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
Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City
Silverstone, Great Britain*
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
Valencia Street Circuit, Spain
Marina Bay, Singapore
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?ů‘ťľ‘šůs 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.
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.