What has Max Mosley ever done for us?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Romans: Big on aqueducts and roads, but not budget caps
Romans: Big on aqueducts and roads, but not budget caps

All right, all right! But, apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order… what have the Romans done for us?

Like the Romans in Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian”, Max Mosley gets a fair bit of stick from F1 fans. Particularly at the moment, as he appears to have embarked on a last-gasp bid to wreck the deal that could save Formula 1.

But let’s stop, take stock of his 18 years in the job as FIA president and ask, what has he done for us? What has he got right?


Putting all the whys and wherefores to one side, there is one point about Mosley’s governance of Formula 1 that is a cast-iron certainty: he has made the sport safer.

In recent years we have seen drivers like Robert Kubica (Montreal, 2007) and Alexander Wurz (Paul Ricard testing, 2005) survive monumental accidents with barely a scratch. One shudders to think what would have happened to a driver of the eighties who, like Wurz, might have had the misfortune to strike a wall at 300kph (187mph).

Undoubtedly, much of this came as a reaction to the horrors of 1994, when we lost Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger in one weekend, and other drivers such as Karl Wendlinger and Pedro Lamy suffered huge crashes which exceeded the limits of what the cars and circuits could safely contain.

If Mosley’s zeal for ramming through unpopular regulations against the teams’ wishes has ever served the sport well, it did in 1994, when he forced quick changes to the cars to cut speeds and improve safety.

Quality of competition

Max Mosley was elected to the FIA presidency in 1991. That year began with 34 cars from 18 teams on the grid.

Today we have ten teams and 20 cars And, if Mosley succeeds in alienating the eight FOTA teams from next year’s championship, only five teams are currently slated to appear

The quantity of teams has clearly declined. But the quality of those entries has improved: last year nine of the ten teams scored a podium finish, in 1991 it was six. There were five different winners in 2008, three in 1991.

Significantly, this ‘quality over quantity’ scenario was Mosley’s goal from the outset. To this end, new teams had to lodge a $48m bond with the FIA merely to enter the championship, and only the top ten teams in a championship were entitled to receive travel money from FOM.

However the other consequence of this has been F1 bringing meagre grids to races for around a decade and a half. For a long time Mosley has shown no interest in fixing this.

Now that he has done, we could potentially see up to 13 teams in F1 next year. Ironically, that scenario now seems to be contingent upon Mosley stepping aside.


Although it is Bernie Ecclestone’s responsibility to sign deals with race promoters, it is down to the FIA to sign off the calendar. Here is it how it has changed since 1991:


Phoenix, United States
San Marino, Italy
Montreal, Canada
Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City
Silverstone, Great Britain*
Estoril, Portugal
Adelaide, Australia
Magny-Cours, France

Added and lost

Kyalami, South Africa
TI Aida, Japan
Buenos Aires, Argentina
A1 Ring, Austria
Indianapolis, United States


Donington Park, Great Britain*
Nurburgring (new), Germany
Melbourne, Australia
Sepang, Malaysia
Shanghai, China
Sakhir, Bahrain
Istanbul, Turkey
Valencia Street Circuit, Spain
Marina Bay, Singapore
Fuji, Japan
Yas Island, Abu Dhabi

*Presuming Donington Park does take Silverstone’s place on the 2009 calendar.

The over-riding concern has been to take F1 to new countries, particularly those of key interested to car manufacturers, such as China.

But this has been pursued at the loss of too many important venues for F1. By dropping France off the calendar, it has severed its links with the country that gave the world Grand Prix racing. Mosley has allowed North America to fall off the calendar entirely.

In their place have come a series of events in places with little interest in Formula 1, correspondingly meagre crowds, and underwhelming cookie-cutter tracks. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a big fat fail for Mosley on this count.

Financial health of F1

In 2000 Mosley authorised the sale of F1’s commercial rights to Bernie Ecclestone for 100 years for $309m. Even by his standards Ecclestone got an incredible deal – thanks partly to Mosley’s apparent desire to conclude a deal before anyone else got an offer in.

