Exclusive interview - FIA President Max Mosley 23 Dec 2008
It has been a turbulent year for the FIA and its President Max Mosley. Just when it looked as though the teams were distancing themselves from Formula Ones governing body, Hondas withdrawal changed everything, prompting close cooperation to help safeguard the future of the sport.
With the major cost-cutting measures agreed, Mosley was not expected to run again for re-election in 2009. However, the last word on this has not yet been spoken and the FIA President will make his final decision next June
Q: The withdrawal of Honda from Formula One racing - were you aware that it was so imminent?
Max Mosley: The withdrawal of Honda was a surprise. They were good enough to inform us in confidence four days before announcing it, but they would have been one of the last teams I would have expected to withdraw.
Q: Hondas withdrawal happened on the same day that the FIA announced that Cosworth had won the single engine tender. Was your pushing for a single engine solution driven by the fear that something like this might happen sooner or later?
MM: To a degree, yes. As I said, we need an independent engine supplier. The plan, of course, was not so much a single engine, as for a single level of performance and a much cheaper engine. This will become increasingly necessary if we lose any more manufacturers.
Q: This idea of a standardized engine from 2010 has drawn some pretty negative reactions from the manufacturers. We now seem to be heading towards the alternative of the manufacturers agreeing to supply better value customer engines. What do you envision being finally agreed?
MM: This is still under discussion, but I think we will end up with a frozen engine, regulated in such a way that independent teams can obtain inexpensive supplies. I think we ought to try to have at least one independent outside engine supplier, because of the risk that we will lose another manufacturer or even two.
Q: There are plans to equalise engine performance for next season. Does this mean there was a fundamental flaw in the original engine freeze regulations?
MM: The only problem with the original engine freeze was that in rectifying reliability problems, some teams appear to have gained somewhat in performance. We simply intend to ensure that the sporting contest remains fair.
Q: Aside from making Formula One racing more cost effective, another of the FIAs aims is to make it more competitive. How confident are you that the 09 regulations changes will lead to more overtaking?
MM: The 2009 aerodynamic regulations were developed by three of the top Formula One engineers, aided by an extensive wind tunnel programme. I have no means of judging whether they have got it right, but if they have not, it will be surprising and disappointing. In addition, the KERS system, if fitted, will make a significant difference to overtaking by giving a car an 80hp boost for up to six seconds each lap.
Q: Customer cars have been a bone of contention over recent seasons. How do customer cars now sit within your vision for the future of Formula One?
MM: Personally, I have no problem with customer cars. Without them, Formula One in the 1970s could not have flourished. I think the current problem is finding enough competitive teams, without worrying too much about where they get their cars.
Q: Are you surprised at the level of unity that has become apparent of late among the teams? Why do you think it has happened?
MM: I think the teams are more united now because there are outside pressures on Formula One. The real tests of unity will come when there is a significant difference of opinion or when vital interests are threatened.
Q: The teams have discussed a new qualifying format: all cars on the track with the same amount of fuel with the slowest drivers eliminated after each lap. After 14 laps the six fastest drivers would then fight for pole position, fitting new tyres but still using the same amount of fuel. Do you see any advantage in this system over the one in use now? There have been so many changes to qualifying in the past - a fact that might irritate fans
MM: As far as qualifying is concerned, there are currently a number of suggestions. We are prepared to look at anything, but we have asked the teams to do some market research to find out what the public think. We believe the fans should be asked before changes of this kind are made.
Q: KERS is one of the most high profile changes for next season. What do you say to the critics who claim its a huge waste of money, that the teams have spent millions on a system that they may not even use, or that will bring only minimal performance gains?
MM: The purpose of KERS is to engage Formula One in research in an area which is relevant to road transport and society in general. They have spent far less money on KERS than they waste on Formula One-specific aerodynamics and gearboxes which are irrelevant to the real world.
Q: Will we, as rumoured, see a standardised KERS system from 2010 or 2011? If so, would it not have made more sense from a cost perspective to have allowed the teams to work together on the project from the outset?
MM: KERS is not compulsory and it has always been open to the teams to work together on a common KERS.
Q: The FIA recently announced measures to make stewards decisions more transparent from next season. What prompted this change? Presumably the hugely negative public reaction we saw to some of this years decisions, such as Lewis Hamiltons Spa penalty?
MM: This change was prompted because people were criticising the stewards decisions without having the information which the stewards had. The obvious way to deal with this is to make that information generally available. Once people understand why a decision was made, they will be less likely to disagree with it and any criticism will be informed rather than uninformed.
Q: You are on record as saying you have no plans to run for re-election next year. Is this still the case?
MM: Yes, but I will take a final decision in June.
Q: Who do you see as your likely successor? The recently-appointed Deputy President Nick Craw perhaps?
MM: The difficulty is finding somebody who has the necessary experience, but also the time and inclination to do the job. You mention Nick Craw. He is the president of ACCUS, which controls all the different forms of racing in the United States. With all this to contend with, he is probably not exactly looking for work.
Q: When you go, what achievements will you look back on most proudly - and what will be your biggest regrets or disappointments?
MM: I think the biggest achievements will have been the improvements in safety both on public roads and on the circuits. However, one must remember that a great many other people have been involved. I initiated these things, but others have made them work. The greatest disappointment has been the tendency of some fans to criticise without understanding what we are trying to do.
Q: What does it take to be FIA President and what advice would you give to your successor?
MM: A great deal of patience and ideally an ability to understand quickly a great variety of technical and legal issues. I would advise a potential successor to think very carefully before standing for election.