Interview with FIA President Mosley, Part III

Part 3 of 6 Max Mosley interview transcript Question: What will be the Grand Prix split in five years time? Mosley: Well, it ought to be less in Europe and more outside, but it's incredibly difficult to get that done. When you want to get rid...

Part 3 of 6
Max Mosley interview transcript

Question: What will be the Grand Prix split in five years time?

Mosley: Well, it ought to be less in Europe and more outside, but it's incredibly difficult to get that done. When you want to get rid of one of the Grands Prix, you have a complete uproar in the locality, which is nice in one way because it shows how important they are. I wouldn't like to predict, but we will probably lose two or three in the EU, I would guess, over the next five years. I think we will have to.

Question: Can it be done by limiting those who have two races to one?

Mosley: The rational approach is that. On the other hand, at the moment the importance of Germany economically in Formula One is so great that it entirely justifies two. It wouldn't be fair to mention them, but if you compare Austria or Hungary to either of the German or even either of the Italian races, they just are less important, but you can't really say that, it seems unkind, but it is a fact. Things change so quickly, but at the moment, Germany is massive. But they could all retire, those drivers, and suddenly it could change. Tennis was massive in Germany ten years ago with Boris Becker and now it's….

Question: Do you see countries in the Far East taking over?

Mosley: I think we will probably see maybe one in the Middle East, maybe one in Russia and maybe another in the Far East and maybe another one in the Americas somewhere.

Question: China is the obvious place for commercial expansion…

Mosley: China is very difficult because of the money and the need to build the infrastructure and the political difficulties within China, but there are three very serious consortia in China. One is based in Shanghai, one based in a town whose name I can't remember but where Renault and one or two big car manufacturers have factories, and then one near Beijing. That's quite apart from Xhuhai which has been around for some time. It is suitable but we found that it was logistically impossible. We got very close to having one there, but it sounds silly, but you couldn't get the low-loaders under the bridges and there were no facilities for unloading the plane at the time. It was really quite complicated, but now that's all gone a little bit quiet.

Question: What would be the ultimate Grand Prix?

Mosley: China. Certainly we do need China. The other place that there's a very serious plan is India. If you've got India and China, you've got almost half the world's population or getting on that way.

Question: How serious is the Indian one? Where is it?

Mosley: It's nearby Bombay. I haven't talked to them myself, they talk to Bernie. The beauty of Bernie doing the commercial side is that we don't have to bother with these endless conversations. When he's got a deal, he comes along to us and says‘ is this OK?' and we go and have a look at the circuit. You get two or three people a week. They write to us and we shift it all off to Bernie.

Question: What's going to happen post-Bernie? Who is going to control the commercial side of the sport?

Mosley: First of all, I'm sure Bernie will out-last me, so it's not really my number one worry, but I think his successor would be an individual and I think he would more likely be a manager than an entrepreneur and I think he would probably be somebody from outside motor sport, as you would get someone to manage any big successful enterprise. There are ways of finding them. I think it would a person of that kind.

I think the idea of it being a retired team manager or a retired driver is pure fantasy. Or even a retired motor industry executive. There are a lot of people fantasizing about this, but I think it would be a serious manager recruited on the same basis as if you were recruiting somebody to run ICI or whatever.

Question: The question would then be who would do the recruiting?

Mosley: Currently, that would be the Kirch Group and they would undoubtedly consult us because we would have to work very closely with the person. It would be down to them. I suppose they would use head-hunters– all the classic methods.

Question: You seem to be more involved in the traditional side of running the sport, the governing body.

Mosley: The deal with the European Commission is that we're not involved in the commercial side at all. We're the regulator, so we are concerned with the safe, fair and orderly conduct of motor sport, which is a very broad remit, but how people make money out of it is their problem. That's why, if the manufacturers did start a series, we would be able to regulate that and regulate Formula One and what we must not do is discriminate against another series. What the Commission was concerned about… they said‘ if you've got big financial interests in Formula One, however fair-minded you may be, you have an incentive to suppress any potential rival, so why don't you get rid of all of that and then you have no incentive to suppress a rival?' It's going to be interesting to see if other sports follow that pattern.

Question: Do you think Premier I will get off the ground?

Mosley: We're delighted if there's any new forms of motor sport coming along and we will give them every assistance.

Question: What are your thoughts about Formula 3000, Max?

Mosley: It's a little bit worrying, because, on the one side, if you don't say‘ everybody who comes into Formula One has to go through Formula 3000' you're weakening it…people spend a fortune doing Formula 3000 and then someone comes out of Formula Renault or whatever, straight into Formula One. But on the other hand, if you bring in regulations, somebody might say that you're suppressing natural talent and so on. I'm uncertain what the right thing to do is. I was the one who was against giving Raikkonen a super licence, but that was simply on the grounds that we had a regulation, we have an exceptional circumstances clause, there were no exceptional circumstances, therefore why give him a licence? But the other 24 people on the Formula One Commission all wanted to give him one and we're a democracy…We've made Formula 3000 much much cheaper by making it a single engine, single make, single everything, but it's still quite expensive to do. It is one of the problems that we are going to have to deal with. I don't pretend to have an immediate solution.