That included the European Automobile Manufacturer?s Association (ACEA – which is now backing FOTA’s protests against the FIA), whose representative Paolo Cantarella met with Mosley to discuss a potential offer. Mosley later wrote to Cantarella explaining that his association had one week to deliver a bid for a contract which Ecclestone and various FIA representatives had been working on for eight months.

Having got his knock-down deal, six years later Ecclestone sold control of F1 to CVC Capital Partners. The exact total paid is not known, but the sum is believed to be well in excess of $1.7bn, and was funded by CVC securing a loan against its future profits of $2.9bn.

This has left Formula 1 in a situation where its participants foot huge bills to compete and see the majority of the revenues generated by their activities handed not to themselves, nor re-invested into the sport, but to a private equity firm principally concerned with squeezing the sport for every penny it’s got.

On top of that several teams are yet to receive what monies they are entitled to from previous seasons, adding to their objections.

This is where the roots of the bitter row afflicting F1 today lie. And it started with a deal done by Mosley.

Your verdict

The question of safety is arguably the single most important thing Mosley has had to do in his F1 car. And his response was, largely, correct and good for the sport. However we must always remember it was in reaction to a crisis, rather than pre-emptively avoiding one.

Safety aside, how many other concrete examples are there of how Mosley has improved F1?

A better-quality grid has been achieved at the expense of decent entry numbers. The championship visits some new countries having sacrificed others, and is seen by fewer fans. The roster of circuits is becoming ever more uniform.

The unequal distribution of F1’s revenues has gotten worse, not better. And it has spawned the very crisis which Mosley now presumes to tell us he should remain in power to fix.

I’m not convinced. In 18 years, Mosley has not done nearly enough for us, the F1 fans.

What good do you think Mosley has done for F1? Share your verdict on his FIA presidency below.

150 comments on “What has Max Mosley ever done for us?”

Jump to comment page: 1 2 3
  1. Welease Bwian!

    Sorry, had to be done.

    1. HounslowBusGarage
      28th June 2009, 21:43

      Oh dear. I’ve just had to get the DVD out of the rack – and it’s Keith’s fault for that gratuitous quote.

    2. You’re only allowed to do the Python quote thing if you give it an F1 twist:

      Welease Dennis!

      Or, as Sniff Petrol did via Twitter the other day:

      Are you the Judean Formula 1 Front?
      **** off! We’re the Formula 1 Front of Judea. #montypythonquotesstolentomockf1troubles

      1. “Nobody… is to stone anybody… until I say so… even if… they do say Schumacher!”

      2. He’s not the FIA President! He’s a very naughty boy!

      3. Oh dear god F1 tainted Python quotes, if my girlfriend dumps me for this I’m blaming you Keith.

        “I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a Mitford sister and your father was a fascist”

  2. i think it’s unfair to hang the lousy calendar on the fia. although they do sign off on each cicuit, their resposibility is in safety and competition, not whether anyone gives a damn about abu dhabi. that is solely the responsibility of fom. also, i’m under the belief that france and other “heritage” races would be a certainty if the teams had signed the the last concorde agreement years ago – but that is a topic unto itself, and far more complicated than we’ll ever know.

  3. True, F1Yankee. The calendar has much more to do with Bernie`s side of things than Max`. Some of the circuits will have fallen below spec but, for many, the issue was money.

    Interestingly, & I haven`t checked if it`s absolutely correct, someone recently said that since Max` stewardship began 16 independent teams have gone west.
    Strange that this should only become an issue for him after one manufacturer left.

  4. Nothing,safety,I say look at the incidents before Mosley’s rampage.One name comes to mind Andrea DeCesaris.It comes down to a bit of luck when the big one occurs.Max ,don’t let the door hit you on the way out.YOU ARE DELUSIONALW ho are the people that back this guy?I have seen nothing but negatives on all the websites.

  5. keith- ‘we could potentially see up to 3 teams in F1 next year’ ?? i hope not!

