SEPTEMBER 6, 2000
Mosley position strengthened by meetings with teams
When Max Mosley, the president of the FIA, walked into the foyer of the Hilton Hotel at Heathrow airport's terminal four on 30 August, he had been already been tipped off that several top formula one team principals - including McLaren's Ron Dennis and Benetton's Flavio Briatore - wanted him to resign his position in charge of international motor racing's governing body.
Mosley also knew very well that the teams had absolutely no chance of getting their way. His position as FIA president owes nothing to the team owners' personal preferences, but on the votes of the 123 countries who make up the membership of the organisation which represents not just motor racing, but motoring interests in general, across the world.
He also knows that handling criticism and dissatisfaction from members of the formula one community goes with the badge. This most costly and lavish of international sports relies for its success on a complex inter-dependency between the competitors, the governing body and its commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone for its success and, by definition, its cashflow.
Predictably, the teams shyed away from a direct confrontation, confining themselves to murmurings of vague discontent before knuckling down to the agenda of the day.
"The underlying gripe from the teams seems to be that they feel the FIA in general, and me in particular, has too much say in the interpreting of rules and running formula one as a whole," said Mosley.
"But that's what we at the FIA regard as our job. Writing precise and clear laws has preoccupied people in all walks of life since time immemorial."
In particular, the teams expressed the view that the technical regulations which govern formula one are not clear. Some also hint darkly, but anonymously, that such devices have been used to favour the Ferrari team who Bernie Ecclestone, the formula one commercial rights holder, would like to win the world championship in the belief that it would be good for business.
"The Ferrari bias allegations are mildly irritating," he said. "I think there is almost a case for trying to reassure Ferrari that they are not being discriminated against when they see that the president of the FIA, the commercial rights holder, most of the officials and scrutineers are all British."
This is not a viewpoint which gains much currency amongst the British constructors. Yet Mosley still feels that today's formula one team owners could usefully develop a more realistic perspective towards the world championship.
"They go into the formula one paddock where everybody is talking about formula one, every journalist is writing about formula one and wants to get into their motorhome to talk to them, and they start to think that this is the whole world," he said.
"It isn't. It is a sport - a very important sport - but it's not the whole world. And it's not only the whole world, it's not actually their (italics) world. It's actually a world which we've been quietly running for the past 50 years and it's suited them to come into and it's suited us to have them.
"They entered it because it suits them. As I pointed out to Flavio Briatore (the Benetton team managing director), Benetton doesn't have to tell the FIA when they sell their team to Renault. And we don't have to ask Benetton if we sell the rights to Bernie or anybody else."
Some team owners think that Ecclestone, in his role as commercial rights holder, will have to cut a financially more advantageous deal with the teams in order to get their signatures on a renewed Concorde agreement in 2007.
They believe Bernie must do this sooner rather than later in order to extract maximum value from any forthcoming stock exchange float of his F1 Holdings empire, which controls the television revenues and other income from the formula one world championship.
Mosley is not so sure, believing that the teams have a very good deal as things stand. "They share 47 per cent of the gross income from the commercial rights," he said. "If, say, it costs Bernie 200 million pounds to organise digital television coverage in a country and he only gets 100 million pounds' income, the teams share 47 million of that and Bernie takes the loss."
Mosley is also dismissive towards suggestions that he and Ecclestone run the sport in the manner of a long-running old pal's act.
"Bernie and are personal friends, but there are times when I make decisions he doesn't like just as I am sure he makes decisions which I don't like," he said.
He also fundamentally believes that, as things stand, the teams are wise enough to realise that they are passengers on a lucrative gravy train.
For their part, the team owners know that Mosley is something of a poacher turned gamekeeper. In 1980, as Ecclestone's legal advisor, he helped frame outline plans - under that title - for a breakaway formula one series at a time when the teams were fighting Mosley's predecessor Jean-Marie Balestre for a bigger share of the commercial pie.
In the end, the rival series was a non-starter, teaching Mosley at a relatively early stage that challenging the sport's governing body was absolutely fruitless.
"What we do know from the split between CART and the Indy Racing League in the USA is that the value of two parts is an awful lot less than the value of the whole," he warned.
Mosley recites this piece of theorising almost as a warning shot. Neither he nor the teams believe for a second that anybody is contemplating a rival series. But his tone leaves no doubt at all that the FIA is not about to compromise over the way in which it runs formula one.