Max Mosley interview in 2008

Max Mosley interview in 2008

While Mosley was not without his critics during his lengthy tenure at the head of motor racing’s governing body, there is no denying the legacy he left in terms of improved safety on both the roads and race tracks.

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Mosley’s time at the FIA ended under a cloud of controversy though when he was the subject of a tabloid expose by the News of the World over his sex life.

While Mosley stayed on to finish his mandate as president, his subsequent years were spent pushing for improved privacy laws in the courts.

During the News of the World scandal, Mosley kept away from the spotlight, but from his Monaco office in the summer of 2008 he offered his first full length interview about his thoughts on the affair, his future in motor racing and where he saw F1 heading in the years to come.

The interview offers a perfect snapshot of Mosley’s charm, wit, strong opinions, and willingness to dish it out to his critics. But it also offered proof of the bigger picture thinking, as he talked of an F1 that needed a budget cap and fuel efficient engines – years before the sport introduced them.

Here is the interview in full…

Max Mosley, FIA President

Max Mosley, FIA President

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Q: Let’s start with the unavoidable questions. The privacy action that you won – what do you think that the case did for your ability to do your job? And what did it do for F1?

Max Mosley: “It is obviously better to win than lose. But the key thing was winning the FIA confidence vote because if you are an elected official, if your electorate don’t want you to continue, then you have to stop. Winning the case was good because it stopped all the nonsense about Nazism – that has now gone and that is the thing that really mattered. Now, as far as doing the job is concerned, with the Nazi thing out of the way, it will have no effect at all on me.

“The truth of the matter is this – that no grown up person gives the slightest damn about what other people do in their sex lives. It is not even a subject for discussion. It used to be 50 years ago that if someone was gay then it was a big drama. In England it was illegal and you could go to prison. But all that is now finished – people don’t care. So, as long as it is adults, it is consensual, and it is private and, as they say, you don’t frighten the horses, then nobody cares. The grown ups simply don’t care and the people who do care are not worth talking to.

“The idea that I cannot meet this important person or that important person is just nonsense. I don’t think it was ever the case – it was invented. I was never going to go near Spain, I’ve never been near Turkey in my life. (Marco) Piccinini had already in January taken over from me in Monaco because I don’t like going to official functions, he did it for me in the rally and he did it for me at the grand prix, and I think the Bahraini people – it is nothing to do with me or it, they just didn’t want a huge distraction at their grand prix which I can understand.

“So, for example, the crown prince in Jordan, a few days later had no problem at all – he was photographed and we talked. It is simply not an issue, you don’t get anyone sensible the least bit interested in it.

“Unless your sex life consists of very seldomly having any form of sexual activity and then doing what in English we call the missionary position with the lights out, where do you stop? Where do you draw the line?

“Grown ups just don’t care. They say it is none of my business and couldn’t care less. There have always been people in F1 who are homosexual and now it is pretty much okay.”

Max Mosley, FIA President

Max Mosley, FIA President

Photo by: Sutton Images

Q: Did you discover a lot of hypocrisy in this situation?

Mosley: “There really is. If you had every detail of everyone’s sex life in F1, I would find it very boring. I couldn’t care less, as long as I don’t have to do it. You will find they weren’t all missionary position only with the lights out.”

Q: Did you ever consider retiring over the matter?

Mosley: “Absolutely not. My immediate reaction when it all happened was that this is completely outrageous, and when someone does something like that, your immediate instinct is to counter attack. And that is just what I did.

“Then people said you should retire – but my attitude is that it was for the FIA to decide. Then Bernie (Ecclestone) was saying it would be terrible if you lost the vote, and I said if I lose the vote, I lose the vote. It is a democracy. If they vote for me then fine and if they vote against me then I accept that.

That was the only thing that entered my mind – if the majority of FIA members wanted me to stop then I would stop. It is their FIA, not my FIA. But when a very substantial number said they wanted me to go on, then the matter was finished. Then it was question of attacking the News of the World.”

Jaguar Director Jackie Stewart with FIA President Max Mosley

Jaguar Director Jackie Stewart with FIA President Max Mosley

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Q: Do you expect to have to live through continued calls from figures like Jackie Stewart and Eddie Jordan calling for you to resign?

