Guests: Max Mosley (FIA president)

Following his decision to step down as FIA president at the end of his current term, Max Mosley used the regular Friday press conference slot at the French Grand Prix to discuss the matter with the media, and answer questions on other issues raised in Formula One over the last few months....

Questions from the floor - continued:

Q: (Fritz Dieter Rencken - The Citizen)
When last you addressed the press in Monaco you indicated your confidence in lifting the 48 million dollar bond. What progress has been made in that direction?

Max Mosley:
The answer is none. It would be a matter for the Formula One Commission and they would have to vote, but it is only a sporting rule and it could be changed by majority in the Formula One Commission. What that really comes down to is half the teams plus the organisers. But I am very optimistic we will see at least two new teams in Formula One, we can only see two because we only have two vacancies, by 2006 and they too will benefit from the possibility of having a limited V10 3-litre if they can't get a 2.4 at that time, which will reduce the costs.

Q: (Joe Saward - F1 Grand Prix Special)
Max there were some proposals going to the General Assembly about changing the structure of the FIA presidency role. What happened to those? And secondly, can you explain what happened to the vote about karting in the World Motor Sport Council?

The change that was suggested to the statutes was that at the moment we have a president of the whole FIA, we then have a deputy president for the mobility side as we call it, the road car side, and deputy president for sport. I suggested to them, after I have gone, that they might be better of having a president overall and deputy president for sport and no deputy president for touring - that would be the original structure of the FIA all the way through until well...

Really [Jean-Marie] Balestre was the first person who held both offices and then I held both offices, but we also built the twin pillar structure. But the classic FIA structure was that you had a president and a president for sport, like Balestre was in those days. There was Metternich and Ugeux and then Mettenich was president of sport and I think Baumgartner was president of the whole FIA, there was a whole history of it. It was just a question of going back to that structure.

Well, the sport people all started writing to me saying well if we do that it may happen it would be difficult, if not impossible, for somebody from the sport to be elected president of the FIA. That certainly wasn't the intention and I don't think it would have been the effect but once I got those letters I wrote to everybody saying it is not a problem, if you have got better ideas we will withdraw it and that's what we did. We said to the General Assembly with the agreement of the senate, I think it was, we are going to withdraw that proposal. I think most of them were quite content to leave it as it is and the president can decide how much he delegates to each of the two deputy presidents. End of problem.

The vote on the karting was quite funny actually because what unfortunately happened with karting is that the FIA has largely lost control of it because it is not terribly well managed and we had a working group trying to come up with measures to try to improve the situation and get it back under control and have both two-stroke and four-stroke engines inside the FIA. When it came to vote a large numbers of members of the World Council didn't want to do that, they wanted to stay with the existing structure. I've seen it reported casually in the press as something of significance, which it isn't. It is completely trivial matter. There was only one vote in the World Council on 30 June that mattered and that was the vote in favour giving notice to the Technical Working Group that we have got to do something. Fortunately, that was unanimous.

Q: (Alan Henry)
What is the likelihood of your successor as FIA president having the same close relationship with Bernie Ecclestone that you have had over the last 30 years?

I think it is probably very remote. We've known each other all that time, and done all sorts of things together which, almost by definition, nobody else has done. On the other hand, Bernie is very friendly with a lot of people in the FIA, and I'm sure he could work very satisfactorily together with a number of them. He'd probably not have the same sort of thing with them, the same sort of jokes that we share, but, apart from that, it would probably work very well indeed.

Q: (Kevin Eason - The Times)
I have two questions. Having seen a number of these guys up close for a number of years, where you constantly surprised that ten multi-millionaires who employed hundreds of people could not agree on anything?

It is very surprising actually, very surprising indeed. What one has to bear in mind is that they have all become rich - extremely rich - because the board on which they play has been arranged by some else. I can say this now because I'm on my way soon. Bernie has created a monopoly board for them to play on, where the money is just enormous and they have made huge sums of money.

But, fundamentally, they are not businessmen and they are not trying to make money, they just long to win races. I can name two of them who are businessmen, and successful businessmen, but the overall atmosphere there is I just want to win the race, so if I've got 50 million dollars sponsorship, I'll spend 51 and borrow a million. They don't think I've got 50 million sponsorship, I'll spend 40 and put ten in my pocket. They just don't think in those terms.

Some of them have been made rich despite themselves, because they have been given so much money they couldn't actually manage to spend it. It is not a deliberate business strategy, shall we put it like that. So, when we get into a room, they all sit there and each one is thinking about their current car and defend it to the death, and that is why you need the disinterested body that tries to be fair between everybody and sort the problems out. It is just hopeless trying to get them all to agree because they have their vested interests to defend.

Q: (Kevin Eason)
The second question is that you are leaving at a critical time in the history of Formula One. Are you optimistic about the future, or do you fear it is facing challenges that it maybe can't overcome?

