Ten questions on the Mosley scandal

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.

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36 comments on Ten questions on the Mosley scandal

  1. Brar Soler said on 4th June 2008, 12:03

    I dont know why the nazi conotation was brought in to the FIA meeting context and the conclusion that there was no Nazi elements either. Something dont fix. Why there was only one a Fia lawyer protecting Mosley side? Democracy?

    Mosley claim that he made a great effort in security is also not true. If you pick from Moto Gp to Nascar the security had improved for technical reasons in all racing sports. The overcrowded Nascar event and the MotoGP had a dangerous potencial quite impossible to overcome. While F1 Mickey Mouse boring processions races became very easy.

  2. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th June 2008, 12:28

    The Turkish and Bulgarian federations have both voiced their support of Mosley.

  3. Jolene said on 4th June 2008, 14:14

    I agree with peterg. The FIA must be rotten to the core for voting the maniac in. Hooray for South Africa ( im SA ) for standing against corruption and evil.

  4. Stephen Snook said on 4th June 2008, 15:35

    When I wrote Shakespeare, Warhol and Max, I hardly expected yesterday’s outcome. I don’t think anyone did. Of the comments it attracted, some liked the piece, and some were less flattering. Either way, I’m not sure that anyone was exactly sure what it was that I was saying. It’s not surprising. Max’s actions revealed the shabby truth of self, not of Max, but of those of us who found it necessary to comment on him. I wrote it because I saw, in my interest in Max, my own shabbiness. It I hadn’t written it, I would be less eager to see that shabbiness. My, our, everyone’s interest in him was mere prurience. I can’t believe all that interest was genuine moral outrage. Morality was just the excuse for wanting to tear him down, the subtext of which I tried to pin down in that piece.

    Much to my surprise, I feel the piece has been vindicated by yesterday’s outcome. Max has won. He has brazened it out. He has become an example. When someone else is caught in some sort of peccadillo that does not affect his real value, he may look to Max’s example and decide to brazen it out, too.

    As to the future. Some think it is not all over yet. I think it probably is. The main players of Formula1 are businessmen, deal makers. A principle never made anyone any money. They are not idealists. They will work with what they have, not what they would like to have. There are only some 12 racing months left until Max retires. If the pending court case falls outside of a racing month, the lurid details will not matter so much. And, if not, then, as in politics, there are always “events”, racing events to overdub the furore about Max.

  5. Ago said on 4th June 2008, 15:42

    @Michael K : No contradiction at all. The members of the FIA are the clubs. One club =one vote.
    In the UN each nation has one vote,in the FIA each club has one vote. Can you imagine what the UN will be if the chinese has 20 times more votes than the UK?

    In a democraty you do not weight votes. You can split them like dividing the UK in constituancies for MP but you do not weight them.

    I am not saying a weighted system is necessarily anti-democratic, or that it is not making any sense, but it is certainly not an incentive for the small members to participate. And anyway this is how the statutes of the FIA are. Changing the statutes right in the middle of a crisis doesn’t look like a good solution… more like a way to overcome the problems…

    You are rather insulting to the guatemalans and this neither a proof of intelligence, nor a proof of education. This is a xenophobic statement that I cannot share and that I find more dangerous for the society as a whole than spending your nights with a whip in your hands.

  6. Brar Soler said on 4th June 2008, 15:50

    When someone clames how imprescindible he is for the institution (FIA), after so many years, he shows how clever he is! And how much he cares to survive ahead of it. But he made it also clear how much he don´t care if the instituion will, let say, “survive” or not.

  7. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th June 2008, 15:53

    Ago, if I thought there was even a hint of racism in Machael’s remark about Guatemala. I would have deleted the comment immediately. I think it’s quite clear his reference to Guatemala was simply to compare the disparity in size between it and larger countries.

  8. @Stephen, I thought the whole point of the vote of confidence was so that Max would gain the support of the FIA Memebers to deal with the businessmen and dealmakers of Formula 1 – ie FOG, in the light of his pecadillo, as revealed by the press.
    It was a Vote of Confidence called by Max himself, and not a Vote of No Confidence called by his opposition. This in itself hints that he was pretty certain of the outcome before anybody voted.
    And yes, he has brazened it out, he has shown he is capable of winning a vote. But it also shows that he does not take on the views of his opposition – otherwise why did he need a vote in the first place? He could have called a meeting and allowed a time for the various sides to air their views in a democratic forum.
    As it is, he will now have to work harder to keep the FIA together, and has possibly opened the way for the businessmen of FOG to declare that the FIA (and not necessarily its President) are no longer capable of running Formula 1.

