Max Mosley opening up on his time in motorsport makes for fascinating reading, says Formula 1 Editor Jonathan Noble.
There are very few in Formula 1 who would argue against the fact that current FIA president Jean Todt's tenure has been in complete contrast to that of his predecessor Max Mosley.
Where Todt has focused on non-confrontation and playing everything by the book with a devotion to road car safety, Mosley's tenure was one of face-offs, mischief and controversy as he set about transforming Formula 1 in to the sport we know today.
It is only recently, through the inability of F1 to sort out its affairs on cost control and future rules, that F1 has begun a bit of a reappraisal of Mosley's period in office – as even some of his critics at the time have started to pine for a time when the FIA got things done.
The timing of Mosley's autobiography - “Formula One and Beyond” - could not then come at a better moment as he continues his quest for better privacy laws and offers some great reflections on some of the key moments that have gone down in grand prix legend.
Behind the scenes
Mosley's recollections are certainly fascinating as he offers us a reminder of just how much on the inside of the sport he has been – and the amazing moments he has witnessed first hand.
One particularly amusing section is Mosley's memories of being with James Hunt and the McLaren team after the 1976 title decider in Fuji. Encouraged by plenty of champagne, the party was phoning up the locals to see how long they could keep conversations going in Japanese.
“Through the champagne and the wine this struck everyone on our table as incredibly funny,” recalled Mosley.
There are sad moments scattered throughout the book too as Mosley delivers a stark reminder of just how dangerous F1 is.
He offers his memories of racing in that infamous Formula 2 race at Hockenheim in 1968 when Jim Clark was killed; but more moving are the times when he is close to fatalities and has to deal with the families involved.
Recalling Roger Williamson's death at Zandvoort in 1973, Mosley recalls: “Roger's father was with me in the pits, asking if his son was alright. Having watched the terrible scene unfold on a television monitor in a broadcast van behind our pit, I had the awful job of saying I didn't think he was.”
There is no huge revelation exposed in the book, and Mosley appears keen not to get dragged down in to too many details about events he was close to.
However, there are some fascinating little anecdotes: and even a few personal frustrations expressed at governing bodies for banning innovations – like a vertical wing to aid cornering he trialled when racing – that he believed could give him a big advantage.
One story that stands out is how, when as FIA president, he had to help a young karter get entry to a major event in France after he was blocked because his medical certificate was supposedly 'not in order'.
After sorting the matter, and seeing the youngster triumph, Lewis Hamilton later sent him an autographed picture of him on a magazine cover.
There is teasing information too about events that could have certainly turned out much bigger.
Mosley says that in the wake of 9/11, Michael Schumacher wanted his fellow drivers to refuse to race at Indianapolis for fear of another terrorist attack.
“Schumacher went round the drivers the following weekend at Monza urging everyone to refuse to go the next race at Indianapolis for fear of an incident.”
Some of the most fascinating pages are those devoted to his tenure looking after F1 and other categories – as he talks about attempts to get around the rules.
All the major controversies are covered, although there is a single paragraph that stands out referring to the suspicions that Benetton had illegally used traction control in 1994.
It was never proved, as when the software was uncovered later in the season, Benetton claimed it had been switched off all year.
Mosley reveals however that as early as the San Marino Grand Prix that year, the FIA had seized the electronic devices from the team to check – only for more important events to emerge that weekend.
“Unfortunately, in all the confusion and stress following that disastrous race weekend and its aftermath, I made the mistake of authorising their return to Benetton before they had been fully checked,” said Mosley.
The book succeeds in not getting too dragged down in to the FIA politics – and instead delivers events in an entertaining and informative way.
Meetings are talked about in a way that intrigues; be it through amusing locations, or interesting people present.
He also gets cheeky at times about some of the personalities he has met along the way.
Talking about former Toyota F1 boss John Howett, Mosley said: “He was reputedly an expert on MOT testing but he seemed to me to be out of his depth in Formula One.”
Mosley also recalls how once he and Ecclestone, during the FISA-FOCA war, had to get hold of a piece of paper that former FIA president Jean-Marie Balestre had put on a table detailing who the dissidents were within the governing body.
As a brilliant double act, Mosley tipped the table over and Ecclestone grabbed the list as it fell on the floor.
“Balestre was in despair,” says Mosley. “He kept repeating, 'Ma liste, Ma liste, Merde! Ou est ma liste?” We helped him hunt for it but without success. It was safety in Bernie's pocket.”
“Formula One and Beyond” works because rather than being just chronological, it is split in to topic chapters. Although it means the narrative jumps around, it does mean readers can focus on the things that interest them the most.
Like any autobiography, there are areas that you wish had been explained in more detail, but equally there is a fast pace to it all that makes it a riveting read. Even the latter chapters on his battle with News International are interesting.
If you want an insight in to how F1 developed behind the scenes from the 1970s until today, 'Formula One and beyond' is thoroughly recommended.