Question: Someone has said this week that it isn't promoted well enough?

Mosley: The trouble is that they say this about all forms of motor sport. You could go to the Caterham Seven class and you will find someone who will say‘ we ought to have more television coverage.' If you did that, you would have nothing on television all day long except motor sport…You see, the fact that it's at a Grand Prix means that there is television, even if it's not live. You can put it on television, it costs very little to originate it because all the equipment is in place, but what you cannot do is make the public watch.

Question: You did a bit of 180 degree on tobacco. You said you wouldn't interfere with it and now you have put a deadline on it. Some people feel that that's wrong, that it's a legal product and should be allowed to be advertised.

Mosley: My personal view remains… We asked for and did not get evidence that there's a link between sponsorship in Formula One and people taking up smoking, which is what we're really talking about. But there is a general worldwide movement against tobacco and although I don't think it will actually make any difference to the number of people who smoke, or any of those issues– that's my personal view– the fact remains that the trend is against. If you were to allow Formula One to go on with tobacco advertising, two things would happen. You would gradually restrict the number of countries in which you can have a Grand Prix and secondly, you would tend to push Formula One into a kind of side road of sponsorship and you might well find that general sports sponsorship overtook you. You were stuck there with tobacco, completely in their hands, and even though the money was going up everywhere else, you couldn't introduce any of that into Formula One because none of them would come in because you've got tobacco. So you have a double risk: cutting down the countries, losing out on sponsorship. It seemed to me that the right course was to try to get out of tobacco and bring Formula One back into the mainstream of sports sponsorship. Now 2006, we actually chose that date because it was the original EU Commission date. Strictly speaking, you could argue that we couldn't do it for another year because of the Concorde Agreement but nobody has raised that point. It seems to be working out quite well and I think that what we're going to see now is, over the next four or five years, we're going to see one team after another moving off tobacco. We're going to see that.

Question: Ron Dennis has suggested that there are loopholes in technical regulations; are you bracing yourself for further problems here?

Mosley: He's always saying that. He was one of the ones telling everybody that we couldn't check traction control, and in the end, such a body of opinion built up saying that we couldn't check traction control that we felt bound to let it in and then the quid pro quo was getting rid of electronics in other parts.

Well, once traction control and launch control and all these technologies became legal whose cars were sitting on the grid? Ron Dennis's, because the systems having become legal, he wasn't able to make them work, and it does lead us to believe that he would also not have been able to make a secret system, which we couldn't detect, that worked.

And it also makes us think that if he has the biggest electronics department of any team in Formula One, probably nobody else could either. Probably all that proved was that the whole of that business about we couldn't check the traction control was rubbish and a smokescreen. Dear old Ron, to his dying day, when he's long retired and in his bathchair, will still be saying people are bending the rules. When he says this, we say to him‘ tell us what?' and he can't. Then he says the problem is that the rules are not clear. The rules are clear, they are alright for everybody. We then say to him‘ Ron, tell you what, you and your very expensive lawyers, write a set of specific clear rules and we'll have a look at them.' That was seven years ago and I'm still waiting. I'm very fond of Ron, but I don't take too much notice of him any more. The question was: are people bending the rules? No, we do not believe they are and we are checking very carefully and there are certain controversial things being discussed for Melbourne at this very moment, things we know about, but the only think we think is illegal, we have told the people concerned it's illegal and I hope they won't turn up with it in Melbourne.

Question: Can you tell us what it is?

Mosley: There is supposed to be a new tyre, with asymmetric grooves which is not allowed. The grooves have to be uniform, which we think means they have to be same whichever way you look at them. Some people think that if one of the shoulders slopes more than the other it will be alright and we don't think it will. That's just one example of thousands of things. I probably should never have mentioned it.

Question: You've got three weeks to sort it out…

Mosley: Well you see, what happens is that generally speaking a team has a new development or whatever, they have a new twin clutch gearbox, let's say. We will ask them to give us details and we will give them an opinion. If they disagree with our opinion, there is nothing to stop them making their gearbox and turning up at a race with it. If they turn up at a race with it and it's illegal, then they can't run it. So we give them an opinion and they usually follow it. Since we started that system, there have been about five hundred enquiries. I think we got two of them wrong. One of them was the famous McLaren differential and I can't remember what the other one was. On the whole we get it right, but it is an opinion.

Question: Could you not just say‘ no' to things?

Mosley: We could do, but it would mean changing the sporting code and if the teams wanted us to do that, we would do it, but at the moment the way it works is that Charlie gives his opinion and then it goes through the classic system which is the stewards and the court of appeal, which they have every right to pursue. But generally speaking people don't try it.


Part IV

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Series Formula 1 , WRC
Teams McLaren