    1. Thanks Sato, fixed it.

      1. If Max goes on like this you may have been right the first time, Keith.

  6. Wow! you really hate Max don’t you Keith?

    …either that or you’re pampering to the masses to keep the readership high…

    Shameful, and yet so totally unnecessary.

    1. I dunno, Speekingleesh down there is telling me I’m being too nice…

      The Python quote is partly intended to make a point – you can get so bound up in criticising someone for what they’re doing right now that you may be inclined to overlook other things they’ve done that were good.

      If this were a character assassination there are several unsavoury things I might have chucked at him. I think I’ve been pretty fair.

      What do you object to most?

      1. With regards to safety, F1Yankee has a very valid viewpoint… and where in the world has safety been resolved before any deaths? It usually takes the government 100’s of deaths to do anything, and not always even then. As F1Yankee says, deaths were ten a penny in JYS days and not much was being done about it.

        With regards to finance, Bernie (and, as you say, not Max) sold it for “in excess of £1.7bn” and now ticket/circuit prices and distribution is now out of kilter. The fact that Max sold it at what you seem to indicate is a good price to keep costs reasonable is glossed over, simply because he sold it to Bernie. The details of which we don’t know and can only surmise, and regardless that the value of F1 has rocketed since Max & Bernie took the reigns.

        As for ciruits and countries visited is pretty much down to Bernie, and calculated in Bernies pockets that would seem very successful. However, as you say, the fans are suffering… or are we?… Italian fans still have Monza, British fans will always have a BritGP regardless of the scaremongering of Bernie…ticket prices don’t seem to put people off here in the height of a recession (300,000+ I believe)… US fans voted with their feet, and lost out… but that is more Tony George than Max Mosley. Germany, France and Spain fans are dependant on their drivers and numbers drop drastically with no successful drivers. Much less so in UK & Italy (Max & Bernie contract Ferrari as much as they can).

        All that said, I freely admit Max has way too much power… whose fault is that though? Max, or they that gave him the power… The FIA and WMSC we hear little about, who are these people and what do they do, what powers do they have, why don’t they play a bigger role? (an interesting future article perhaps)… do we want a democracy though? that is all red tape and takes forever to get decisions, if at all… FOTA have shown this already regarding the Diffusers, and many other issues in the past where the teams couldn’t agree.

        I agree, Max should step down, but only because he is getting on a bit and showing signs of dementia. Who is going to take his place, should there be anyone with that amount of power? Can we trust anyone… Jean Todt? Ron Dennis? Do they care about the sport?

        1. The fact that Max sold it at what you seem to indicate is a good price to keep costs reasonable is glossed over, simply because he sold it to Bernie.

          Sorry, how does Mosley selling something for (potentially) much less than it’s worth cut costs?

          1. Sorry, how does Mosley selling something for (potentially) much less than it’s worth cut costs?

            So, what are you saying? Max should have sold it for £2bn… so you can then blame him directly for the high costs to the circuits and participants to cover the loan repayments. Or, that Max or Bernie should have sold it for £2bn to someone that didn’t need a loan to cover it? Regardless that most business deals are done through Finance rather than real cash.

        2. When he sold the right to Bernie for 100 years for 309 million. Who in their right mind sells anything good and poular for 100 yrs. In the US none of the major sports right are sold for more than 3-5yr stretches, because the organizers know that in that lenght of time they will need to renegotiate for a new and better deal. Even the stadiums only sell their rights for 20yrs max and all you get to do is put your corporations name on it.

          As far as safety is concerned, F1/FIA didnt have a choice as some of the tracks needed some things fixed and as we have seen some of the countries like to hold someone responsible for the deaths whether justified or not.

          I dont know who will be selected or will run for the position that Max holds, but it doesnt need to be anyone who is beholding to any of the players in the sport now. There have been to many deals in back rooms and buddies given sweatheart deals in this area. You cannot get rid of all of it but you can get rid of the glaring examples of it. I dont believe Ron or Jean Todt would want it anyway.

