Q & A with Max Mosley
|By Jonathan Noble||Friday, September 11th 2009, 12:36 GMT|
Q. In 2007 you said that McLaren had polluted the world championship in the spy case. Now, with Renault, there are suggestions that if guilty they changed the outcome of a race and the world title battle. How serious is the FIA treating the matter, and what sort of punishment will be handed out if they are guilty?
Max Mosley: Well, if, and it is a very big if, they are guilty, obviously it is very serious indeed. But we are in a situation at the moment where we have heard one side of the story and have investigated to the best of our ability. Now we are waiting for Renault's side of the story, and it is only when we have got both sides, and both of them have been heard, that one can actually reach a conclusion. So, in most places, you assume someone is innocent until they are proven guilty. And that is the situation we are in at the moment.
Q. Do you think there is more evidence to come to light then? We have seen a lot of documents get leaked over the past 48 hours?
MM: Yes, that is actually very unfortunate because it is just one side of the story. We are quite genuinely curious as to how that happened. Next time, when we send out to 20 or 30 people, we will probably arrange it in such a way that we can tell who is leaking stuff. We don't know how it happened. But none of that means anything. What means something is when we get their defence, which will not be until next week.
Q. If they are found guilty, will it be as severe for you as the McLaren spy case?
MM: Well, it is not really for me to say - it would be for the World Motor Sport Council. On the one side, one of the bad things about McLaren was that they did not tell the truth, so that went against them. But on the other hand, what is alleged to have been done here, is probably more serious. But to assess that, it is a matter for the world council, it is not really for me to say.
Q. You say that Renault's side of their case will come out at the hearing, but in the documents that have been leaked there are interviews with Pat Symonds and comments from Flavio Briatore, who were questioned by investigators at Spa. Is that not enough from their side?
MM: I think that one must expect there to be more. We originally gave them until [last] Monday to put in all the documents, and then they have asked for more time, which they have been given until the middle of next week. And, we have got no idea what they will produce. But in the nature of things, there are always two sides to a story.
Q. In the documents that have been leaked, can you confirm that they are authentic?
MM: I haven't seen anything which I believe to be a forgery.
Q. In the McLaren case in 2007 after the Hungary incident and Fernando Alonso contacting you, you sent a letter to the drivers promising immunity if they provided evidence. Has any promise be made to Nelson Piquet on a similar basis for his co-operation?
MM: Yes. We have said to him that, and I don't know exactly how it was phrased, but he has been told that if he tells us the truth then he will not be proceeded against individually. It is exactly the same as it was for Alonso.
Q. You said before that the bad thing about McLaren was that they did not tell the truth, so can we conclude from that that it would be better for Renault to tell the truth about what has happened, as the circumstances seem to point out that the story of Nelson is true?
MM: I would not go quite that far. Certainly they should tell the truth, but what that is, I would not speculate. It may be completely different to what we've heard so far, we just don't know.
Q. Are you of the belief that Fernando Alonso is an innocent party in all this, and that he was not aware of what was going on?
MM: We have no evidence to suggest that Alonso knew what was going on.
Q. You mentioned that you have granted Nelson immunity in the matter, but if you come down on the side of Renault then will Nelson be pursued for not telling the truth?
MM: No. There is also a situation where if you were not sure, then you would have to give the benefit of the doubt to Renault. I think. It depends what the World Council thinks. But there are a whole succession of things the World Council will decide whatever it decides, and then they will have the right of appeal to that to the FIA International Court of Appeal. And if we did something outrageous they could go to a civil court. There are a lot of things we could do, we will just try and do it absolutely fairly and balanced. You can never come to a conclusion until you have heard both sides to a story.
Q. You have talked about the truth and lies of a driver but Piquet after the crash denied that he had done it on purpose. So, did he not lie?
MM: Sure. The thing is that, one of the things that they will say is that he is not telling the truth. It is obvious. They have to say that. But then you have got to look at all the circumstances.
Q. But it is not too late after 12 months to discover something that people suspected at the time?
MM: It is like, in the real world, fraud goes on forever. If you cheat the tax man normally, if you don't declare your money, it is three or six years there is a limitation. But if you are fraudulent, it goes on forever. What we cannot do is we cannot interfere with the results of the championship, or indeed of that race, because of Article 179B of the International Sporting Code. On the 30th November the championship is finished, whatever. But of course if someone has done something they should not do, they can still get a penalty. So it is open.
Q. Did the FIA suspect that there was something strange at the time?
MM: No. We had no reason to believe that. There was a lot of speculation on the web but there is always speculation about all sorts of things. We cannot launch an inquiry just on the basis of speculation but when somebody comes and gives us a sworn statement then obviously we have got to investigate it. The other side of it is, that if the driver comes and give you this story, you can't just say, 'no we'll ignore that, it's 12 months ago, let's forget it.' It goes to the root of motorsport.
Q. Do you think race-fixing is on a similar par to doping in cycling?
MM: We try very hard to demonstrate that if there is something it comes out. The effort we made with McLaren was extreme. People will say it was done as a vendetta or for personal reasons. It's completely untrue.
You are put in a position where you've some information, and you have to pursue it. You can't just forget it. This was the situation with McLaren, and it was very annoying. It wasted an enormous amount of time and money, and Renault is taking a lot of time and money as well which is annoying. But if you want the sport to run properly you have to investigate. What comes out in the end is another matter, but there has to be a proper investigation."
