are so secret that you don't want us, or anybody, to look at them, don't bring those codes to a Formula One race, because we HAVE to look at them. We have to be sure that there is no traction control, no automatic gearbox or the 1001 things that could be there.

Each team must understand that it is our duty to be able to look them in the eye and to be able to say we know that the other teams are not cheating. Unless everybody gives us all the information that we require, we cannot do that. Under Article 2.6 of the regulations, it is the duty of the competitor to satisfy the stewards that his car complies. Thus they have an absolute duty to do it; they cannot refuse. Our attitude in the future -- and arguably we should have done this immediately after Imola -- is to simply say, "we have not received your source codes. Practice starts on Friday (and) if we have not got them by Friday, we will report to the stewards that we are not satisfied that you car complies, and it will not leave the pit lane until we have received the codes."

If any team is using a state secret, the solution is simple: Don't put it on the car. But if it is on the car, we must be allowed to look at it, in fairness to all the other competitors.

Q. Alberto Antonini: There have been reports that in previous Grands Prix, since the plank rule came in, certain cars did not conform with the rule but the entrants were not punished. Can you comment?

Mosley: The first race at which this regulation was imposed was Hockenheim, and if leniency was to be be shown, you would expect it to have been shown there. Ferrari won that race, and according to my information the winning car was impeccable. It had in fact probably been run a little too high, to be conservative. The two Ligier's which finished next, and all finishers down to one of the Footworks, were legal, according to the reports which I received. One of the Footworks had excessive wear, but some of the bolts (which held the skidblock) were missing because of an accident. And that was the only car at Hockenheim which could have been contentious.

Since then, (and until Spa), the only other car which has been illegal was the Ligier which finished 6th in Hungary, which had been off the road and had gone over several curbs. It was quite clear that it had sustained accidental damage. Apart from that, and according to the official FIA reports, all the cars have complied until Belgium, where seven of the eight cars complied.

Now bear in mind that practice had been wet, and it was necessary to set up the cars conservatively, which Williams and McLaren did, for example. The Benetton was NOT set conservatively. It should have been -- and if it had been, maybe Schumacher would still have won. Maybe not -- maybe we would have had a fabulous battle. But they got it wrong, they set it too low. They did not intend to cheat. It was a mistake. But it is quite clear that they had an advantage and had to be disqualified.

Q. Antonini: Would you care to comment on the blatant jumped start by Olivier Panis in Hungary, and the fact that he was not penalized? Surely the governing body loses credibility when such incidents are allowed to happen?

Mosley: I entirely agree. I was furious about Panis myself, just as everyone was. And this is something that we have now put right. What happened was that employ judges of fact on the startline, with each judge looking at four cars. It is his job to say whether or not one of the four has jumped the start.

This is a throwback to the days when the most sophisticated recording device would have been an 8mm (movie) camera. There were six judges of fact at the Hungaroring: five to cover the first 20 cars, and one to watch the final six. The judge responsible for Panis' car was absolutely certain that he had not jumped the start. He was invited, as a judge of fact can be invited, to revise his opinion. And as the video made plain, it was completely obvious. But to the astonishment of everyone concerned, the judge refused to revise his opinion. When the Sporting Code was examined, it was discovered that the opinion of a judge of fact cannot be disputed. Again, this dates back to the old days, and it is something that should have been corrected years ago.

>From now on, first of all the Stewards will have access to the video, and will be able to overrule the judges of fact. And in addition to that, we hope that from Estoril onwards there will be a light beam at the start for each car. If anybody moves early, there will be an indicator in the control tower and the competitor will be penalized accordingly. But Hungary was a most unfortunate event, a combination of somebody's stubbornness and regulations which did not allow us to change anything. But that has now been put right.

/end

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Michael Schumacher , Olivier Panis , Jonathan Palmer , John Watson , Jochen Mass , Jean Todt
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Benetton