Max Mosley in his own words

The late Max Mosley was one of motorsport's most powerful figures, who played an indelible role in shaping the landscape of modern racing in three terms as the FIA's president between 1993 and 2009. Upon the release of his autobiography in 2015, he sat down with MAURICE HAMILTON for sister title GP Racing

Max Mosley in his own words
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Max Mosley: author. It's yet another title for a man who can already be called son of Sir Oswald Mosley and Diana Mitford; barrister; racing driver; F1 team owner; F1 prime mover; close associate of Bernie Ecclestone; president of the FIA; driving force behind the life-saving Euro NCAP; scourge of scurrilous newspapers and their unscrupulous methods.

It hardly needs saying that a Mosley autobiography makes compelling reading. But deciding to go ahead with it is one thing; writing it is quite another, even for someone of Mosley's intellect and eloquence.

"It was really hard work," says Mosley. "How people produce a whole succession of books is just beyond me. If I'd known how much work this was going to be, I'd probably never have done it - but I'm very glad I did.

"Nobody concerned with running motorsport in the past has actually written about it from their point of view. Indeed, this also applies to sport generally: the people behind, say, the Olympics or FIFA, have never recorded their thoughts.

"It's interesting to see any sport from the point of view of the person who has to try and make the rules."

Max Mosley, 1997

Max Mosley, 1997

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Mosley's rulemaking was based on experience gained as a competitor, entrant, administrator and, initially, as an unexpected convert to motorsport thanks to having been given free tickets to attend a race meeting at Silverstone.

"I was mildly curious but, had I not been given the tickets, I'd probably never have gone to a motor race," he says. "I was standing on the outside of Woodcote at Silverstone in its old form and the minute I saw the Formula Junior race come into sight, flat-out under what was the old Daily Express bridge and into Woodcote, I simply thought: 'Oh yes!'

"It was the speed. That's always impressed me; even now. It's the almost violent speed, which is why I disagree with Bernie about noise. I think if you're there, it's the speed. If you're not there, noise doesn't really make much difference when watching on television."

"I was big enough to understand what racing was about and I'm very glad I did it, but there would have been no point in going on. It's just as dangerous in 10th place as it is in first place" Max Mosley

Typically, having been impressed by what he saw that day, Mosley was determined to be a part of it. Club racing was followed by Formula 2 and competing on classic tracks in Europe against the top names.

That led to an epiphany at Zolder when Max was overtaken by Jochen Rindt after the F2 champion had been delayed at the start.

"I hadn't done very much before going into F2 because a season's club racing probably meant about 15 hours of driving competitively," recalls Mosley.

"When I got to my first F2 race in 1968, I was in no way ready to compete at that level. Nowadays, you wouldn't be allowed to do that.

Max Mosley, 1968 European F2 Vallelunga

Max Mosley, 1968 European F2 Vallelunga

Photo by: Motorsport Images

"During a race at Zolder, an incident had forced Rindt to start from the back. He caught and passed me going through what were then two very fast right-handers. He came round the outside and I could see his hands working the wheel, doing what came naturally to him. He was in another league.

"That's when I began to suspect I didn't have the talent to get to the very top. I was big enough to understand what racing was about and I'm very glad I did it, but there would have been no point in going on. It's just as dangerous in 10th place as it is in first place."

There would be hazards of a different kind in 1969 when Mosley, along with three others, formed March, a racing car company with extremely ambitious plans.

As if building, entering and selling cars for F1 was not enough, March also announced plans to make cars ready for F2, Formula 3 and Can-Am sportscar racing.

In an extraordinary debut, two March-Fords occupied the front row of the first grand prix of 1970 in South Africa, a March 701 entered by Ken Tyrrell and driven by Jackie Stewart going on to win in Spain. But, beneath the surface, Mosley was paddling to keep the business afloat.

"Starting March Engineering in the way we did was unwise," recalls Mosley. "We started a capital-intensive business with virtually no money. That's the sort of thing you do in your 20s but, when you get a bit more sense, you don't.