No, I'm very optimistic. In a sense, I'm leaving at a critical time but, in leaving, I'm doing what has to be done. As it happens, they've opened the door because they increased the performance to such a point where we are fully entitled to take drastic measures, and those will solve the problems. What will happen is the engines will be cheaper, the cars will be slower, the power will be less, the aerodynamics will come under control, the racing will get better because the tyres will be much harder, it will be possible to run off line, the braking distances will increase because there will be less grip, there will be all sorts of side benefits come from that. The aerodynamics will be such as, apart from reducing the speeds of the cars in the fast corners and ensuring they don't go faster on the straight, they will also be conducive to overtaking and closer racing.

Taking all those things together, I'm optimistic for the future - I think it will be very successful. I think we will get two new teams, I think two or three engine manufacturers, once they see these changes are happening, won't leave, because, in the end, all we are doing is putting greater emphasis on brain work and reducing the emphasis on money. There will be talk of leaving, but take no notice - it won't happen.

I'm very optimistic. It is completely set on the right path, but this drastic [proposals] - and, make no mistake, it is drastic what we are about to do - are necessary. But, once they've been done, the thing will be set on a sensible course. We [just] have to hope that we are not unlucky between now and when these measures take effect and have a serious accident. Unfortunately, that can happen because we can never eliminate the danger. We are pulling the probability back, but it will not be until the beginning of 2006 that these can take full effect, when the engines with less power come in.

Q:(Michael Schmidt - Auto Motor Sport und Sport)
If you introduce a V8 engine, will it be a one-weekend engine, a two-weekend engine or will they be allowed to change as they were in the past?

It would be a two-race engine, I'm sorry I should have said that. So we have a two-race engine in 2005, and also the 2.4 V8 that comes in 2006 will be a two-race engine.

Q: (Byron Young - Speed Sport)
And what about the tyre monopoly that you were talking about in Monte Carlo?

I would like a tyre monopoly, but we cannot see reason a reason to do introduce a tyre monopoly to reduce performance when we can do this by regulation. So we are going to reduce performance by regulation by making the tyres last longer. Therefore, they will be harder and so forth and, if it doesn't work, we would have to look at a monopoly. The best advice is it will work, and it would not be justified purely on those grounds to go to a single tyre.

Q: (Byron Young)
Surely the point about Ralf Schumacher's accident was not that you got there within your own prescribed limit, but your guys didn't get there fast enough?

Well, the answer is that it would have been much nicer to have got there in 20 seconds rather than one minute 40 seconds, but you have limited resources, so you would locate the cars around the circuit so that you could always get there within two minutes. On average, you will always get there within one minute, but sometimes it will be more and sometimes less. But resources are limited to have an expert in resuscitation located to get there in 20 seconds. As it is not essential, what is essential is to get there in two minutes. That is what we do. It looks unfortunate on television, but you have got to be practical, and the practical thing is to do what you have got to do and achieve what you need to achieve.

Q: (Byron Young)
I assume following the drivers' heated feelings about that accident and the reaction time that there is some sort of investigation going on within the FIA and you are talking to drivers...

There is nothing to investigate. The medical cars were deployed as soon as accident occurred. Everything worked according to plan. We always talk to the drivers - obviously, I talked to Michael [Schumacher] about it and he understood immediately. The discussion point that is still open is, and somebody raised this earlier, when do you red flag a race? If you've got a certain amount of debris, you obviously red flag a race.

The primary source of information on that is the safety car driver, and a good example of his intervention was the German Grand Prix two or three years ago, when they had that start-line accident that involved Michael Schumacher and the safety car was called out. It did a lap and set off on the second lap and the race was red flagged. Some of our friends thought that was because Schumacher was out of the race, but the truth of it was that the safety car said that the line was in covered in shards and it would be dangerous. There was no choice. Every time there is any sort of coming together on the track, and you get the slightest bump between two cars, you get shards. You rely heavy on the safety car driver, and also there is a back-up in that all the teams are talking to their drivers.

We are looking at whether there are any more rules we can have, but each accident is different and somebody has to make a judgement. The other observation was that it would have been better to bring cars through the pit-lane in the case of Ralf Schumacher's accident, and we are now looking at a procedure for doing that. We should improvise on the spot. Every time an incident happens, we always learn something.

Q: (Jim Rosenthal - ITV)
You've laboured away in your job for 13 years, how would you want to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as someone who moved the agenda forward in motorsport as far as safety is concerned, and repositioned the FIA as a major force in road cars, which is a fundamental purpose, and improved the safety of the everyday road user. I think, in all modesty, we can claim to have done that. It is 13 years that [have been] worthwhile and enjoyable - meetings with the Formula One Commission apart. It has been fascinating and an enormous privilege to do it. It is the most privileged position you can imagine. But you have to know when to stop and that moment is probably here.

Q:(Wolfgang Rother - Premiere TV)
Do you really think that the 2.4 V8 is an adequate formula for the championship which is considered the pinnacle of motorsport, and do you think we have to slow the cars down? I think we need more entertainment on track?