Mosley: “I don’t want to be unkind, but Jackie Stewart is not somebody I listen to – and I don’t think anyone else should. And Eddie Jordan, well dear old Eddie, but in the end he couldn’t cut the mustard. It is like Paul Stoddart, all these people who failed in Formula One, they sit on the outside – and Jackie fits into that category, although 40 years ago he was a brilliant driver – offering advice but no one serious considers them.”

Q: Do you think the whole case was set-up for other reasons than just having a story in a newspaper?

Mosley: “I think there is a strong probability that the News of the World did not just chance on it. That is being investigated very carefully and in great detail at the moment, and sooner or later we will know exactly what happened.”

Q: In your personal view, do you think you were set up?

Mosley: “I think it is more likely than not. Yes.”

Q: There are reports you were warned by Bernie Ecclestone one month before the story broke to be careful, as someone was following your private life. Is it true?

Mosley: “Yes.”

Q: So why didn’t you listen?

Mosley: “Well, Bernie told me that at the end of January. I had a meeting at the end of February with someone called Lord Stevens. He was commissioner of the police in London and is now the prime minister’s adviser on external security. He conducted major enquiries, for example, collusion between the army and terrorists in Northern Ireland, into the death of Princess Diana – so he has done a lot of big enquiries.

“I had a lunch with him to discuss various aspects to do with external security at the FIA – not just for grands prix but to get some advice. He warned me during that lunch that somebody was looking, and so then I started taking a lot of precautions. I took precautions to make sure I wasn’t being followed, and so on.

“But of course, the whole what I was doing was based on the assumption that the women I was involved in were completely trustworthy, and that proved to be the case because four of them came and gave evidence, which was very brave of them as they had no reason to do it.

“But the fifth one, who was a very close friend of the main one, turned out to be the one who made the film. And her husband used to work for the English secret service, and doesn’t any more. It is all of a bit of a morass, but eventually we will get to the bottom of it.”

FIA President Max Mosley talks with Flavio Briatore

FIA President Max Mosley talks with Flavio Briatore

Photo by: Sutton Images

Q: When the story broke before Bahrain, there was this feverish excitement about statements from Honda, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. At the time you didn’t resign and right now you probably feel you would have resigned for the wrong reasons?

Mosley: “Yes, the four manufacturers put their statements out which were based on the Nazi thing. So of course I put out a rather unkind statement, but what annoyed me was they didn’t ask me. One of the first things you learn in running any organisation is that when someone comes in and tells you something that sounds totally outrageous and you are furious with somebody, you have always got to call the somebody in. It is never quite how it was told to you – it was always a bit different.

“They didn’t do that, they didn’t pick the phone up and say, is it true? That is why I said something quite unkind about Mercedes-Benz and BMW – but people do stupid things in the heat of the moment. What they said was foolish because they didn’t make any inquiry. That is all past history now.”

Q: Did you think someone special was behind it?

Mosley: “Yes, well, Bernie gave me a name. But with Bernie, you have got to be a little bit cautious, shall we say.”

Q: Was the name from F1?

Mosley: “Not unconnected.”

Q: Did it turn out to be right one?

Mosley: “I still don’t know for sure who it was yet, and I am not going to blame anybody until I am certain. I think it is probably a subject I’d better draw a veil over.”

Q: What will you do when you find out?

Mosley: “It will depend on their position, but I will think of something.”

Bernie Ecclestone, Ron Dennis, McLaren, Frank Williams, Williams and Max Mosley

Bernie Ecclestone, Ron Dennis, McLaren, Frank Williams, Williams and Max Mosley

Photo by: Sutton Images


Mosley and Ecclestone

Q: You and Bernie have been close for many years, but during all this there appeared to be a rift. Then at Silverstone he suggested you had patched it all up. What was going on in the background, and have you patched it up?

Mosley: “I think that Bernie was under tremendous pressure from one or two people, so he reacted to that. We’ve had frank discussions about the whole thing and I think it is now really behind us.”

Q: It appeared that it was heading for a battle of control of the sport – the teams having more revenues and him discussing if the FIA was even important for F1?

