Mosley on McLaren, F1 engines, customer chassis and more

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Max Mosley, FIA Gala, 2007 | FIAAmong the myriad development that have come from the FIA recently a detailed interview with Max Mosley gives some interesting new insights into the McLaren-Ferrari spying scandal, future F1 regulations, customer cars and more.

The interview was published in The Paddock, a recent addition to the world of F1 publications which has just published its seventh issue. It focuses more on the business and administration of Formula 1, rather like BusinessF1 before its collapse a few months ago.

The interview pre-dates some recent developments including the decision to to punish Renault and the FIA’s legal action against the Sunday Times but nonetheless it is packed with illuminating and forthright opinions from the mind of Max:

The McLaren-Ferrari spy scandal

Regarding Ron Dennis telling him about Fernando Alonso’s emails:

At that stage I’d already been told that some emails existed, by Bernie [Ecclestone]. Actually, he’d been shown a Blackberry, but at the time I thought he’d been shown the actual emails… Bernie just said: “I’ve seen these emails, they’re all in Spanish, but I’m told they’re very compromising”… They either came from Alonso or de la Rosa.

This is interesting because it shows that the FIA heard about the new evidence that led to McLaren’s eventual publication before McLaren did. Also the fact that Fernando Alonso and Pedro de la Rosa’s discussions were in Spanish suggests they weren’t disseminated beyond the pair to other engineers or drivers.

Regarding McLaren’s punishment:

Well, I thought then, and I still think, that from a legal point of view, we should have excluded everybody. I find it very difficult logically to justify excluding the team, and not the drivers. The reason the team was excluded is that the information had been used, and that gave them an advantage, and therefore the drivers also had an advantage. But the emotional view in the World Council, the hearts versus heads view, was that we had a wonderful championship here involving the two McLaren drivers, and we shouldn?t ruin it. As it turned out, they were absolutely right, because it was a wonderful end to the championship. And in the end, I think, arguably justice was done.

Asked directly whether McLaren were convicted without any hard evidence he responded:

This is true. For a lot of it, you had to draw the inference. For me, the key thing was the discussion between de la Rosa and Alonso about information from Stepney being tried in the simulator, and/or the wind tunnel, plus the information about the gas in the tyres and so on. We were given evidence to the effect that none of these things had been tried and that the decision not to try them had been taken by de la Rosa, without consulting any of the engineers. That wasn?t credible.

Max Mosley, Lewis Hamilton, FIA Gala, 2007 | FIAAsked about the inspection of the 2008 McLaren – the results of which won’t be revealed until February next year – he said, “I hope it will turn out that there’s absolutely nothing. But it would be utterly wrong for us not to look.” Last week The Independent said an anonymous FIA source indicated McLaren were in the clear.

F1 engine regulations

Mosley explained why earlier plans for small capacity turbocharged F1 engines were dropped:

First, there was a danger that the resulting engine wouldn?t be a ??racing engine? as we know the term ?ǣ that it would run much slower and be very quiet. Second, and even more important, the duty cycle for the F1 engine would be so different from the duty cycle for a road engine, that it wouldn?t make a significant contribution to road engine or environmental technology.

On whether a ten year engine freeze is feasible, and whether F1 teams will have to cut staff:

I think they will. It had to be ten years, because if it had been anything less than that, they would have used their existing resources to start looking at the next formula. When we first started discussing turbos, for example, at least two of the engine manufacturers, and probably others, immediately started investigating them, long before there was even a hint of a rule.

Later he suggested that by cutting staff working on F1 engine development car manufacturers will free up resources to work on meeting the European Union’s target of cutting average CO2 emissions from road cars. Is Mosley telling the manufacturers how to run their own companies?:

There are not enough road car engine engineers working for the major manufacturers to achieve the EU?s 130g/km emissions target on time. If that?s the case, it?s crazy to have some of the best of these engineers working to make an F1 injector work marginally better, when they could be doing something that will actually help the main company achieve the EU target.

Improving racing in F1

He gave one of his shortest answers when it was put to him there little had been seen of developments based on research into improving racing in F1:

No, and you won?t [see any] until 2009. But the Overtaking Working Group recommendations are all done, and they?ve gone in the regulations. I think they?ll have a big effect.

Car manufacturers and customer chassis

Max Mosley, Fernando Alonso, FIA Gala, 2007 | FIAA key tactic of Mosley’s in recent years has been to engage with car manufacturers at board level rather than just with their racing representatives. He believes this will make it less likely that ay of them might leave the sport at short notice:

We?re constantly told at team level that if we did this or that, the manufacturers would lose all interest in F1. At board level, they?re not thinking like that at all. In the end, what will make the board pull out is spending hundreds of millions to run in ninth and 10th places. We can?t stop them running in ninth and 10th places, because someone has to. But we can reduce the cost to the point where nobody on the board is seriously arguing that they should stop.

Asked whether he approved Prodrive’s plan to enter F1 next year anticipating that they would use a customer chassis and engine he said, “It wasn?t by any means sure in my mind, but it seemed possible, yes.”

Street races

It is often asked exactly how close Max Mosley is to Bernie Ecclestone. Given Ecclestone’s new-found fondness for street circuits, Mosley’s lukewarm opinion of them is interesting:

I?m not super-keen on street races. Permanent circuits are necessary for the infrastructure, the grass roots of motorsport, and they should be supported. On the other hand, having some street races is difficult to avoid. For example, a street race is the only option in Singapore, which is a major world financial centre.

…and retirement

He has a few thoughts on his successor:

I think it must be someone with a thorough knowledge of the sport, but also interested and informed about general motoring. The sport, and particularly F1, is the tip of the iceberg in the FIA. There?s a huge bit people just don?t see.

And spilling the beans:

And then I suppose I?d have to write the book. So many funny things have happened, I think it would cause a lot of amusement, and interest as well??

This is just a fraction of a comprehensive, insightful and probing interview. I strongly recommend you read the full article.