Max Mosley’s U-turns for 2009 and 2010

Max Mosley has backed down on slick tyres, refuelling and more

Max Mosley has backed down on slick tyres, refuelling and more

You can accuse Max Mosley of many things, but you can’t accuse him of being consistent. The next two years will see at least three reversals of major policy decisions taken by Mosley during his 17-year presidency of the FIA.

Why the U-turns? Is Mosley being forced to take decisions he doesn’t agree with? Is it an admission that past policies have failed?

Grooved tyres

Slick tyres will be back in 2009 for the first time since 1997

Slick tyres will be back in 2009 for the first time since 1997

Mosley demanded a switch from slick to grooved tyres in 1998 as part of a package of changes aimed at slashing cornering speeds in F1 and improving safety. But next year slick tyres will return to the sport after a 12-year absence.

When he announced the change in 1997 it brought a critical reaction from drivers including champion-elect Jacques Villeneuve. The Canadian criticised Mosley’s decision in the harshest possible terms, for which Mosley had Villeneuve condemned by the World Motor Sports Council.

But events have proven Villeneuve’s suspicions about grooved tyres were well-founded. Aside from their ugly appearance, they demonstrably failed to contain escalating speeds. No other major motor racing series bothered to use them, apart from GP2, which got rid of them after a single season.

The re-introduction of slicks for 2009 has come hand-in-hand with a massive reduction in aerodynamic downforce. At the time grooved tyres were brought in Mosley was urged to reduce the size of car wings. It seems that would have been the better decision to take in the first place.

Banned! Slicks

Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems

A Ferrari testing a KERS almost ten years after Mosley first banned them

A Ferrari testing a KERS almost ten years after Mosley first banned them

Mosley has made an enormous fuss about allowing teams to use Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) from next season. He is very keen to tout the role they will play in emphasising Formula 1′s contribution green technologies.

That wasn’t his point of view in 1999, however, when Ilmor produced a KERS for McLaren capable of providing a 45bhp boost. Mosley banned the device from being used.

Having reversed his position he’s now trying to argue that the 80bhp systems to be introduced next year are a case study in how F1 technology benefits ordinary drivers.

But how much more powerful might those systems be if F1 teams had been developing for the last nine years? Then Mosley might really have something to boast about.

KERS not powerful enough for F1?

Refuelling

Refuelling will be banned for the 2010 season

Refuelling will be banned for the 2010 season

One of the first major decisions taken by Mosley to change the sporting regulations was the legalisation of refuelling in 1994, which had been banned after the 1983 season.

Refuelling was an idea imported from CART (Indy Car) racing, which was enjoying a surge in popularity at the time.

It did create an element of unpredictability in its first few years in F1 as teams grappled with the different strategic options it offered. Michael Schumacher and Benetton were the masters of the new dimension in race management. But after a couple of years the ‘surprise strategic twist’ was largely consigned to the dustbin, with Hungary ’98 a memorable exception.

While the likelihood of fuel strategy to produce interesting races has diminished, the problems it causes have multiplied. Fifteen years since its reintroduction the safety and reliability problems it causes have not been solved, as the multiple fires at the Hungaroring this year proved, along with Ferrari’s dramas at Valencia and Singapore.

Refuelling has also caused difficulty with safety car periods and has led to the creation of one of the most ill-conceived and unfair rules ever brought into F1the ‘pit lane closure’ rule. Its a Sword of Damocles that periodically ruins drivers’ races. Without it, Fernando Alonso might be a three-times world champion.

Despite opposition from Mosley, the Formula One Teams Association has successfully got rid of refuelling from 2010. Mosley said afterwards:

I was against banning them because in my opinion they were part of the show.

Presumably he hasn’t watched ‘the show’ for quite some time. I’m glad he’s been forced to get rid of refuelling.

The cost-cutting plans: refuelling ban

More U-turns ahead

It seems increasingly likely that the next U-turn on the agenda will be the F1 points system. Mosley had it changed in 2003 to give points down to eighth place and reduce the margin of advantage between first and second place from four points to just two.

Although he is not enthusiastic about Ecclestone’s proposed ‘medals’ system, Mosley admits his last change to the points was a mistake:

Extending the points-paying positions to the top eight by reducing the difference between first and second was a mistake, but I’m against changing the points system too often. It disorientates people.

If only he felt the same way about qualifying. That’s been a myriad of U-turns over the last two seasons, switching between one, two- and three-part sessions, aggregate timing, single-lap sessions…

What do you think these U-turns say about Mosley’s political position? Are these all just examples of him changing his mind? Or is his hand being forced by the teams because of political weakness – perhaps in the aftermath of the sadomasochism controversy? Have your say in the comments.

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53 comments on Max Mosley’s U-turns for 2009 and 2010

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  1. Great article as usual, Keith!
    I particularly appreciated that someone, finally, mentioned the dismal mistake that Mosley did with grooved tyres.
    What do all these U-turns say about Mosley? Probably that he is just an old, senile man well past his best before date.
    Just like Ecclestone with his ridiculous medals.