          As far as fans loosing out, they have been for a long time. Some people save up all year just to attend 1 GP. That is excessive.
          The US voted with its feet is correct, and after the teams temper tantrum in 2006, I dont blame them. I have seen other series have the same problems at the same track and they just made the teams perform mandaotry tire changes in a certain lap window. It may not have been as good a race as the others but when you have that many people paying big money to see these kind of races and then they just pull off the track after the formation lap. the FIA/Bernie/Max/ anyone else involved should have know it was going to be the death of the sport at that venue, if not the country.

          Max needs to go for all the reasons that you listed and then so many more. He has been the head of FIA since 1991 and I have heard more news involving him in the last 12 months than I did in the previouos 17 years, mostly negative.

        3. So Dougie, If the weekend of may 1st 1994 had only produced the death of Roland Ratzenberger, do you think max Mosley and the FIA would have bent over backwards to change the safety of F1 by altering circuits and changing regulations specs of the cars.
          I highly doubt it.
          They only went for a hug step on safety because of Senna.
          However that does not mean Max Mosley is not to thanked for helping with safety. But the BRDC has to be thanked also for pushing the FIA on safety too. I remember all to often hearing Coulthard calling for more and more safety.

          1. And Dougie you mention JYS Jackie Stewart.

            Was it not he sho started the safety, or at least called for extreme safety measures in F1?

          2. And Dougie you mention JYS Jackie Stewart.
            Was it not he sho started the safety, or at least called for extreme safety measures in F1?

            Agreed, but we are talking about FIA Presidents here.

    2. I think rather than lump it all at Mosley’s door, and he should get a fair share of the blame, there are plenty of anti-fan boneheaded policies implimented over the years. Bernie and FOM should get a huge dose due to his adding countries and tracks because he can charge pretty much whatever he wants and get his price,(on behalf of CVC Capital.) Also, lets not forget the teams themselves. I don’t remember Ferrari or Mclaren being the most fan concerned organizations when Jean Todt, and Ron Dennis were running their respective shows. Frank Williams too for that matter. Their interest was always “whats in it for my team” and the hell with everybody else, fans included. Only recently after Todt and Dennis left did things begin to change on the teams side. Frank left FOTA and signed with FOM/FIA thinking this was the best thing to do for the team. Look, I’m a fan of the teams and the drivers but until recently I think there has been a good deal of blame that could be spread around. Probably starting with Max and the FIA.

      1. To be fair, Leaf, Ferrari were equally as good to their fans back then & I`d guess McLaren were as well.
        The fans, like the teams, have come together more over recent months. There`s more interaction going on all round.
        You`re right though that nothing could change while the old guard of Todt, Dennis & others were around. To me that also includes Max & Bernie. We won`t get a new F1 until they`ve also gone.

        1. I agree with that.
          New blood would be a good thing.
          Max needs to go and Bernie does too. I think Bernie has done alot for F1 over the years. Probably over the last 10-15 years however, it’s just money/power. Alot of this goes back to the sellout to Bernie and then Bernie selling a majority to CVC. He is an employee, basically, of CVC and is true only to them.(and himself)

          1. Agreed, Formula One needs new blood at all levels. The era of Ron & Jean is behind us now, and Max & Bernie are part of that.

      2. The worst thing that has happened in F1 in the last 15 years was the deaht of Ayrton Senna.
        Not because of someone with a bit of talent and an icon was killed, but because it was the catalyst for MOSLEY and ECCLESTONE to change formula one to their benefit. One for power and the other for money.

        1. I totally agree.

  7. HounslowBusGarage
    28th June 2009, 21:45

    “That year began with 34 cars from 18 teams on the grid.”
    Don’t understand. Were 1-car teams allowed in 1991?

    1. Fondmetal and Coloni both fielded single car teams for the 1991 season, neither with any great success.

      Coloni stood out as not once making it through pre-qualifying, let alone getting onto the grid. Unsurprisingly, since the team operated on a staff of about 6 people.

