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Max Mosley

NEWS STORY
25/05/2021

In the crypt of St Paul's lies the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren, architect of the magnificent cathedral.

The inscription on his tomb reads, in part: "If you seek his monument - look around you."

If you seek Max Mosley's monument, as well as the race track, you should look at the car you will drive to the office, or your wife will use to collect the kids from school.

It is widely believed that Mosley's quest for safety followed the events of that dreadful weekend in Imola in 1994, however it began many years earlier.

It was whilst at university that he first discovered motor racing, where he enjoyed limited success but at the same time gained the vital knowledge that was to serve him well over the years that followed.

Progressing to Formula 2, his maiden race in the F1 feeder-series was the event at Hockenheim in which the legendary Jim Clark perished.

Over the next couple of years, Mosley lost two teammates to a sport in which death was part and parcel, the roll call of those lost in the name of 'sport' unthinkable today.

Following his own close encounters Mosley decided to hang up his helmet and along with colleagues, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd, formed March Engineering, which went on to take the sport by storm.

In addition to F1, March built cars for various disciplines, its customer cars allowing many to get those first vital steps on the motor sport ladder. Hard to believe, but in seemingly no time at all the company was building cars not only for F1, but F2, F3, Formula Ford and Can-Am.

Despite a bold start to its F1 exploits, having lined up Chris Amon and Jo Siffert in works car, Mario Andretti in an STP backed car and Jackie Stewart in a 701 run by Ken Tyrrell, March never reached the dizzy heights expected.

Indeed, in that first season, Stewart switched to the newly-built Tyrrell after 10 rounds, despite winning in Spain, March's second ever Grand Prix.

Almost from Day 1, there were money issues, but Max was busy behind the scenes pulling off all manner of deals in order to keep the wheels turning, literally.

For the full details of March's exploits, get hold of a copy of the late Mike Lawrence's Four Guys and a Telephone, which tells the whole remarkable tale.

It was through March that Mosley - a respected Barrister - began attending meetings of the Grand Prix Constructors' Association (GPCA), and it was here, as he faced continued opposition from the sport's grandees that he subsequently met the new owner of the Brabham team, a certain Bernard Charles Ecclestone.

From the outset, as they took on the establishment, Max and Bernie - even though they were effectively from opposite sides of the tracks - realised that they were kindred spirits.

When Ecclestone formed the Formula One Constructors Association in 1974, which had the backing of the likes of Colin Chapman, Ken Tyrell and Frank Williams, as he went into battle with the Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA), he called on the services of Max - who quit March in 1977 - as legal advisor.

The rest, as we know, is history.

On the one hand you had the suave, debonair legal genius that was Mosley, while on the other you had the head-down, street fighter that was Bernie. As they took on the might of the F1 establishment the opposition didn't stand a chance.

The FISA - FOCA war of the early 1980s - often referred to as the FIASCO years - took the sport to the brink, but in time Max saved the day, drawing up a contract that saw FISA given control of the rule making and FOCA control of the commercial side of things. It was the Concorde Agreement.

Max subsequently went into politics, but in the late 80s he returned, as president of the FISA Manufacturers' Commission. At the same time he formed Simtek Engineering with former March man, Nick Wirth, however in 1991 he sold his shares in the company when elected president of FISA.

And so it began.

Unhappy with Jean-Marie Balestre's grip on the sport, Max challenged him for the presidency, but on winning promptly stood down again, insisting that the move was merely to prove a point.

Two years later, in 1993, however, it was Balestre who stood down and thus Max now became head of the sport's governing body, while close friend Bernie had total control of the business side of things.

Whatever one might think about the Max and Bernie years, the fact is that together they totally transformed the sport and such was their success other sports looked to Formula One as their inspiration as they headed into the new era.

Just one year into his presidency, Mosley was faced with one of the biggest crises of his career.

Over the course of one weekend, two F1 drivers had perished, Roland Ratzenberger - ironically in a Simtek - and Ayrton Senna, arguably one of the greatest drivers of all time.

While death at the wheel of an F1 car was understandable in the 60s and 70s, this was not the case in the 90s.

"The family doesn't want to sit down to watch the race on TV with Granny after lunch only to see someone die," Niki Lauda once remarked.

Such was the outcry, Max had to act swiftly and while some of the early moves in the name of safety were a little knee-jerk, they were necessary.

As the sport appeared to be emasculated out of all recognition, Pitpass was critical of some of Max's moves, however, one only has to look at how drivers were now able to walk away from accidents that previously would have killed them to see that the FIA president was correct.

As Romain Grosjean recalled how he stared death in the face in Bahrain last year - even giving it a name - as the lump in our throats grew ever bigger, that tear slowly forming in the corner of our eyes, who among us would ever criticise Max's safety crusade again.

Though nobody wants to admit it, the events of that 1994 weekend weren't all bad, for a whole new audience suddenly discovered the sport and as TV audiences grew, and Max took care of safety and the rest of it, Bernie signed the deals that were to make a lot of the inhabitants of Planet Paddock very wealthy.

Other than his safety crusade on track however, Max turned his attention to the humble road car, his drive for the European, and subsequently Global, New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) widely seen as the single most important mechanism for achieving advances in vehicle safety, having saved countless lives.