Mosley: “Well, myself I do think that the teams should have more revenue – but even more importantly I think it should be split differently. So we’ve had a certain amount of discussion about that – he says it is commercial and not my concern, and we say it is part of the Concorde Agreement so it is our concern as we have to sign it.

“I think we have an understanding now and the main thing is that he and the teams really need to agree among themselves. If they don’t look after the independent teams, and particularly the two vacancies, it is not good for F1. F1 cannot operate without the independent teams.”

Q: Are you disappointed by some of the things he said?

Mosley: “I think he sometimes said things he didn’t need to say, but then we all do that from time to time.”

Q: The people you referred to who put Bernie under pressure, was that CVC?

Mosley: “I don’t think so much CVC, but different people would ring him up and tell him it was damaging F1 and things like that. I must say in my view it isn’t, because I don’t know a single rational adult that cares what you do in your sex life – and the only thing was this Nazi thing.

“But it was quite obvious that I was going to be able to nail it and prove it (false). Once Scrivener had done his report, it was completely clear, but of course Scrivener saw all the witnesses except the News of the World‘s witnesses – so he hadn’t seen the journalist or the editor, or of course the famous Woman E. Then the judge heard everybody and heard the other side, and simply confirmed what Scrivener had said. So it was just the Nazi thing – and a lot of people should have been more robust in saying it is nonsense. If I say it is nonsense then most people who know me would accept that.

Q: But CVC is a hedge fund. History shows they buy something, put more value to it and sell it. So, just the fact that you would not sign the Concorde Agreement, give up veto right, shows CVC has completely different ideas to you. And you were in their way?

Mosley: “To some extent, but then you see, the discussions I have had with CVC itself have always been very sensible. I don’t see much difficulty in coming to an understanding with CVC. They haven’t lately asked for anything that I don’t think is doable. I think CVC themselves have behaved very well throughout – they never said anything, they never made an adverse comment and have been completely adult about the thing.”

Q: So the situation has moved on since the letter to the clubs?

Mosley: “I think when that happened, my understanding is that not everyone in CVC was in favour of responding – and it would have been wiser not to respond. It is true. They made an opening bid on the 100-year agreement where they asked for more than they imagined they would get. That is all – but what they actually want on the 100-year agreement we can certainly give them, but we haven’t really analysed that.”

Q: But not the veto right?

Mosley: “Well, we don’t really have a veto – we have something close to a veto. We cannot give that up, because you might find someone who was a complete disaster coming in. On the other hand we can soften that a lot if the company has less say over what happens at a grand prix. At the moment, for historical reasons, Bernie has a lot of control over what happens actually at the event. If we stop that – with FOM doing purely the money side and we look after everything involving safety then we can be much more flexible about who owns it.

“You cannot, for example, have some dodgy sports promoter able to give passes to go in the pit lane when the cars are running – because he might give them to anybody. Bernie you can trust completely, he will never give a pass to someone who should not have one.

“I think eventually we will reach a compromise with CVC where they abandon a lot of control that Bernie has over the sporting side of the event, and in return we give them much greater freedom to sell the business to whomever they want.”

Q: What do you want control of?

Mosley: “Well, for example, the scheduling of the events. Who goes where. Plus the system for the timekeeping. I don’t want to do the timekeeping, but I want the ability to audit it. If someone says to us, ‘how do you know it is Hamilton on pole?’ – you need to say we know for this reason. It is a lot of detail, a big list of things like that.

“At the moment it is not a problem because Bernie is completely trustworthy with all that. But if we are going to make it easier for them to sell to anybody then we need to get more control over it – the sporting body needs to take responsibility.”

Max Mosley, President of the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone, F1 Supremo

Max Mosley, President of the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone, F1 Supremo

Photo by: Sutton Images

Q: But nothing appears prepared for life after Bernie?

Mosley: “I think there is going to be an after Bernie because I think F1 will go on longer than Bernie does, and certainly longer than I can. But I am sure that CVC has got ideas of what to do, and I think it will probably move from the entrepreneur to the manager – a different sort of person. There will be a different sort of person running the FIA and a different sort of person running FOM and it should work particularly well.”