  2. S Hughes said on 16th December 2008, 11:25

    Paul, hear hear.

  3. Mussolini's pet cat said on 16th December 2008, 11:37

    Did he seriously say “I’m against changing the points system too often. It disorientates people.”??? What ‘people’ is he refering too? The ‘people’ in the sport or the long suffering fan? Good god, it’s not rocket science, just make the gap between 1st & 2nd greater…. The man’s an idiot.

  4. Sush Meerkat said on 16th December 2008, 11:46

    any fans of the game “portal” here?

    the winner should get cake.

  5. keepF1technical said on 16th December 2008, 12:01

    why is one man from the FIA so involved in the running of F1? Why does he alone ‘discuss’ with F1 then get the WMSC to rubber stamp the decisions. Are they ever going to disagree like they clearly should’ve sometimes???

    Even ‘his’ safety campaign is afront. I think everyone in the show can take the credit for the safety improvements following Senna’s accident.

    and the handling of KERS, by which i refer to the past 10-15 yrs, is a farce.

    surely there is only one u-turn the FIA needs to make…

  6. I’d vote for cakes as a possible scoring system. An eclair for first, muffin for 2nd and a doughnut for 3rd…. or is this just a medal system again!

    on a serious not I agree with Mussolini’s pet cat, just increase the gap! I’m looking forward to the slick tyres and no re-feuling again definatley.

    Very good article as always Keith, your site is keeping me sane during the off season so many thanks and Merry Christmas!

    Someone needs to take a paddle to Max to smack some sense in to him…

  7. John Spencer said on 16th December 2008, 12:20

    Excellent post, Keith.

    Here’s my professional opinion: Max Mosley is rich and powerful and he shares a number of personality traits often found in other rich and powerful people, particularly successful businesspeople, lawyers and politicians. These traits are what we call ‘psychopathic’. It doesn’t mean these people are all serial killers (although had they grown up in different circumstances there is a greater likelihood of that for them than for the rest of us). What it means is a wanton disregard for other people’s feelings with little concern for the consequences of one’s actions.

    Mosley has no concern whatsoever for any changes he has made to the FIA regulations in the past. Any problems are entirely somebody else’s fault. Take the example of the controversial stewarding decisions this year. Mosley doesn’t consider that an FIA problem at all – despite it being the lack of specific written FIA rules that caused the problem in the first place. He effortlessly places the blame on other people. In F1 Racing magazine this month there’s an article on stewarding which trots out the usual Mosley FIA line – ‘if the teams don’t like the rules, they should suggest different ones, but they don’t’

    Mosley is intelligent and articulate. He is also superficially charming – he must be, or he wouldn’t have persuaded the FIA to back him in his no-confidence vote. But there is no emotional depth to the man. He’s been married with a family for a long time, but has ‘parties’ in apartments in Chelsea without a second thought.

    Most people have very different emotional reactions to a picture of fluffy kittens, and a picture of fluffy kittens being hacked up with a carving knife. People with psychopathic personality traits show no difference, however.

    While we might wonder how someone can make u-turn after u-turn and always blame someone else (lying is second nature to psychopaths), for Mosley there is no problem at all. It doesn’t bother him in the slightest.

    The kind of hypocrisy or bare-faced cheek that make any normal person feel guilty or embarrassed have no such effect on Max.

    If you accept that is Max’s personality, it’s much easier to understand some of his sweeping decisions and how he has twisted the FIA to serve his own purposes.

  8. Keith…

    “Mosley had it changed in 2003 to give points down to eighth place and reduce the margin of advantage between first and second place from four points to just four.”

    I believe it was 4 points to 2 points….hehe, we all make mistakes

    great articles nonetheless though, extremely enlightening!

  9. Good article Keith. Moseley has meddled for too long with F1. Thankfully a lot of these u-turns are finally righting some of the wrongs.

    But here’s a suggestion for an alternative scoring system: first place gets one point, second place gets two points, all the way down to how ever many cars finish (bet it 6 or 18). The world champion is the driver with the fewest points.

  10. ajokay said on 16th December 2008, 12:44

    #4 Sush,

    We all know that the cake is a lie.

    I think all this shows that Mosley doesn’t seem to have a clue where he is or what he’s doing. They need to sort some good, decent and fair rules out, and then stick to them for a long long time.

    Even with all these proposals in place, they’re still talking about adding further changes in 2010, 2011, 2012, and so on…

    Thats still not good enough. Come up with a set of proposals, ALL of them, and then stick with them. Quit adding bits on and taking them off.

    At least with football the only thing that change each year are the kits.

  11. beneboy said on 16th December 2008, 12:49

    The man is a horrible individual but this is no surprise considering he’s Oswald Mosley’s son.

