Today I met up with retired FIA president Max Mosley at a restaurant in South Kensington, London. Some of the F1 writers from the British national newspapers were also there, there were six of us in total.
A month short of his 70th birthday, he looked extremely fit and relaxed, not having a full work schedule any more. He ate sparingly, a salmon tartare, one glass of Sancerre and an espresso.
He said that he was planning to move back to London in April, as his need to be in Monaco was solely linked to his FIA work. I asked him if he would be a back seat driver in the new Jean Todt regime and he said that his contact would be minimal. He doesn’t plan to attend any races.
As an ex president he is entitled to a seat on the FIA Senate, but he says that he did not attend the last Senate meeting and he has no plans to be involved beyond being on the end of a telephone if new president Jean Todt wants his opinion. So far it seems that Todt has canvassed his view on some subjects, but Mosley reckons that these calls will decline in frequency as his knowledge becomes less current. He certainly doensn’t look or sound inclined to be a back-seat driver.
It was a very informal get together, largely off the record and Mosley didn’t have any particular agenda beyond wanting to make it clear that he was not pushed out of his job by FOTA last summer as part of the peace deal over the breakaway, as Luca di Montezemolo said at the time. This seems to be something he doesn’t want to have in his legacy and it seems to be something he takes exception to. His agreement with Jean Todt, he revealed today, was that in 2005 he would hand over to the Frenchman, like Tony Blair to Gordon Brown, but then Todt accepted the job of General Manager at Ferrari, which meant Mosley had to stay on until 2009.
He says that the proof that he planned to stand down in October 2009 is an entry for Who’s Who he submitted in April 2009, which said that he was FIA president until October 2009. Apparently, due to publishing deadlines and in agreement with the publishers, it is common practice to put confidential future information like that in submissions.
Although he said he had nothing left that he wanted to achieve in the sport and no scores to settle, that doesn’t mean he won’t be making mischief from the sidelines. Naturally we kept coming back to the outburst from Ferrari on their website yesterday in which the ‘Horse Whisperer’ accused Mosley of waging a ‘holy war’ against the F1 teams, manufacturers in particular. He said he found the whole thing quite amusing but hinted that the team had opened a can of worms here and that he had not planned to say anything rude about them before now, but that they have fired the first shot with this attack. He described Ferrari as a middle aged woman who is jealous of the attention new beautiful women around her are getting! He also said that the comments about Lotus and Virgin ‘limping’ into F1 and implying the new teams are a shambles, was rich given that Ferrari sent one of their cars out of the pits with a fuel hose attached in Singapore 2008.
On the subject of the new teams he is pleased that there is new blood in F1 and regrets the problems of USF1 and Campos. At the time of the assessment of new entries he insists that both places were visited regularly and financial checks carries out by Deloitte and by CVC’s finance experts. As for what happens next, he thinks there will be a merger between USF1 and Campos.
This would leave an open 13th entry, but he reminded us that for Stefan GP to get it, all the teams need to agree. I know for a fact, speaking to Ferrari this week, that they will not agree to that, as long as disgraced former McLaren designer Mike Coughlan is working for the team.
He spoke a lot about Flavio Briatore, much of it was well off the record, but he said that the idea of previous FIA punishments being rescinded such as the $100m fine for McLaren, is nonsense as McLaren were licence holders, the problem procedurally with the ban on Briatore. He said that without Pat Symonds making a confession, the original hearing might not have convicted the perpetrators of the Crashgate offences. He also said he was confident, if not 100% so, that Fernando Alonso was not in on the plot. He bases this on the fact that the investigators are experienced at examining witnesses and they were convinced Alonso was not lying.
Much of his time lately has been spent on his ongoing fight to change the privacy laws and he hopes that he will succeed in Strasbourg in getting some kind of law whereby newspapers must front up people they are about to expose and allow a judge to decide if publication is in the public interest or should be stopped by an injunction.