Q: The recent events, like CVC modifying the 100-year contract, and the draft of the Concorde Agreement where Bernie did not want to specify who his commercial partner is. Does that not suggest to you that they want to sell as quickly as they can?

Mosley: “They tell me that they are in no hurry. They haven’t got any plan to sell, and last time I spoke to them I said, suggest a sovereign wealth fund came along with a huge amount of money? They say they would be tempted but they say they don’t have any plans to sell it. They want to stabilise it. And I don’t know this, but I suspect, that part of it will be where Bernie has been replaced. If someone wanted to buy it at the moment then the whole business depends on a man who is 78 years old.”

FIA’s Vice-President for sport and 14-time Middle East Rally Champion Mohamed Ben Sulayem with the president of the FIA Max Mosley

FIA’s Vice-President for sport and 14-time Middle East Rally Champion Mohamed Ben Sulayem with the president of the FIA Max Mosley

Photo by: Automobile & Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates

What next for F1 and Mosley?

Q: “You won the vote of confidence and have said you will stay on until your term ends next year. What happens between now and 2009?

Mosley: “I want to get a lot of things tidied up as far as we go. I would like to get the World Rally Championship tidied up and then there are endless smaller things that need tidying up. Then I would like to see structures in place, where the FIA becomes more effective on the road car side, in road safety, and various activities it undertakes. Particularly in developing countries where it is playing more and more of a role, and then I can gracefully retire to the senate.”

Q: You said in a recent interview that you were frustrated you would not be remembered for saving hundreds or thousands of lives, you will be remembered for five hookers in a Chelsea dungeon. What is the feeling of that?

Mosley: “It was Donald Rumsfeld who said: “Stuff happens.” It may be when all the dusts settles, particularly if the main people responsible are successfully prosecuted in the two or three countries where what they did was a criminal offence, then it may all look very different. But there is nothing I can do. I can’t undo it, so I just have to carry on, do the best I can, and hope when history gets written I get remembered for stuff that is more interesting.”

Q: The judge said last week that, although sympathetic to you, you were taking a bit of a risk in doing this sort of stuff as such a high-profile public figure. What’s your reaction to that?

Mosley: “He said to some extent I have brought this on myself. I say, I have been doing it for 45 years and didn’t get caught, so that says a certain amount.

“But also what he said is a bit like saying, you shouldn’t go out to dinner in London because you might get mugged. If you go out to dinner in Monaco you know you won’t get mugged, there is close to zero risk, but in London you could get mugged.

“So you go out to dinner, somebody mugs you and someone can say you brought it on yourself. In a way you did, but then should you shut your entire life down because there is a risk? The risk was minimal, the precautions were elaborate – so I don’t agree with him about that. But it is a view, it’s not a stupid thing to say, but I don’t agree with it.”

Q: Do you believe your ability to do your job has been changed by the revelations?

Mosley: “I don’t think in the slightest. I don’t think any serious person would have any difficulty in dealing with me, let’s put it like that. There has been no indication of such a thing, because grown ups are simply not interested. It is to most people a slightly amusing piece of information about you that is of no consequence. That is how most people see it.”

Max Mosley, FIA President in a newspaper

Max Mosley, FIA President in a newspaper

Photo by: James Moy

Q: So it is a good job you have thick skin?

Mosley: “Well if you are going to sue a newspaper like the News of the World then you need that. It is a little bit like Lyndon Johnson who said: “Being president is like being a Jackass in a hailstorm. There is nothing you can do but stand there and take it. But if you want to have a go, you have to be prepared to do it.”

Q: Would you exclude to run another presidency if FIA members ask you?

Mosley: “There are a large number of people in the FIA who are saying that I must run again in 2009. I don’t want to, because to be very, very honest, I want to stop going to work every day. It is that thing that every morning you cannot believe how much work there is to do. A lot of people with ambitions think all you do is put on a blazer and an armband and you are president of the FIA. You can do it like that, but you are not the person in control then, it is the secretary general. So if you want to have any influence, you have to do an awful lot of work.”