Between them, Max and Bernie took the sport forward, but it was not without issues. Suddenly, the pair were the very establishment they had fought against - as is so often the case - and as a result there were threats of breakaways which in turn saw Max take down the likes of Jackie Stewart and Ron Dennis with the sort of urbane wit usually reserved for the courtroom.

While Bernie continued to do the deals, Max did the legal stuff, dealing with one saga after another.

That first term as president was followed by another, then another, then another...

However, in 2008 the News of the World, a British tabloid, ran a story relating to Max's private life.

For a while, it appeared his position as FIA president was untenable, certainly a number of individuals looked to settle old scores, but Max stood his ground, even securing a vote of confidence following an Extraordinary General Meeting of the FIA.

Though he initially said he would stand for a fifth term as president, he eventually opted not to and instead he gave his support to Jean Todt's campaign to succeed him.

In the face of the scandal which had clearly damaged him, a lesser man would have walked away to lick his wounds.

However, as we had seen so often in F1, Max wasn't the sort to walk away from a fight, far from it.

Turning his attention to the architects of his attempted downfall he began by going after the News of the World, and having won that case went onto assist other victims of the tabloid which by now had gained even more notoriety over its involvement in the hacking of phones, not only of celebrities but even a murder victim.

In his determination to take on what he considered to be an out of control media he went after Google and again he won.

After F1, motor sport and road car safety, Max now had a new cause in life, a campaign for improved media standards, and he went into it with the same gusto he had approached most things.

In recent years ill health began to take its toll, just when we needed the likes of a Max to take on the new media giants, those who seem determined to control what we think and say.

From the outset, his family name meant that he was up against it yet he never flinched, he stood his ground.

Though honours, such as a Knighthood, for his services to road safety were out of the question, Robin Herd once told Mike Lawrence that Max "wouldn't mind" being offered a seat in the House of Lords.

Indeed he imagined the scenario where he and Bernie might one day take their place amongst the ermine-clad mob and "cause some mischief before heading off to dinner".

Sadly, his bitter enemies, the tabloids, the media, will now have a field day, declaring him open season. It will not be pretty.

Max wasn't perfect - who is - but he did much good, and as fans of the sport we have much to thank him for, certainly Romain Grosjean does.

Next time you climb into your car, and strap the baby in its seat, look on the window for the NCAP sticker with the FIA logo... that was Max.

Max Mosley 1940 - 2021.

To his family and friends, Pitpass, and its readers, offers its sincere condolences.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by kenji, 26/05/2021 11:28

"Max Mosley was a controversial character and came across as arrogant and entitled. In real life he may not have been that person at all, just my opinion. His apparent misdemeanours in relation to the NOTW fiasco were indicative of how the British media work to destroy people. How Mosley spent his leisure time was his business and his alone. What compounded that issue was the suicide of his son who apparently suffered a great deal over his father's predicament. Whether the issues were directly linked I simply do not know but the coincidence of it all would lead one to assume so. No father should have to suffer that. Mosley was man of his times and he will be remembered well by most for his achievements within the F1 world."

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2. Posted by TokyoAussie, 26/05/2021 3:36

"Ditto this piece and the comments below.

I still think that the financial deal that gave away the commercial rights for 99 years for a pittance is a huge negative for a man who otherwise had an enormous list of positives. No doubt, F1 today is what it is due to Max and Bernie.

Missing Mike Lawrence that one ounce more today too. His article on Max would have been a humdinger."

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3. Posted by @R1Racing71, 25/05/2021 20:45

"We are robbed of a Mike Lawrence obituary on Max. Whom I can only presume knew well."

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4. Posted by @R1Racing71, 25/05/2021 20:43

"Nice piece."

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5. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 25/05/2021 17:57

"Thank you Editor for a fitting article.

It is easier to remember the Mosely headlines (mostly negative) over the years and not the other achievements.

And you are right about the car safety and privacy battles that we all take for granted.

Still, one of my memories will be reading the transcript of the World Motorsport Council hearings into McLaren in 2007 and the way it came across as well as the verdict.

From memory, It would make a good film."

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6. Posted by flyinglap, 25/05/2021 14:59

"Max Mosley, an intelligent and talented man who contributed immensely and in multiple ways to our sport and to road safety (although, by the way, the mark may have long been overstepped with ever more useless passive control systems, massive increase in vehicle mass and exorbitant costs that keep driving out of the market the small manufacturers). In any case, his legacy will hopefully be recognized more appropriately in years to come. It has to be said that, with his family background, it was almost inevitable that a certain type of media (and their overlords) would be on a mission to discredit him, and eventually they did manage to drive him away before his time, unfairly and undeservedly so. R.I.P."

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7. Posted by Max Noble, 25/05/2021 9:19

"A complex genius, who I greatly admired for his many remarkable strengths. Like many I sigh when recalling his weaknesses, and rally when I think how many of us share human failings, and yet do not achieve a fraction of what Max Mosley did in a life well lived. May he be remembered with kindness (but not too much I’m sure that would annoy him), and may we smile when we recall one of his many brilliant one liners. Wings of speed Max, wings of speed."

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