Honda F1 website

JULY 2, 2009

Is this Max Mosley's strategy?

During the Battle of Hastings in 1066 legend has it that William of Normandy was nearly defeated after his first major attack on the English on Senlac Ridge. As the Normans retreated the English broke ranks and charged after the Normans, yelling rude things and killing as many of them as possible. After a lengthy melee, the armies reformed again. William stopped for a think and concluded that without cohesion the English were much less effective and so tried a number of attacks and then deliberate retreats, drawing the English off the ridge and killing as many as possible. This weakened the English and after King Harold was hit in the eye by an arrow they were defeated.

What does this have to do with motor racing?

Well, it appears that Max Mosley may be attempting a similar strategy with FOTA. His initial attack ended in a near rout. He was forced to agree terms of a deal which was clearly not what he wanted - even though he says that he always intended to retire, having made a pledge to the FIA General Assembly a year ago that he would not stand for re-election in 2009. At the time he was fighting for his life as FIA and so said was necessary to achieve his own survival. He promised the same to the F1 teams at the recent World Council. Now it seems he is saying he may not stand by these pledges, citing FIA members asking him to stay. As Mosley said himself back in 1991 when he was trying to unseat his predecessor Jean-Marie Balestre, clubs rely on the FIA leaders for many things and it is best not to rock the boat. They are bound to be supportive if asked or simply because they wish to curry favour.

This kind of policy will only work once or twice, after which no-one will trust anything that Mosley says.

It would be the story of the boy who cried wolf.

FOTA is currently lulled into a sense of security, which means that there are probably no preparations going on for a FOTA championship. If Mosley takes a couple of months off, doing very little, and then comes back in October he will weaken FOTA's position completely. Some say it is already too late for FOTA to make its own championship. Some argue that when the teams realise what has happened Ferrari will break away from FOTA and do a deal with the FIA and FOM and the rest of the FOTA teams will have to follow, getting whatever terms they can get. Others say that FOTA will stay together and that the FIA clubs will eventually have to understand that Mosley has to go. Mosley is no doubt hoping to get to the election in October before that happens.

In the meantime, all of this is damaging the F1 brand. In a poll carried out by more than half the respondents believed that the row between the Formula 1 teams and the FIA, has damaged the F1 brand. Sponsors are attracted to the Formula 1 brand thanks to its associations with glamour, fame and exciting technology. They are attracted by Ferrari and by the Monaco GP. They are not attracted by what is happening right now.