Jean Todt, Ferrari talks to Max Mosley, FIA President

Jean Todt, Ferrari talks to Max Mosley, FIA President

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Q: Is Jean Todt for you the perfect successor, and if so how difficult will it be to implement him as he is not from the clubs?

Mosley: “There are a lot of potential successors and if Jean Todt were interested in doing it, and I am not sure he is, he would obviously be very capable.

“But someone like Jean Todt could command a huge salary in F1. He could go anywhere he wanted, you know he could go into any of those companies to make it work. I think he would be tempted by a role other than the FIA because the FIA presidency is an unpaid position. There are several people who, without naming names, would be competent to do it. And the actual president doesn’t have to be from the club. It is open in the statutes. If someone who was brilliantly clever from one of the clubs and there was an outsider, then the club man would have an advantage because of the support of the clubs.”

Q: What else would you like to do in the future?

Mosley: “A quiet life I think. I would still, under the statutes, be a member of the senate so I would have a little interest in the FIA. But I would really like to lead a more leisurely life. I would like to go to music festivals, I would like to read a lot of books I haven’t had time to read. I suppose that’s what being retired is.”

Q: Would you accept to stay as president of the senate?

MM: “I think that would be unlikely because that is an elected position, and I think it would be more dignified to be there but not to play too big a role. Having been president, you are better than being a member and, if people want your advice, you can give it – but not be prominent. It would be more dignified.”

Q: Would you still watch the races when you are retired?

Mosley: “I think I would go to many more grands prix than I have been to as the president. I am still an enthusiast, but I think it is a mistake to go too often. Plus I cannot afford the time. It is half the week gone if you go to a grand prix.”

Felipe Massa, Ferrari F2008

Felipe Massa, Ferrari F2008

Photo by: Sutton Images

Q: There was one big company backing you in this case, Ferrari. How was your relationship with them during the worst moments?

MM: “Always good. The same thing with Gerhard Berger and I think I am not saying anything secret, also Frank Williams. And also (Dietrich) Mateschitz. And also (Vijay) Mallya. All those people have been completely normal with their relationship.”

Q: Was the help of Ferrari very important for you?

Mosley: “They were not so much helping me, but what they did was keep the same relationship after those events as we had before it. They did not allow what happened to interfere with the relationship. And that is true of the other people I mentioned as well. I think theirs was the adult attitude.

“The big companies who were worried about the image thing, should have started by telephoning me and asking me what was true and what wasn’t true. And then once they knew the truth, anybody grown up would say: it is sex for god sake. There is nothing more to it than that.”

Max Mosley, FIA President

Max Mosley, FIA President

Photo by: Sutton Images

Sorting out F1

Q: You said one of your tasks was to tidy up F1. What needs tidying up?

Mosley: “It does need a real reduction in cost. It needs the independent teams to be able to operate profitably and, if they can’t operate profitably, they won’t operate at all eventually because they have to run at a profit.

“At the moment, if you’re an independent team like Toro Rosso or Force India, you can’t run at a profit – you depend on a billionaire to subsidise you. And there just aren’t enough billionaires around to subsidise. So that problem has got to be solved.

“One of the suggestions which is being made is the first thing you do is move the development area essentially into the drive train, so that you’re looking at the new technologies in the drive train, things like KERS, things like turbo generators, heat recovery, all those sort of things which are relevant to the road.

“You also say to the manufacturers, how much you spend on developing in this area is a matter for you. But, you’ve got to make the drive train available to the independent teams free of charge.

“The development costs they will spend anyway, doing this research into new technologies that hopefully is very road relevant. Then, if they get the unit costs down, particularly if these things have a long life – five races, maybe even ten races – then supplying it to another team is quite inexpensive.

“It’s quite complex this – if you take the analogy with the road cars, to develop a new engine for the S-Class or A series or whatever is very expensive. But the unit cost has to be quite low otherwise you couldn’t sell the cars profitably. If in F1 it’s the same, that the development of the drive train is perhaps expensive but the unit cost is low, then the manufacturer teams can afford to supply these units free of charge without any difficulty to the independent teams. That would make a huge difference to an independent team because at the moment the engine is in the 17 million Euros bracket. The gearbox is not far short of that – you’re talking about double figure millions of Euros for the gearbox, differential and so on. So you’re looking at a 30 million Euro package at the back of the car.

