SEPTEMBER 2, 2008
What games are these?
Bernie Ecclestone has told the BBC that he would welcome Max Mosley back into the Grand Prix paddock after the sado-masochistic sex scandal in March, which has kept Mosley out of F1 for most of the year. The FIA President made a brief appearance at Monaco, but this was simply a photo opportunity designed to give the impression that it was business as usual.
Ecclestone's remarks are clearly preparing the ground for Mosley's visit to Monza in 10 days time.
The stories are interesting in that they mark a further rapprochement between the FIA President and F1's commercial boss. The big question being asked in F1 circles is why this should be happening. The FIA obviously sees the move as a sign of Ecclestone's precarious position if Mosley decides to try to restructure the commercial side of the sport, or even organise a sale of the rights from CVC Capital Partners to another entity.
Ecclestone says that "people have now really come to the conclusion that whatever happened with Max was Max and nothing to do with anybody else and I don't think they really care any more". This is not the impression one gets from elsewhere, but one can understand why Ecclestone would be arguing that. He knows that stability is the best way to generate income and is trying to make sure that things do not get out of his control. He is realistic and pragmatic enough to understand that he is best-placed being an ally of Mosley rather than getting into a fight. Working with the FIA is a sensible course of action unless Mosley moves to restructure the commercial arrangements as a means of creating a better legacy for himself. This remains a possibility.
The sport wants nothing to do with the Mosley Scandal, but has found it difficult to avoid the link because Mosley refused to resign. The fact that he won a privacy action in London this summer is portrayed by his spin doctors as a sign that there is no reason to resign, but there remain many who feel that the judgement is not a relevant point and that Mosley's behaviour remains incompatible with the office he holds. F1 is a fairly amoral world at the best of times but many of the companies involved want this situation to be improved in order to attract a new generation of squeaky clean sponsors and get rid of F1's slightly tawdry image.
These attitudes are, however, irrelevant since Mosley has won the support of the FIA membership - if only perhaps because of an ineffectual opposition - and that vote must be respected. The mandate he was given lasts only until the end of 2009 and Mosley says he will quit at that point, although many in F1 believe that he will either change his mind and try to go on beyond that point or perhaps switch to a slightly different role yet still retain the power with the FIA.
The situation is complicated by the fact that F1 is going into a period during which there needs to be some serious rule-making to safeguard the future of the sport; and a solid new commercial deal needs to be agreed between the parties involved in order to give the teams value. This is the reason that they have grouped to gether to create a new team organisation, although there seems to have been little progress thus far in negotiations.