On the first part, I do. Bear in mind that, when we went to three litres, we were told we would never go behind 650hp, but these 2.4s, even with dimensional restrictions we are going to put on, are still going to get 700 horsepower. So that is a lot more than the absolute maximum we saw in 1994. It is actually more than we had in Formula One until quite recently. It is only in the last six or seven years that we have seen these over-700 horsepower engines come in. If you think back to early Sixties, 200 horsepower would have been a very good engine in Formula One, and the Cosworth engine went up to 450 and gradually up to 500.

If you look at lap times seven years ago to now, you see a seven, eight, nine seconds difference on a lap - it is completely mad. It is fast. Watching the cars, you won't notice the difference - but you will notice it in an accident. There is too much energy to dissipate, and we are on the limit of safety precautions. What will do is reduce the probability that we will have a driver seriously injured or killed - or, even worse, a member of the public or a marshal. We've got to keep the cars under control.

Q: (James Allen - ITV)
From what you've been saying here, we are clearly in the dying days of Formula One team owners having any kind of say over the rule-making process in Formula One. Now, after 2007, you made it clear, after the Monaco meeting, that you don't see there being any Concorde Agreement beyond the end of this one. What happens, then, between now and the end of 2007? To what degree will the team owners have any kind of say in rule changes? Second question: are you planning on writing your memoirs?

The answer to the first question is that, between now and 2007, the Concorde Agreement is fully in force. It's just that we are now going to have some massive changes to technical regulations because we need them because of the excessive performance of the cars so they will have an influence over the sporting rules. For example, take the famous qualifying, if we're going to have a new qualifying system for 2005, and I suspect we will, they will have to agree on that, but in the usual way. You need about half the teams, you need all the promoters and the other people on the Formula One Commission so they will continue to have a say. As far as I'm concerned, it won't be my problem, but I believe they should still have a say after 2008 - but I think it should be on a simple majority.

I think you should put something forward and there should be two elements. You should have a simple majority of teams in favour to stop people doing something completely mad and, on top of that, you should have periods of notice which are consistent with the work you're asking them to do, so if it's anything to do with the engine, it's got to be at least 18 months, which I think is now recognised as the right period. If it's anything to do with the chassis, it's probably got to be a year ideally, and then any sporting regulation, probably more like six months, but always bearing in mind that some sporting regulations have an effect on the configuration of the car, so one has to keep that in mind as well. I'm all for people discussing, but this situation we have now where, if you want to change the engine just like that, you've got to get unanimous agreement, it's impossible and the result is that you really have cars now which are not ideal. I think we're going to put that right.

Q: (Tony Dodgins - Tony Dodgins and Associates)
Max, a few years ago you had some problems with the European Commission, and you had to pointedly split the regulatory and the commercial sides of the FIA. The commercial side is still up in the air and you're going early, can you confirm that you have no desire to be involved in that side?

First, I never answered the other question about the memoir. I've got no plans to write a memoir. Sorry about that.

Yes, I've got no plans to get involved in the commercial side. The thing is, I think the commercial side is nominally up in the air, but I think that's more apparent than real. As far as I can see, there isn't the slightest doubt that agreement will be reached long before the present Concorde Agreement runs out that deals with everything.

I think that gradually everyone understands that two championships would not be in anybody's interest and I think they all understand that unless they reach agreement, there would be two championships. The idea that if one group go off and do their own thing there won't be another group doing their own thing is pure fantasy. There would be. Unless you have agreement, you have two championships. If you have two championships it's a very, very bad situation where everybody would get a lot less money so they'll end up settling. I don't see difficulties on the commercial side. People make a great thing of it but the reality is they have to agree and because they have to agree they will agree. That's my belief. Right, one more and then I'll leave you in peace.

Q: (Nigel Roebuck - Autosport)
Max, can you tell us something about Bernie [Ecclestone]'s reaction when you told him you'd decided to step down and did he try and dissuade you?

Max Mosley:
When I first told him, I don't think he thought I was serious but, immediately after the meeting, he rang me and said 'so, you did it'. And I said 'yes, I actually did it'. I don't think he thought I would. I feel a bit sad about it, because it's the end of an era. Obviously, Bernie and I will remain friends - in fact, it will probably be easier to be friends now that we are not in... I wouldn't say opposing camps, but sometimes opposing camps. Sometimes, he and I have had to take different views and defend our positions so, purely from a person point of view, [my leaving] is probably conducive to friendship and I hope we remain very good friends. In a way, it's sort of sad, but things move on - people change, circumstances change.

I think the worse thing one can do is particularly when you get old, over 60, is to hang on - it's a mistake. At certain points, you've got to be ready to go and I'm ready, I'm happy, I'm looking forward to being able to read one of the books I want to read. I still have time to be interested in ideas. I'll still be interested in motorsport - very interested - but I won't feel the terrible weight of responsibility that I've got to make it happen. If you think of the number of people involved, it is actually a heavy responsibility, if you feel the whole time that you mustn't make a mistake, but we all make mistakes. That part will be gone.