“But that could be far cheaper if it was long life and properly developed. So that’s the task you give the manufacturers. Then you say to them, how much you spend on the development of the drive train is a matter for you. So if the manufacturers sit down together and say “let’s spend a fortune on it” they can.

“If, on the other hand, they want to cap it because they’ve had a lot of discussions about cost capping, they can cap the development of the drive train if they wish. It is a matter for them.

Q: But will they? Is it reasonable to imagine they will?

Mosley: “They have to decide. These are all big companies – with the exception of Ferrari, they’re all massive companies. It’s up to them. It may be that the F1 people say I don’t want to cap it and the management say sorry you can have a budget of 100 million Euros and that’s it. When they do the engine for the new whatever – the new Golf for the sake of argument – they have a budget for the unit cost when it’s fully developed and they also have a budget for developing the engine. There’s no reason not to do that in F1. But they would have to agree. We would enforce it, that can be done. If they agree a figure, we can enforce it.

Q: But isn’t it better to say, you have 100 million Euros you can do what you want, rather than saying you can develop this but you can’t develop that?

Mosley: “But you wouldn’t be saying that. If the competitive advantage comes from the drive train, then that is what they will develop. The only reason they do so much on the aerodynamics currently is because that’s where you get the gain.

“Once upon a time it was the engine, and the engine became more and more restricted and now it’s the aerodynamics. Of course, what the engineers say, and they are absolutely right, is that saving costs is like trying to get the air out of a mattress, you push one bit down and it pops up somewhere else. But then you’ve got to make sure it pops up somewhere useful, and the drive train is the useful place.

“If they’re spending money on the drivetrain, the drive train is free for the independent teams; the independent teams do not have to spend much on the rest of the chassis. Chassis components have long life, you have material limitations which are also under discussion. The idea, for example, of not using materials you can’t use in a road car. It can all be done

“That is the tidying up of Formula One. It needs to be rational, at the moment it’s irrational. It’s not an exaggeration to say there’s a financial crisis worldwide now. You cannot run your business in an irrational way and expect it to survive.”

Q: But you already implemented rules like long life engines, but now teams like Renault, Honda and Toyota are asking for as much money as in the old days?

Mosley: “You are right, but if you look at the graph of expenditure against time, every year it had gone up. You find it has tailed off now.

“The engine costs have come down dramatically and it shows it can be done. If you remember, when we had the parc ferme on Saturday night, it was supposedly going to kill all the drivers, and Ron (Dennis) and Frank (Williams) went on television to explain that this was lethal and we’d have blood on our hands. Now, the cars are more reliable than ever. If you have a two-race engine, you halve the blow ups because the engine reaches its life nine times a season instead of 18 times a season. It’s all obvious. We didn’t stop the escalation – now with their help we will.

Q: But still you have to force the manufacturers to give the benefit to the customer?

Mosley: “Part of the new rules is going to be they have to supply them free of charge. I think they will agree to that because we will say to them it’s up to them to make sure that the unit cost – the cost of supplying it once you’ve developed it – is low just like it will be for a road car.

“You’ve got to have an engine which, including KERS, including heat recovery, including turbo generators, all the new technologies that are coming produces about 750bhp. It could be any size they want.

“It’ll probably be a downsized turbo-generated engine with all sorts of efficiency things built in. It might be as little as four cylinders. That is the new technology. You’ll see these kinds of engines in road cars in the next five to ten years. The day of the big engine is finished.”

Q: But in the price of the engine there is also the service provided, and it can be different between manufacturers?

Mosley: “One of the things they could do – we’ve asked the manufacturers to come up with a proposal – is have an engine that lasts ten races, so it then only has to have one rebuild per season. Then the engine could be so conceived that it did not require a lot of people at the race. Twenty years ago, one mechanic would start one engine, now you need six experts to start an F1 engine because of the electronics.”