  9. Michael K said on 4th June 2008, 17:58

    Ago, as Keith already pointed out, there isn’t even a hint of racism in what I wrote, as I won’t stand for anything racist either.
    Failure to see that is neither proof of intelligence, nor a proof of education, if I may use your own words here… :D

    Maybe I wasn’t as clear as I probably should’ve been with my statement of weighted systems in democracies, as I can see from your failure to understand my point. What you write there of how the UK system of constituencies works is actually a weighted system, albeit not 100% correct, but pretty damn close:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Parliamentary_constituencies_in_the_United_Kingdom

    So, to summarise, before you start attacking the intelligence and education of someone else, you should at the very, very least get your facts straight. Just a little hint for the future… ;-)

    Now that you must have understood my point about how the system would be much fairer if it would work like the weighted system of most democracies, how can you disagree with that?
    And again, is it fair that one Guatemalan club member (Nicaraguan, or any other small organisation within the FIA) is worth a multiple of a club member of the larger organisations?

    I almost forgot the UN, yes, there also small countries have a vote, but the five permanent members have veto power over sustantive draft resolutions. So, aside from the fact that the UN has completely different organisational structure and most importantly a completely different mission, the countries aren’t equal when it comes down to it they aren’t equal. Anyway, discussing this blows the scope of this site, so let’s just let it rest. Ago, what do you say?

    Stephen, I think most people who commented on your piece understood what you said but got pointed to one of the main flaws of your article, which is that it is unbelievably pompous and that you were just trying too hard to show what an intelligent and literate guy you are.
    I don’t doubt this, even though the reasoning of the piece was being dragged from one station to the next while it was kicking and screaming. The best would be if you write what you mean in a much shorter way, and the piece won’t seem less intelligent if you do…

  10. Ago said on 4th June 2008, 18:10

    Keith : Sometimes you read only what you want to read hey?: Who talks of racism? You! I do not! I speak of xenophobia. Put yourself for 5mn in the shoes of a person from Guatemala reading this… What do you think? Nice?

    “Ah, and their contact is: autoclubguatemala@yahoo.com
    Sounds professional, doesn’t it? This is just one example of how ridiculous it is that a club like this has the same voting power like a “real” organisation.”

    - Is the Guatemala auto club not a real organisation? What does this double quote means? Would you accept it if this was the MSA he was talking about?

    A modest organisation with a yahoo.com address is not good enough? Is there anything there to judge the work they do…
    I leave it with you. Sorry I do not approve that sort of statement.

  11. Michael K said on 4th June 2008, 18:23

    Oh, Ago, I would write the exactly the same thing if it would be an organisation from anywhere else in the world, so this has nothing to do with xenophobia. And more to the point, what exactly is xenophobic about my statement? I think you’re just using words in the wrong context. Now that I get what you mean, I think you should use the word arrogance instead of xenophobia and you might be on to something ;-)

  12. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th June 2008, 19:23

    Ago – I am not going to split hairs and get into the difference between racism and xenophobia. Suffice to say if I thought it was either I would have deleted the comment. I think Michael’s comment explains his position adequately.

    Can I please make it clear to everyone reading that if you have a complaint about the content of an comment please contact me about it. Thankyou.

  13. Ago said on 4th June 2008, 19:27

    @Michael : I am not in the mood for a flame ;-)
    You failed to read me properly, you confuse racism and xenophobia… what else?

    What makes you believe that Guatemala A.C. are not professionnal just by reading their email address?. Now if you think your statement will not offend a guatemalan reading it I might forward your post to the address you smartly gave us… We will see if they appreciate your comments. DO you want me to do that? Or do you start to realise that they will NOT like it?

    You would have said the same thing for a BIG organisation? Certainly not. So how do you call the fact that you do not consider the small countries to be equal to the others? Call it arrogance if you want..

    About the consistuencies may I remind you that
    (1) their size might vary for 1 to 5 which is not exactly what I call “pretty damn close”. But this has nothing to do as
    (2) each british citizen has one vote.

    In the case of the FIA the members are the clubs so one club one vote no matter the size of the club. this is a perfectly acceptable system as it is used by many organisations. The United Nations for example. Each country has a vote being Monaco or China gives one vote and nobody complains about this situation. I am a lawyer so you are not going to proove me wrong on this:-)

  14. Ago said on 4th June 2008, 19:36

    Keith: everyboby has the right to expres his own opinion. I am not even thinking Michael should not write what he wrote. I nevertheless endlessly challenge people that write things I believa are unfair. I find rather insulting that rumor we can now read eveywhere that small countries represented at the FIA are not professionnal, and corrupted (the deutchman finally said he was not saying the small countries are corrupted… too late as the statement is already widely spread.
    You think what you want but to me somebody judging the professionalism of an organisation on the sole base of its email address is… well is… not very… fair???

  15. Sush said on 4th June 2008, 19:42

    “one man one vote”

    Mosley is that one man, and he has that vote.

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