Ten questions on the Mosley scandal

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Max Mosley’s win in the FIA confidence vote leaves F1 in an odd situation. The president of its regulatory body is an international laughing stock, and yet somehow the sport has to find a way to go on.

How did Mosley win the vote – and what will happen next? Here are some of my thoughts, please leave yours in the comments below.

What exactly happened at the meeting? We’ve become used to seeing FIA meetings drag on into the evening. The hearing into the ‘cool fuel’ row at the end of last season took several days.

This meeting was quite different. It began at 10am French time and within three hours the vote was publically known. In that period of time they also reached a decision on a rules modification concerning bridge wings on F1 cars as well as going through the usual bureauratic motions.

We also know that Anthony Scrivener QC, the FIA-appointed lawyer, gave his verdict on the News of the World’s video and, unsurprisingly, concurred absolutely with Mosley’s argument that there was no ‘Nazi’ element to the proceedings. Given the tight timings involved, it is hard to imagine very much of a debate went on, and it is clear from past meetings of the World Motor Sports Council for which we have transcripts that Mosley likes to move things along as speedily as possible.

Will the transcript of the FIA Extraordinary Meeting be made available to the public? Recent major FIA meetings have been documented and those transcripts pulished soon after the meeting. It is not yet clear whether that will happen this time.

How did the British representatives vote? Of particular interest to British fans is how their own clubs voted. One of the voting British clubs, the Motor Sports Association, issued a brief release afterwards:

The Motor Sports Association respects the decision of the FIA General Assembly concerning President Mosley and considers that it is now time to move on and for the sport to pull together. The Motor Sports Association looks forward to continuing to work constructively as an important member of the FIA in the future.

This has inevitably led to speculation about whether they voted for or against Mosley. I wonder if their eagerness to appear willing to work with the FIA following the vote is a sign of how desperate they are to keep the under-threat British Grand Prix?

How did Mosley win the vote? As was anticipated beforehand, the majority of Mosley’s support came from the smaller motoring clubs. Despite the far smaller total proportion of motorists they represent, each had voting rights of similar weight to the larger clubs, most of which were opposed to Mosley.

Is the FIA a ‘democracy’? Various figures describing the relative sizes have been put about but it seems that the larger clubs, who claim to represent around 85% of all motorists, accounted for 13% of the vote. They may consider that disparity a sign that the FIA under-represents the larger clubs.

Mosley’s counter to that position is that to distribute voting rights according to member size would lead to the larger clubs dominating the FIA. Of course, on this occasion, this has suited him perfectly, about which there is inevitably a degree of cynicism.

Is everything going to go back to normal now? It’s hard to see how. Already one motoring club, Germany’s ADAC, has announced it is dramatically reducing its co-operation with the FIA until Mosley is gone.

Many public statements have been made by prominent groups and individuals demanding Mosley step down and it is hard to see how they can step back from those positions and accept the status quo. As Bernie Ecclestone said:

It’s going to be difficult for him to act as a president of the FIA if the people who said before that they don’t want to meet with him maintain that position.

The American Automobile Association and other motor clubs who publicly demanded Mosley’s resignation are understood to be considering similar action to ADAC.

Will sponsors and teams pull out? It’s doubtful that any major decision like this would happen immediately – more likely that the exact impact will not be known for some time.

But any sponsor or manufacturer that is considering withdrawing its investment in F1 now has the perfect excuse to pull the plug, but as deals in F1 tend to be long-term arrangements it may not happen overnight.

Will the anti-Mosley clubs pull or lose their races? It has been speculated that the withdrawal of clubs such as the ADAC from the FIA could compromise the future holding of races. The ADAC runs the Nurburgring round which alternates years with the German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring, which is run by a different club.

Other countries whose motoring clubs were signatories to the letter asking Mosley to resign included Grand Prix hosts Canada, Brazil, Hungary, Spain, Belgium, Singapore and France, plus future hosts India and former hosts the United States, whose event is rumoured to be making a return next year.

What if Mosley loses his court case against the News of the World? Much of the suppot of Mosley has been based on the assumption that the ‘Nazi’ claims made against him were false and that his privacy was unjustly invaded by the News of the World. That is currently the subject of a court case brought by Mosley. However we know that his reliance on the same defence formed part of his argument in the meeting…

What next for Mosley? Since the scandal broke we have seen or heard talk of how principal figures in motor racing are keeping Mosley away from them: from the Crown Prince of Bahrain to Prince Albert of Monaco. If that continues, it will furthe undermine his claim that he can do his job properly.

Another acid test will be the next time he comes to rule on a major controversy. Should he consider it appropriate to deal out a substantial punishment as he did to McLaren last year, there will inevitably be questions asked about whether he thought they need “more of the punishment”, as the line from the infamous video goes.

Only then, I suspect, will it become clear that Mosley has turned F1 into a laughing stock, and that he and, by association, Formula 1, has been reduced to a mere punchline.