    But putting this aside (difficult as this may be) and just thinking about his Presidency, most would agree that it’s been a failure.

    I will give him credit for the work he’s done around safety, not just in F1 – he has revolutionised safety for all sports governed by the FIA, when I was younger it was a regular thing to hear about drivers, marshals & fans being killed & those days are happily behind us with injury & death a very rare thing in the sport.
    He has also been involved with the Euro NCAP safety regulations for production cars too and for this I applaud him.

    He’s ruined F1 though.

    From his & Bernie’s decision to allow manufacturers to dominate the sport, effectively killing off most independent teams, to the constant regulation changes in F1 over the past 15 years.

    He has ensured that many technical innovations by the teams have been banned.
    As Keith says, if KERS hadn’t been banned it’d now be a major part of the sport that would benefit production cars. The same could be said for active suspension and many other things that the teams have come up with.

    Grooved tyres were always seen as a stupid decision, anyone who likes racing knows that you get better racing when the cars have more mechanical grip rather than aerodynamic grip as the cars are able to follow each other more closely without suffering from lost grip. Every former racer, journalist & fan said at the time they should reduce the wings but Max was determined to play with the tyres so grooves we got.

    The ever tightening of F1 regulations has caused costs to grow exponentially in the last decade.
    When you have freedom to innovate within the rules you can try a whole new design philosophy to find an advantage, clever engineers & designers can do this with a limited budget as Lotus et al proved.
    By tightening the rules you’re forced to constantly improve the same thing and this means going to extremes on every detail of every part and this costs a fortune.

  12. John Spencer: Superb assessment of our boy Spanky, couldn’t have stated it any better.

    The true source of Mosley’s power has been the vacuum of unanimity amongst the teams. Until FOTA they could never agree on anything. Now that they have shown some unity Max has no choice but to back down.

    Like any bully, once you show some back bone they usually slink off into the sunset. Now if we can only get him to slink off the scene permanently.

  13. I think Max and Bernie between them are living in that twilight zone that the super-rich inherit, where they just expect everyone else to bow down and agree with everything they say (Prince Charles has the same problem). It might finally be dawning on them that maybe they aren’t quite in tune with the harsh realities of racing – some of which are of their own making.
    Max and the FIA are doing a good job on safety, thats well said, but why is the regulator getting involved with the nitty-gritty of how the cars should behave on the track? Isn’t that down to the teams? And the same goes for Bernie, why is the main promoter bothered about the points system? Shouldn’t he be more concerned about the lack of available circuits and the decreasing number of teams in ‘the show’?
    I really do think that the fans, teams and drivers have been sold down the river well and truly by these comedians. The sooner they retire the sooner we will have real racing again!

  14. Interesting article. In my book consistency is a much lauded but not always desirable quality. When the newly fashionable again economist John Maynard Keynes was challenged about inconsistency he replied “when the facts change I change my mind – what do you do?” The key test is whether a decision appeared to be the right one at the time, based on the facts as they were known at the time. Looking back with hindsight is easy, anyone can do that, but making key decisions without knowing what’s around the corner is more difficult.

    Grooved tyres did reduce cornering speeds for a time, which was the reason for introducing them, but there were better ways of achieving the same end – even during a tyre war. Max’s suggestion about adding another groove when speeds crept back up was also rather shortsighted. The ruling on Michelin’s wider tyres in 2003 was another lowlight and cast all sorts of doubts over the independence of the governing body.

    But the banning of McLaren’s energy recovery system in 1998 was almost certainly the right one at the time. It was done for cost reasons – i.e. if McLaren gained an advantage with it then the other teams would be obliged to follow and spend enormous amounts of money to catch up. The main reason for introducing KERS for 2009 was to demonstrate F1′s contribution to the environment. But while the arguments for lowering emmisions and saving energy have been around for some considerable time, it’s only in the last few years that they’ve really caught hold of the popular imagination. With the benefit of hindsight allowing KERS from 1998 would have been a no brainer, but it would have been a bold and unpopular decision at the time – F1 just wasn’t ready to accept the environmental argument then. It was probably the right decision at the time.

    Banning driver aides from the end of 1993 was the right decision, even if it later proved difficult to enforce. The series of safety improvements that followed Imola in 1994, not always popular at the time, were also good decisions. The availability of a non-manufacturer supply of engines appears to be a good move (as long as it isn’t mandatory) but time will tell.

    Does the new ban on refuelling count as a u-turn if Max argued for it to be retained? And hasn’t it been ditched on cost grounds rather than because of its impact on The Show?

  15. Frankly I’m not averse to Max and the F1 teams trying out new changes to F1 provided it is done with the fans interests at heart. Advances in technology surely must mean that things that work well today will not necessarily work well tomorrow.

    Incidentally does anyone know how much a point is worth in monetary terms in the WDC and WCC individually and separately?

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