Interview with FIA President Mosley, Part IV

Part 4 of 6 Max Mosley interview transcript Question: I thought that there was controversy going on about gearbox systems? Mosley: There's a little bit of controversy about twin clutch gearboxes. Cars these days have seven forward gears, and...

Part 4 of 6
Max Mosley interview transcript

Question: I thought that there was controversy going on about gearbox systems?

Mosley: There's a little bit of controversy about twin clutch gearboxes. Cars these days have seven forward gears, and obviously the more forward gears you are allowed, the narrower the torque band for the engine can be and therefore the greater the power– you can have a really peaky engine– particularly now it's all done by computer. You couldn't have a seven speed box if you had to do it manually. But they can't have more than seven speeds so if you then narrow this right down, what you really need is CVT. Now that's illegal, but maybe if you have seven gears… with these twin plates clutches, what happens is that one set of gears is engaged while the other one is driving the car, so the gearchange becomes almost instant. You just swap clutches, instead of having to engage different gears. Now you could arrange it that the clutches worked in such a way that on that particularly awkward corner where fifth was too short and sixth was too long, it just got you over that little bit. It would generate a bit of heat and so on, but it would just get you over that bit. I've explained that very badly and crudely, but you can see the essence of it. Well, we make it clear that you can't do that and of course we will be looking at the software to see that it doesn't do it. But that's in essence, as I understand it, the danger with the twin clutch system. I think there is more than one team that have these and they've existed for a long time. If they are just used as a means of speeding up the gearchange, it is unobjectionable. It's only if it is used to expand the range of the gearbox.

Question: This is not clear, something about a previous stance by MM about his philosophy of a driver's skill

Mosley: To me, there still remain three big areas of skill: steering the car, braking the car and using the accelerator. In a Formula One car, using the accelerator is extremely tricky. Obviously in a road-going Fiat Panda it's less of an issue. And it is a pity and it's a pity that the gearboxes are fully automatic in a way, but then the other side of that is, suppose we went to the opposite extreme and we said we will allow total electronic control of everything, including the steering, the brakes, the lot? Would the best drivers still be winning the races? And the answer, I think is that he would. And in a way that's what it's all about because, what traction control or current electronics do is they enable me or Niki Lauda to drive the car, where previously that would have been difficult, but when you get to the difference between Verstappen and Frentzen… what's the difference, if any, between Coulthard and Schumacher? We would find it very hard to define, but you've got your computer programmer sitting there, how's he going to programme that difference into whatever system you've got? I don't think he can. Certainly the top drivers seem to think– and Schumacher certainly thinks– even if you had a totally electronic car, he would still have an edge, if he had an edge at all. It's still a pity.

Question: It's still a shame that a driver isn't penalized for missing a gear, for instance.

Mosley: It's absolutely true. The old fashioned Hewland with clutch and gearbox provided opportunities for overtaking. The downside, of course, is that it blew up

engines, particularly on the down change. But the reason that they originally talked us into the sem-automatic gearchange was you can avoid overrevving on the upchange because you just have a rev limiter. But on the downchange, if somebody engages a gear that is too low too soon, it pushes the engine right round beyond its limits. And so we said, OK to semi-automatic. But now of course, the technology exists that you could have a completely ordinary gearchange and still have a device that disengaged the clutch if you did what we've just mentioned. But it's too late now, you can't go back. A pity.

Question: Yet it allows the young drivers to come in and drive a Formula One car very well…

Mosley: Well the other side of that is that all the formulae they come through and in which they are successful all have manual gearchanges, including Formula 3000, Formula Renault, all these things, so the chances are, if you had those sort of gearchanges, they would do it just as well if not better. The trouble is now that so much is understood about the cars that even the worst car today isn't that difficult to drive if you're that level of racing driver. It's a little bit like road cars. There are fewer and fewer really bad road cars.

Question: The absolutely last priority for teams is drivers. They are almost immaterial…

Mosley: Absolutely right. The other side of that is that, if we ever achieved our dream of having regulations that, no matter how much money you spend, you don't get any advantage, so it's much fairer, all the money would go to the drivers, because that would be the only way…

Question: Niki Lauda said that driving grooved tyres on the limit was much harder than the tyres in his day.

Mosley: He explained all that to me on the basis that therefore we shouldn't have grooved tyres, and I was mentally picturing more grooves and more grooves! Grooved tyres may be a bit controversial this year when they start wearing but they did achieve their objective, they did keep speeds under control for a long time. We had that big leap in speed last year with the tyre war but actually if you go back to the start of my presidency, go back to' 92, when they had big slicks, the full automatic suspension and all the rest of it, and you look at Mansell's time around Magny Cours, which I think was only broken last year by a tenth or two, but only a few tenths in ten years, so we did succeed to some extent. Do you remember when we went from 18 inch slicks at the rear to 15 inch? Patrese said that it was going to kill all the drivers but now we have 15 inches with bloody great grooves in them. In the end, there are problems now. By not changing the bodywork, everybody is iterating down onto little tiny things, and they are working 24 hours a day in the wind tunnel on some tiny advantage, and also they are taking liberties, like those, what they call brake ducts. They are super sophisticated aerodynamic devices which have a knock-on effect; it's all tuned, you know, the turning vane, the so-called brake duct, the underneath, the this, the that. They are all massively important but unfortunately I can't think of any way to attack them. I would if I could. All the things you do with the aerodynamics they can negate. What they can't do is, if you put the thing on bicycle tyres and give it 10,000 horsepower, you can't get the power on the road. I can't see us giving up the grooves in the near future.

