Today I went along to a lunch thrown by Max Mosley for a small group of journalists at the Poissonerie de l’Avenue, in South Kensington, London.
The talk was, predictably, about the need for urgent cost cuts, the medals system, prospects for the season ahead, the future of the British Grand Prix, evidence of who set him up in last year’s sex scandal and his own future.
On this last point I got the clear impression that he intends to stay on for another term. He has to make his decision by June and as he explained, they have a complicated system whereby prospective candidates have to draw up a list of people for the key jobs. This is a system he initiated in 2005 as it would give him early warning of anyone plotting to stand against him. Wily old fox.
Anyway as he talked about it and was saying that he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to do it all again, he made it clear that all the key people want him to run for another term.
I would have thought that he is most unlikely to walk away from the job now as the next three years are absolutely critical to the future of F1, with the Formula One Teams Association providing a strong united front for the first time ever and Bernie Ecclestone and CVC very anxious to get everyone signed up beyond 2012 to protect their income stream.He looked very fit and full of energy, much more so than at times last year. He’s going deaf, though and clearly had problems hearing some of the questions. He wasn’t playing for thinking time by asking for a repeat, he was genuinely straining to hear. As always he was bitingly sardonic in some of his answers and particularly scathing about the stories put about last week that former RBS chief exec Sir Fred Goodwin might stand for FIA president this summer.
On cost cutting and the rules for 2010, he was very firm. He said the target is to get budget right down, as I wrote in my posting on Honda this morning, to around £50 million. He added that it is regrettable that people will have to lose their jobs in that process, but F1 teams are not in the social service business, employing people for the sake of it. To get budgets down from £300 million to under £100 million cannot be achieved by continuing to employ 1000 people in a team.
He wants to see costs come down so much that a team can run for £50 million and be competitive. He feels that the boards of the main car companies are keen to see costs brought down dramatically and that it needs the FIA to do this because the people who manage the teams on behalf of the manufacturers would not go far enough fast enough.
What he did not say, but I have gleaned privately, is that the FIA has a package to present to FOTA of areas of non-compete, which are very extensive, along the lines I wrote about in my Honda story this morning. Ideally the FIA would like FOTA’s agreement on this package, but they do have the option of ramming it through the world council in March or June under the force majeur rule – in other words arguing that the situation is so desperate in the motor industry that these measures must be taken now or else the whole survival of F1 will be threatened. That will be a major flash point with FOTA.