Ferrari F60 chassis, fuel tank and KERS battery (bottom)

Ferrari F60 chassis, fuel tank and KERS battery (bottom)

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

KERS and making F1 green

Q: What is your feeling on the safety of KERS?

Mosley: “For us there are two main areas. There’s what we call the health and safety area, which is in the factory and basic precautions of the car. Then, there’s the operating it – does it cause a danger to the drivers, the marshals, the mechanics and so on? And we’re interested in the operating it bit.

“Last time I looked there were only two cars that had come to us with all their plans. It’s McLaren-Mercedes and I can’t remember who the other one is. It’s definitely only two, though. The rest of them haven’t yet, but what happened with BMW was, on the face of it, very surprising, because you would think they would either insulate the electrical system or they would earth the car. I don’t know what went wrong, so I can’t comment on it, but these are very elementary problems. With road cars I think a Toyota Lexus has a 600-volt system, but you don’t get a shock from it.”

Q: Could it be scare mongering?

Mosley: “There is opposition to it, but BMW has always been very enthusiastic. They put out a very positive press release saying it had directly fed into the road cars.”

Q: Less the BMW shock, more the Red Bull fire?

Mosley: “I haven’t seen a report, but what I suspect happened was they were pushing the boundaries of the units to see what happened. Anyone who has ever been childish enough to operate a model plane, which runs with lithium iron batteries, will know that if you overcharge them you get better performance, but they also get very hot and start to bulge, and they’re only that small, so you have to be careful.”

Q: Isn’t that the exciting thing though? Finding out how hard you can push this technology, which will go way beyond F1?

Mosley: “Absolutely, and then also a mechanical battery like the one Williams is developing. To me, the crucial thing about KERS is that it’s inconceivable that in 50 years time, when you put the brakes on in your car, that the energy will just burn off in heat. That just won’t happen.

“But the first thing we need is a system that’s capable of absorbing all the energy when you put the brakes on. The next generation of Formula One cars will be like that. They’ll probably be able to absorb, we’re talking 300 kilowatts, and giving out 200 kilowatts. That’s a two-tonne car braking at 1g.

“F1 will make that very small and very light, and the things that will fit in next year, in ten years’ time, will look very primitive. But that’s Formula One. We’ve seen it so often in areas, and those devices will be crucial for the roads because if a KERS system is really light and can absorb all the energy, with super capacitors or flywheels, whatever it’s going to be, that’s really for the road.

“If we advance it by several years, then that’s extremely useful and that alone can justify Formula One, because it will make such a huge contribution to the motor industry. If you imagine you could have a super-efficient KERS system five to ten years sooner than you would otherwise get it, then multiply it by the number of cars in the world, then Formula One will be a drop in the ocean.”

Q: What about second generation bio fuel, staying with the green theme?

Mosley: That’s a fundamental question, and maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve thought about this very deeply. First, fuel is a question for the governments and the fuel manufacturers and infrastructure, so nobody knows how effective this second generation will be. Nobody knows whether there’s enough by-products from everyday life to produce enough fuel. It’s all very experimental.

“If Formula One followed the Le Mans idea, you might be promoting a line of technology that has no future or might be wrong in some way, or was pushing things in the wrong direction. So to me that’s not the question. It’s not which fuel to use, it’s how do you get more work from a given amount of fuel, no matter what the fuel is.

“The fuel has a certain level of thermal energy. Some are denser than others, but fuel has a certain amount of energy. At the moment, motor cars waste 60-70 percent, closer to 70 percent, of the energy they consume. If you can get more work out of a litre of fuel, then it doesn’t matter what the fuel is, you’ve made a huge contribution.

“I believe Formula One can make a huge contribution to energy efficiency, that is to say getting more work out of a unit of energy. That, I see, is the task of Formula One, whereas which fuel to use is another question altogether, and the solution of that question is something Formula One can’t contribute to because we don’t know.

“What we do know is that we have some people who are very good, getting more work from a given amount of energy. And if you arrange Formula One so that the person who gets most work out of a litre of fuel is the one who wins the race, then you’re going to get a significant amount of increase in the amount of work got from a litre of fuel each year. And that will make a huge contribution to the world environmentally.