Question: All this money, all these developments, and the public still doesn't get much of a show, how do you get around that? There's no denying that!

Mosley: Well, I'm now about to deny it. The thing is that you've got a huge television audience. There are two views to this. At the moment, you do get overtaking on occasions, but you don't get much because most people don't want to take the risk. If they are at the back of the grid, they will do it to come through thefield, but once they are in the points, it's generally speaking not worth risking a collision for the sake of a point unless it's special circumstances. But the overtaking is a whole manoeuvre now. You get two people, one in front of the other. One of them goes into the pits, the other goes like hell to try and make up time. This one comes out of the pits, he goes like hell. He goes into the pits and then there's a complete drama about which one's going to be first when he come out of the pits. The whole process takes about 15 minutes. It's intensely exciting. To me that is a real drama of the race. You're waiting, provided they don't screw up the television shot which they often do, for the shot down the pit straight. There's one man in the pits as the other one comes around the corner, who's going to get there first? It's really really exciting, at least it is to me. You have the whole thing about did he pull in at the right moment? Did they put in the right amount of fuel? Was it right just to put in a bit of fuel so that he can do another one but he came out in front? All those questions, compared to let's say Monza 1971 where there were 114 overtaking manoeuvres which was completely boring and the only interesting question there was who comes out of the Parabolica second on the last lap because he was the one who traditionally won the race because he had a little bit of a slipstream. It's not a thing you can discuss really, because all the racers say overtaking is everything, but if that's true, why isn't oval racing a mega-world show, because they overtake constantly, television is available, anybody who wants to buy CART or IRL can do so. But they've got no audience. Formula One, with all its drama, has an audience. I think we've got it about right. But why does nobody watch CART? It's great, it's fantastic, but it doesn't grip a worldwide audience of non-racing enthusiasts. That's the secret. This is the problem that rally has got. It's one thing to present rallies so that the rally enthusiast sees it well on the television and thinks it's fantastic, but the challenge is to grab an audience that doesn't even know what a rally is. Where Formula One has succeeded is that it has grabbed an audience worldwide who ten years ago, certainly 15 ago, didn't know what motor sport was, witness the fact that total television receipts in the mid-eighties for everybody, was of the order of between one and two million dollars and now we've got all this Kirch-Murdoch and all the rest of it. That's a measure of the popularity. I think the fundamental error that we all tend to make is that we are basically racers and we judge it by our standards but the world that pays for Formula One now, which is the big wide world, they are not racers. All sport is available to them, they can chose football, horse racing, show jumping, skiing whatever they want.

Question: But surely if you just have one or two overtaking manoeuvres, like Schumacher and Montoya at Brazil last year…if there was a hundred overtaking manoeuvres, people wouldn't remember them.

Mosley: I agree with that. It's like an amazing goal in football, like Beckham… That was a drama, because first of all he had the balls to do it himself, and secondly he did actually score. I'm not a Beckham– Posh fan, but it was a spectacular thing to do. As you say, you talk about it. The famous overtaking at Spa when they went either side of Zonta, that was an amazing thing to see.

Question: But it's much more exciting to see cars racing, if you don't want that, why not have them starting five minutes apart like rallying?

Mosley: I'm not saying that one car behind another, racing, is not exciting, because it is, but there's nothing particularly magic about the actual overtaking manoeuvre. Very often, one catches the other and the one behind is significantly quicker. The one in front has a bit of a problem towards the end of the race. You're always wondering all the time if maybe if one might slip inside the other and then you've got the drama of the pit stop and who gets in and who gets out. It is the fact of them being together creates the whole thing. I think that is the weakness of rallying. They are going to have to rely on other things, like artificially running the cars together, and of course letting you drive the car down the stage, which is coming. You're going to be in the rally before long. In the end, you will have Virtual Formula One, you will have the whole thing computer-generated.

Question: Did you help with the Melbourne Coroners' inquiry?

Mosley: We've had a certain amount of correspondence. The trouble was that he himself (the Coroner) didn't deign to make any sort of contact. It was all done by a traffic policeman, quite a junior one, a sergeant in the Melbourne traffic police, whose start-off point was to write to everybody famous so anybody he had heard of, people like Jackie Stewart… He didn't seem to understand that this has become a massively scientific business, with university departments and the transport research laboratory and all these people working on it, a bit boring to begin with but in the end…The policeman wanted various information. Officially he was a policeman writing on behalf of the coroner to seek their view or something. The problem is that watching a Grand Prix is at least one, if not two orders of magnitude safer than driving to the circuit and away from it if you are, say, 50 kilometers away, just on ordinary figures. I would like to see greater spectator safety and safety for everybody, but the fact of the matter is, if you go and watch a Grand Prix anywhere in the world, the dangerous bit is driving to the circuit and coming away again.


Part V

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About this article
Series Formula 1 , WRC
Drivers Jackie Stewart , Niki Lauda