Max Mosley was forced out of his role as the head of the FIA, not as most people believe by ‘spanky-gate’, but because at the time he was forcing the teams into acting in a more responsible fashion.
In 2009, Max was demanding a budget cap be instigated in the region of $65-70m and the teams via FOTA had threatened to quit F1 and run their own series.
In actuality, Toyota and BMW bailed out the sport – citing the expense as the reason for their withdrawal.
A consistent theme in Mosley’s reign as the head of the FIA, was to reduce the costs in Formula One. Having failed to gain consensus amongst the teams to give up their hugely expensive of qualifying engines, Mosley unilaterally brought in the parc ferme regulation for the 2003 season.
This then rendered these wasteful engines – which were capable of running just a hundred kilometres or so – useless.
But times were also different. There was no F1 strategy group and no democratic forum for the teams to bring their influence to bear. And despite frequently appearing at logger heads, the BBC noted in 2003, “many F1 insiders believe these were just part of a well-crafted plan to strengthen their control over the sport”.
In an Interview with Eddie Jordan for the BBC, Bernie Ecclestone explains he believes F1 is “too democratic” and facing very grave issues which require more than “a sticking plaster”.
This idea of democracy in Formula One comes from the constitution of the newly formed F1 strategy group in 2014. The FIA, FOM and the teams each have 6 votes and for a proposal to go to the next policy forum, it must receive a majority agreement in the strategy group first.
Yet the reality is that were Ecclestone and Todt to act in concert, as did Mosley and Ecclestone previously, Bernie wouldn’t be complaining about a democracy. The FIA in conjunction with FOM out vote whatever the teams decide.
Jordan put this to Ecclestone: “You would just tell people what’s going on. You and Max would come in – and that would be the decision”.
“Max isn’t here,” retorted Bernie
“You saying Todt can’t do that?” questioned Jordan
Quick as a flash Ecclestone replies, “He doesn’t act like Max. Max speaks a lot of languages, is super intelligent….”.
The interview is edited at this point, which in fact accentuates the comparative implication Ecclestone has just made.
The irony of Ecclestone ruing Max’s absence may be lost on the F1 supremo. Many believe it was Bernie’s comment following the revelations about Mosley’s private life which eventually persuaded the president of the FIA not to stand for re-election. “He should go – out of responsibility for the institution he represents,” said Ecclestone after initially supporting Mosley.
Some believe Jean Todt is the worst thing that happened for F1. His repeated position is generally that he won’t intervene where there is no consensus. Clearly the antithesis of the Mosley/Ecclestone era.
Yet it could be that Jean Todt is deliberately allowing Formula One to slowly fall apart, as the inadequacies of the Ecclestone commercial model for the sport become exposed year on year.
Maybe then one day, there will be no choice but for a consensus to be formulated on the principles of how Formula One should be run in the long term.