"It was so close to going bust several times and it must be said, as related in the book, that if Walter Hayes [of the Ford Motor Company] hadn't told us to raise the price of a 701 rolling chassis from £6000 to £9000, we'd have been finished within the year."

Max Mosley, March offices 1970

Max Mosley, March offices 1970

Photo by: Motorsport Images

The involvement with F1 had brought Mosley into contact with Ecclestone, who then owned Brabham and was beginning to scratch the surface of F1's huge financial potential.

The rise of the Formula One Constructors' Association was deeply opposed by Jean-Marie Balestre, president of the sport's governing body. Having relinquished his interest in March, Mosley relished the confrontation.

It became a game of bluff, culminating in FOCA running a non-championship grand prix in South Africa at the beginning of 1981. To all intents and purposes, the televised race was a success. In reality, the FOCA teams were on their knees.

"Looking back, it's entertaining and it's fun but, at the time, it was alarming because you never knew you were going to win and there were so many jobs at stake" Max Mosley

"It really was that bad," says Mosley. "If Balestre had just held on for another three weeks, that would have been it; he would have been able to dictate terms.

"We were very close to unconditional surrender but we were fortunate that we had South Africa and Bernie - as only he could - had tyres we could use.

"Another stroke of luck was that Long Beach was next, and having a race in the United States forced Renault [a non-FOCA team and Balestre supporter] to say they had to race there. That was it. Balestre's stance was undermined.

"Looking back, it's entertaining and it's fun but, at the time, it was alarming because you never knew you were going to win and there were so many jobs at stake."

Max Mosley, Jean-Marie Balestre 1981 Italian GP

Max Mosley, Jean-Marie Balestre 1981 Italian GP

Photo by: Motorsport Images

The FIA's position had changed by the time Mosley became president in 1991. When he reflects on that era, one of his most taxing periods was the aftermath of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

"Dealing with the fallout from the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna was difficult," says Mosley. "But it turned into something very positive with regard to safety improvements.

"Indianapolis in 2005 [when problems with the Michelin tyres meant only six cars raced] was also difficult although, looking back now, it was blindingly obvious what to do even though, at the time, everyone's calling you up saying: 'You've got to put in a chicane; you've got to do this; you've got to do that; it's a disaster.'

"What I did [refusing to change the track or racing circumstances] was completely right."

The Indianapolis incident was one of a number that indicated Mosley and Ecclestone were not as hand-in-glove as popular opinion claimed.

"Indeed not," says Mosley. "In the FOCA days, we had a good routine and, after discussion, generally agreed on what to do.

"When I became president, Bernie understood perfectly well that sometimes what's in the interest of the FIA is not in Bernie's interest. There were conflicts but they were very seldom public - although they are now in the book."

Max Mosley, Bernie Ecclestone 2003 San Marino GP

Max Mosley, Bernie Ecclestone 2003 San Marino GP

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Aside from putting his energy into writing, Mosley has kept a watching brief on his successor as FIA president Jean Todt, and the accompanying criticism.

"I'm aware it's being alleged that Jean is not doing much in F1," says Mosley.

"To be fair, I remember saying to him before he was elected - and he agreeing - that motorsport is important, particularly from the safety point of view, but you can work all you like in F1 and rallies and so on, and maybe you will save one life every year maybe.

"On the roads, 3000 people are dying worldwide. Every day. The FIA president is in a better position to do something about that than anyone.

"What really matters to the FIA is road safety, because it's the biggest element killing people between the ages of 15 and 24. Jean took that on board" Max Mosley

"If you could make even a tenth of one per cent difference, three people every day - not one person every year - that should be the least you do.

"What really matters to the FIA is road safety, because it's the biggest element killing people between the ages of 15 and 24. Jean took that on board.

"He's devoting his energy to that and probably feels 'let F1 get on with it. They ought to be able to run the thing without me interfering'."

Max Mosley, Jean Todt 2009

Max Mosley, Jean Todt 2009

Photo by: Motorsport Images

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