“Then later, someone will come along with a magic fuel, could be anything; bio fuel, hydrogen, new forms of electricity. But whatever they do, if they have a car that’s useful with energy – and sorry to bang on about this, but if you take the KERS system, it’s needed for a car whatever the source of energy.

“Even if it’s an electrical car, you don’t, when you accelerate the car, burn the electricity off in heat, you want to get it back somehow. The KERS system is a universal application, but the next stage is to say how can we get more work from a given amount of fuel? And if we can answer that question, or even just make a significant contribution to the technology from Formula One, then we’ve done something extraordinary. And it doesn’t actually matter what the fuel is.”

Q: Would you give more points to teams better with energy efficiency?

Mosley: “No, because they’d have more power. If you limit the fuel flow and the amount of fuel for the race, by limiting the flow you limit the maximum power, and by limiting the amount of fuel you limit the average power.

“If my engine is more efficient than yours, then for a given fuel flow, I will have more power. Up to now, if I could get more power from a two-litre engine than you, I will have more power, but its crazy because it doesn’t matter what the capacity is, we’ve limited power with capacity for 100 years, so we completely think down that line. If you forget that and say we limit it by actually the amount of energy available, then if you can get more power from the same amount of energy as I have, you’ll win the race.”

Q: Is it critical for F1 to be relative to the motor industry over everything else?

Mosley: “I wouldn’t go as far as to say that. If you’re looking at F1 surviving and prospering, its chances are increased if it can say it’s contributing to the world at large. You can’t say it would fail if it doesn’t do this.

“You could turn it into a GP2 type thing, get the costs down, and it would go on, but it would fare much better if it went the way we’re proposing, because these big companies all have an environmental committee, and people watching that aspect. If we want a big sponsor then the first thing they’ll do is go to their environmental committee, and if they can’t justify it they will quit. At least one big sponsor is still in because of KERS, maybe two. Certainly the CEO of one of the very big sponsors said it was very useful to him. He told me one of his directors was a lady who was in tears they were coming into Formula One because it’s so politically incorrect. But he was able to tell her we have these green technologies, and it changed everything.

“I think if we can follow the technology I’ve described, it becomes technically fascinating again, and relevant too. The only downside is that it will be a bit quieter.”

Q: Is there anything you absolutely have to see?

Mosley: “I think the absolute thing to insist on is the reduction of costs. And, I think we would want to see a strong case for not making F1 more environmentally relevant. But the cost is non-negotiable. That has to come down.”

Q: But if they fail to agree?

Mosley: “Then we will do something, but exactly how we go about it depends. Probably some ideas will come out of their discussions which will be useful, but I don’t want to prejudge what will happen if they don’t agree. But we will do something.”

Q: Is the budget cap idea totally off the table?

Mosley: “No, it’s for them. If they want to do, they can discuss it.”

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber F1.08

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber F1.08

Photo by: Sutton Images

Making racing more exciting

Q: Looking at the races this year, they are too predictable. What can you do to make the racing more exciting?

Mosley: “I think everyone realises that we have got to do something. Although that said, if you look at the races of 20, 30, 40 years ago, they were much less entertaining than now actually – except for the slip streamers.

“What used to happen in the 1960s before we had modern aerodynamics, the car behind was faster than the car in front. So a mediocre driver could keep up at Monza or Hockenheim with a good driver. What he lost in the corners he could tow back on the straight.

“Now, the cars behind are less efficient than they are in front, so if they can rearrange the aerodynamics so the car behind is faster by virtue of being behind, then you get very good racing. But maybe it is not possible. I don’t know.”

Q: You could also achieve the same thing by having reverse grids?

Mosley: “Some people like the idea of things like reverse grids. I am against because I don’t think you can interfere fundamentally with your sport. Everybody understands a grand prix – it has a certain structure. It is okay to do it (interfere) with GP2, but F1 grands prix are a traditional thing that everyone understands. And I think we can solve the problems without interfering with the structure.

“If you really, really were desperate, they all laugh when I say this, you could have a garden sprinkler on three or four corners, operated at random by computer – obviously with flag marshals warning people. But to start reversing grids? I think it would be a mistake and people would not understand it.”

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