      The team was sold to Andrea Sassetti at the end of the year and renamed Andrea Moda – who stand out as possibly the most shambolic and useless F1 team of all time, and possibly fuelled Mosley’s desire for quality over quantity.

  8. Coloni & Fondmetal had only one car each, I think.
    In fact Coloni only had a handful of team members. This was in the days of pre-qualifying & qualifying.

    1. HounslowBusGarage
      28th June 2009, 22:14

      Yes Persempre, quite so. You’re right.

  9. HounslowBusGarage
    28th June 2009, 22:08

    I think you probably out to add Magny-Cours under the “Added” list as its first GP was in 1991, or more accurately under the “Added and Lost” bit.

    1. No, Magny-Cours was added to the calendar in 1991, before Mosley took over.

  10. Much of the safety was a result of 1994, am sure any one else in the same position would have done at least the same, if not a better job. So it’s a big fat fail on all fronts for Mosley for me.

    1. 1994, when there were 2 fatalities. why not 4 decades earlier, when someone died at every race?

      1. Good point. F1 has always been a dangerous sport and in the old days that was what seperated the racers from the posers. You can only engineer so much safety into a car and track. Danger is part of the sport.

    2. Perhaps I’m over-keen to give credit to Max Mosley (that would be a first) but there was quite a lot of opposition to some of the changes he made in 1994.

      1. I guess Kubica, Wurz and many other drivers are thankful that Max didn’t listen to the opposition.

      2. And the main change in 94 was cutting a hole in the air box to reduce speeds. All the teams had a hole cut behind the air inlet along the part of the airflow, Ferreri had theirs cut to the side, minimizing the effect. Ferrari won that year and there was a protest.

        Mosley also reduced the size of the tyres, saying there was no excitement as drivers were not spinning off track.

        1. I do believe it was Benneton with the side cuts in the engine cover and went on to win.

          1. The main change that happened during 1994 was the plank – Michael Schumacher was disqualified from the Belgian GP because of excessive plank wear, giving the win to Damon Hill.

            Ferrari certainly had side cuts (about the size of a cigarette packet) rather than the rear cut out envisaged by the new regulations. But I don’t think it caused much of a row because the airbox changes didn’t have much effect anyway. The Benetton software and refuelling scandals were much bigger.

          2. I remember Schumacher chasing Berger till he spun out at the German GP giving Ferrari their only win that year. Ferrari was forced to adopt the same cut out profile as the other teams. Not much of a scandal, but the car passed the scrutineers.

  11. And don’t forget, that before Mr Mosley, Jackie Stewart (whom Max hates) and Dr Sid Watkins were already hard at work on safety and Mr Mosley jumped on the bandwagon.

    1. sure, jackie stewart has been championing safety for as long as he’s been involve with cars. but, he’s not responsible for making rules.

      “hey, how about not strapping my legs to the gas tank?”
      sounds like common sense to me, but i don’t make the rules, either.

      anybody could have done it.
      somebody should have done it.
      nobody did it, until mosley.

      1. And would Mosley have done it if it were not for such an icon in the sport dying? No, i doubt it.

        And if M Schumacher had died while he was competing in F1 as champion then the same would have happened then.

  12. Simon Wilkins
    28th June 2009, 22:34

    I dont think Donington will be taking Silverstone’s place on the 2009 calendar, maybe 2010 though :)

    Spa ought to be in the list too

    Donington was used in 1993

  13. Interesting article keith what you can point to is that max has increased the cost of the sport so dramatically that the so called financial crisis he tried to change was caused internally by him.What you could possible do is a car’s price to race in 1991 versus 2009 then apply the cost of having to comply with the numerous rule changes over the years.V8’s to V10’s back to V8’s would be a good start then go on from there.
    Max may well be remembered by some for safety but the majority of fans will remember him for the trouble he caused in the sport and the position we have just come out of.I won’t miss him!

  14. Somehow I don’t think all credit should go to Max re: safety. Anyone who’d been FIA president during the Ratzenberg&Senna incidents would still take the same measures to ensure safety in future Formula 1 races. Seems a bit of a knee-jerk reaction on his part imho, plus if he didn’t do anything about it everyone would be ganging up on him. (Come to think of it, despite that everyone’s still ganging up on him.)

