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JULY 2, 2004

Something to consider

FIA President Max Mosley says he is leaving his job in October, a year before the end of his mandate, and the news has taken everyone by surprise. In the Formula 1 paddock there is no shortage of theories about what has caused the unexpected decision and many F1 people are sufficiently blinkered to think that Mosley's decision is somehow related to the ongoing politics of Grand Prix racing.

Further investigation, however, appears to suggest that the situation has nothing to do with F1, except perhaps that some of the powerbrokers in the FIA feel that Mosley is too close to F1 and does not pay sufficient attention to other areas in the sport. Mosley decided to quit after he was defeated on one issue in the World Motor Sport Council on Wednesday and then on Thursday morning withdrew his proposals about splitting the job of the FIA President into two roles because it became clear that it was going to be defeated in the FIA General Assembly.

The rank of file of the FIA did not appear to very interested in the plans which Mosley had mentioned for the future, which included names such as Jean Todt and Marco Piccinini. Nor, for that matter, was there any great enthusiasm for the FIA Presidency to go to another member of the F1 clique that has allowed Formula 1 to dominate FIA activity and which has allowed so much money to flow out of the sport. There also appears to have been widespread discontent that the World Rally Championship has become a mess. Rallying is a key element in the FIA because there are many member countries which do not have circuit racing or cannot afford to pay the prices demanded for the big international events.

The warnings have been there since April when Jacques Regis, the President of the FFSA, made an off-the-cut remark about not having received any help at all from Max Mosley in his efforts to save the French Grand Prix. One rarely hears open criticism of Mosley in FIA circles and it was an indication that there were undercurrents about the way in which the sport was being run.

Only a few days before Mosley's decision to quit Regis was again firing criticism at Mosley, saying that the FIA President "needs to change his policies. If not we will change the president."

The fact that Regis was willing to say such things openly indicated a level of unspoken support from other FIA people. We have heard suggestions that there was a well-developed plan to put up a very serious candidate against Mosley in the FIA elections in October 2005. No-one seems to know who this might be but our understanding is that it is not someone with any involvement in the sporting side of the FIA activities. Perhaps there is a plan for the new man to devolve power over the sport to a deputy (perhaps even an independent president as Mosley was suggesting) and that this is the role that Regis sees for himself in the long term.

What is important in all this is not the details of the politicking but rather the effect it will have on the sport and certainly there are a lot of fears in F1 that without Mosley's strong presence the sport will go even more out of control. For that we will have to wait and see but certainly it is unlikely that much good will come of the situation unless whoever replaces Mosley is willing (and able) to stand up and defend the interest of the sport against the commercial interests which have been so pervasive in recent times.

More worrying perhaps is the fact that the on-again-off-again relationship between Mosley and Ecclestone will come to an end and the next president of the FIA may not have the same comfortable rapport that the two men have enjoyed.

That has the potential for more clashes in the years ahead as the FIA tries to find the balance it wants to see between the importance of F1 and the rest of the sport.