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Friday preview - full of surprises 02 Jul 2004

Max Mosley (GBR) FIA President  in the FIA press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Preparations, Imola, Italy, 17 April 2003 Marc Gene (ESP) Williams is replacing the injured Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams.
French Grand Prix, Rd 10, Preparations, Magny Cours, France, 1 July 2004 Unbranded Renault R24 engine covers. 
French Grand Prix, Rd 10, Preparations, Magny Cours, France, 1 July 2004 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Renault arrives at the circuit.
French Grand Prix, Rd 10, Preparations, Magny Cours, France, 1 July 2004 A Williams BMW FW26 front wing section.
French Grand Prix, Rd 10, Preparations, Magny Cours, France, 1 July 2004

Mosley's decision stuns the Magny-Cours paddock

First there was the news that Ralf Schumacher, the winner of last year’s French Grand Prix here at Magny-Cours for Williams, will be out of racing for up to three months following his heavy accident in the recent United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis.

Then yesterday came the announcement that Max Mosley will not stand for re-election as the president of the FIA when his period of office ends, a year prematurely, in October. It’s been a strong week for surprise news in the sport, and yesterday the paddock could talk of little else than Mosley’s retirement.

The son of British politician Sir Oswald Mosley and a trained barrister, Mosley was one of the founding members of March Engineering, whose name was an acronym of the four founders’ names: Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd. Back in 1969 they created a real stir by going straight from producing a neat little Formula Three prototype car to building customer cars in Formula Two and Formula One as well, and even more of a fuss when Jackie Stewart and Chris Amon qualified their March 701s for the first two places on the grid at the 1970 South African Grand Prix mere months later.

Mosley, who had raced in Formula Two in 1968, always said he was happier running March, but sold his shareholding eventually and made more use of his training as a barrister to formulate the agreement that brought peace in the war between FOCA and the teams, and Jean-Marie Balestre and the FIA, back in 1981. Subsequently, in October 1991, Mosley ousted Balestre to take over presidency of the FIA. Recently he has been working very hard to push through dramatic new technical regulations for the coming seasons, and serious reforms of the FIA.

Yesterday one team principal, who wished to remain anonymous said: “If Max really is quitting, this will have serious repercussions throughout the sport.”

Meanwhile, Marc Gene was busy preparing himself for his first Grand Prix since the Italian last year when he was called up at late notice to deputise when Ralf Schumacher decided it was better not to compete following a hefty shunt in testing at the Milanese track the previous week. The Spaniard is in top condition because of his fitness training and regular test work for the team, and said that he is pleased that this time he has had more time in which to ready himself.

“I’m really sorry about the circumstances that have brought me here,” he said, “But I am looking forward to the chance to help the team and to score more points for them in the world championship for constructors.”

Yesterday both Renault drivers expressed their optimism for the second half of the season, and this race especially. “Last year we were quite competitive,” Jarno Trulli said. “Obviously we noticed that this year the car seems to be performing very well in some places and a bit less in some other circuits. We are confident because it is a technical circuit and hopefully we can both have a very good weekend in front of our home crowd of French people.”