Max Mosley has been accused of helping Michael Schumacher win the 1994 world championship by advising his Benetton team on how to handle a dispute with the FIA.
Benetton were investigated by the FIA following the fuel rig fire that engulfed Schumacher’s team mate Jos Verstappen’s car in the German Grand Prix.
The FIA accused Benetton of illegally removing a fuel filter from the refuelling rig, but team boss Flavio Briatore insisted the removal of the device had been done with the permission of the FIA. It is now alleged that Mosley told Benetton’s lawyer not to try to pin the blame on the FIA. Benetton instead pleaded guilty and were not given a punishment.
The revelation came in an article in yesterday’s Sunday Express (see below) written by Christian Sylt. According to Sylt the lawyer who handled Benetton’s case, George Carman, claimed Mosley approached him in a bar the day before Benetton’s hearing.
According to Carman Mosley told him: “it was best… not to seek to blame any FIA personnel.”
The potential value of Schumacher to Formula 1 at the time is hard to underestimate. Within a few years the sport had lost several world champions – Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet had retired, Ayrton Senna had died, and Nigel Mansell was still dallying with Indy Cars.
And the financial value of a successful German driver was enormous. As Sylt notes RTL currently pay £95.9m for the rights to air Formula 1. Mercedes had joined F1 in 1993 and at the time were expected to take up an option on Schumacher’s services in the near future. From 1995 to 2006 two Grands Prix per year were held in Germany, and BMW returned to the sport in 2000.
Schumacher had lent his support to Mosley in the wake of the sex scandal the FIA president is embroiled in, saying last month:
I know Max as a professional person and I really rate him very highly. I always thought that I didn’t want people to comment about my private life, so there’s no reason to get into other people’s private life.
Mosley suggested last year that Schumacher would not have been world champion in 1994 had today’s rules been in place. He claimed that Schumacher would have been stripped of his title for the crash with Damon Hill in the final round at Adelaide.
(I haven’t been able to find a copy of the story on the Express’s website – you can download a PDF copy of it here.)