    1. Anyone who’d been FIA president during the Ratzenberg&Senna incidents would still take the same measures to ensure safety in future Formula 1 races. Seems a bit of a knee-jerk reaction on his part imho

      I guess that is why during the 60’s and 70’s the FIA President was doing lots for safety. A knee jerk reaction there also I guess, or in reality a distinct lack of. At least Max reacted… others may well have… but the fact is Max reacted.

      1. How many big and famous 3 times world champions and F1 icons died in the 60’s and 70’s Dougie?

        1. In 1982 a driver named Gilles Villeneuve (who I suspect would win a popularaty contest at the time easier than Senna would in 94) died on track. A couple of months later his former team mate and championship leader Didier Pironi got maimed in another accident. FIA did nothing about safety then. As it did little to nothing after pretty much every other high profile death prior to Senna.

  15. Right – I have been reading whats been posted over this last month and shut up when people have been taking sides on fota or fia – because what I knew would happen has happened – fota gave in Max said I’m going and – as expected the old b*****d has started to renage on a supposed agreement – when will those so called leaders of industry – power brokers?? – learn.
    The only good weasel is a dead and buried one – they have made the classic dumb move – started celebrating before the finish!!
    They should have stuck to their collctive guns and formed their breakaway series – I now feel Frankenmax and the the little evil dwarf – will wreak their vengance – stupid fota – poor fota – dead fota – back to the max and bernie F1 series – ps – who the hell is asking Max back??
    Was it the peruvian secretay of the fia – or himalayan representative?? – now bernie that would be a great place for herman to flatten out and make boring

  16. Don’t think you can underestimate the importance of Jackie stewart and Emmerson fitipaldi in the very early 70’s on safety.What happened in 94 was tragic but because it involved Senna things were changed. Sadly it would not have happened if it was only the death on the sat of Ratzenberger and also Rubens accident.I have watched for 40 years and the last thing I want is to see people loose their life in sport but it did happen and I saw many of my heros die.Max has moved the sport forward in this aspect but not on his own. Sid Watkins was there 10 years before.I always thought Max had been good for motor sport not only F1 but he has become a complete power freak and is now trying to destroy the sport through legislation.The FIA is there to govern and protect F1 not try to change it every year.

  17. M.M. gets credit for that safety increase, but I other than that he hasn’t really left that same good taste in our mouths that his initials stand for. (M&M’s the candy coated chocolate)

  18. Max should resign now!!!
    29th June 2009, 0:39

    I don’t follow the WRC but I’ve heard fans complaining about him there as well. I know this article is only trying to make an observation of what he has done to the F1 world, but wouldn’t it be great to see what he has done or not far racing in general? After all he is the president of the FiA not F1.

    1. True & Max is also responsible for safety in Rally which continues to have fatalities.
      OK, I know it`s harder to make Rally as safe as single seaters. I still give more credit to Prof Sid who was the F1 medic. How much of the improvement in F1 safety is down to his ideas which were signed off by the FIA, I wonder?
      To give Max his due he has been responsible for introducing the crash tests etc from F1 to the ordinary motoring world.

      1. But was it really max’s idea for the crash testing, or did he just take the credit?

        In fact he may or may not have taken credit for all the ideas on safety over the years.

        But then if that is true then all the crazy ideas could have been made by others and him taking the credit.

  19. In 2007 Max made Ron Dennis cry….that must count for something.

  20. I think that the ‘fans’ have a had a rough deal from all sides of F1.Max,with his silly rules.The teams for getting lost in their own self interest,and Bernie for generally making the whole thing rather expensive.

    Will it get any better ? Well the rather silly FIA are still there.The teams are unlikely to have suddenly become the fans best friends,and,of course,Bernie will still be taking us to ‘Wherethehellarewestan’ to get his money and sell their cars.

Jump to comment page: 1 2 3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.