Q. There was a story two days after Belgium saying the FIA had unearthed other incidents outside the Singapore case. Is that the case?
MM: I don't know where that came from. But for us, we've looked at all the surrounding circumstances, put that in a dossier and sent it to Renault and the World Council, and now we're waiting for them to answer. Until that happens, no conclusion can be drawn.
Q. What do you make of the defence of Renault saying that this investigation is wanted by the FIA?
MM: I suppose they have to say something, but it is fundamentally implausible. Number one, we get a report from the driver. We have to investigate. When we investigate we find there are certain individual bits of evidence, so we do a very serious investigation.
If they are innocent, they will have a complete answer, so there is no point in us pursuing them if we thought they had done nothing , if it was some sort of conspiracy because it would be demonstrated and we would look stupid.
The only reason we've done it is because these things have been put on the table, and for me personally it's really quite annoying because it's wasting time which I would rather spend doing something else and I've other things to do. Looking at it from the other side, if we just said we would ignore it then the whole would turn around and say Formula 1 is not a sport, it's a business that because this is a big car company they're not going to do anything; because Bernie's friends with Flavio and they've got a football club, they're not going to do anything. The world would see us as corrupt.
Q. So therefore any penalty, should you find Renault guilty, would have to be severe to prove you are fair?
MM: Depending again on all the circumstances, probably. If you look at any other sport, if somebody fixes the result then it's usually taken seriously.
Fixing is one degree worse than cheating, like if you're a cyclist and you take dope, that's cheating. If you bribe the other cyclists, or you get somebody to have a crash in the peloton so the yellow jersey guy crashes, that's more serious.
Then if it puts human life at risk, whether it's the spectators, the marshals or the drivers, then it's more serious again. The moment we talk about that, we sort of imply they are guilty, but we don't know. Until they put their defence in, we've got to assume they're innocent.
Q. The world has changed since the McLaren case. There is not a team who could swallow a 100 million dollar fine now, which would see Renault walk away...
MM: To put that in context, the halfway stage was the September meeting when we had the emails and we were able to prove clearly that people other than the one man within McLaren had knowledge.
So first of all they turned up at the first meeting and didn't tell the truth, and secondly, they had made use of this material. We didn't know to what extent. Now the normal thing to have done would have been to exclude them from the 2007 championship.
If we'd done that, nobody anywhere in the world would have criticised. On top of that, we learned when we fully investigated in December, information that it was available to the people doing the 2008 car. We've an email from the chief engineer on the '07 car and the chief engineer on the '08 car referring to their mole in Ferrari. It's there. We found it.
We also found an email saying that Ron had given instructions not to use quick shift until the FIA aggro is over, so it was right deep in the company.
So you had to not only exclude them from 2007, you would have had to have exclude them from 2008 because they had information that could have been used for the 2008 cars.
If we'd excluded McLaren from 2007 and 2008, the business was finished. Shut down. 1,400 people lose their jobs. There's no way they could have survived that.
Probably if we had excluded them from 2007 just, not even 2008, that would have, if not shut down the business, had an enormously damaging effect on their sponsors, Mercedes and everything else. So the truth of the matter was that the 100 million, although it's a huge amount of money and sounds a huge amount of money, was actually a very light penalty because we didn't exclude them.
Then you've got people in the paddock and a lot of the commentators, literally half-witted, saying this is such a serious penalty when those same people, if we'd excluded them from the championship in 2007 and probably put them out of business, would have not criticised the sporting penalty because you couldn't. It was just the 100 million, as it were.
And actually the 100 million was much less than the penalty of excluding them from the championship. The trouble is that we've got a collection of people who speak in the paddock without thinking, without understanding, who are very stupid and superficial. So they keep going on and on about this massive fine when in fact it was the least we could do, and it demonstrably did not interfere with McLaren's business - witness the fact that they won the drivers' championship the following year.
It was a nasty blow for them, which it needed to be, but it was not like excluding them even in 2007, never mind both years. It's a constant source of annoyance to me when they say 'this outrageous fine'. It's always the really stupid people who haven't thought the thing through.
Q. Would the same principle apply to Renault? 695 people could potentially suffer, who didn't know about the plot?
MM: That's the difficult bit but in the end, again, Renault have to decide. First of all they have got to make their case for the defence and secondly it's very much up to them. It's up to Renault, the ball is in their court. They must decide what they want to do.
Q. What could be the penalty if they guilty?
MM: It could be anything up to disqualification. Because that's what's set out in the code. Disqualification means you are out, finished.
Q. From the 2008 championship?
MM: Out. Total. Exclusion forever, gone, finished. That's the worst that could happen, but don't for a moment get the impression I'm saying that would happen or will happen. That is the worst that could happen.
Q. But that could be a consequence of the penalty, they could walk away
MM: When Toyota were caught in 1995 or 1996 with the dodgy air inlet, we excluded them for a year. Then they voluntarily excluded themselves for a further year and then they came back. It was a very Japanese sort of mea culpa. So you don't know.
I shouldn't really speculate about it all because we just don't know. All I can officially say at this point is that we haven't had the defence and until we have a hearing we've got to presume they are innocent.
Q. Did you have a chance to talk to Carlos Ghosn about the matter?
MM: Not about this issue. I last met him in July, before this happened. I haven't spoken to him and I haven't spoken about this to Bernard Rey. I've had a couple of conversations with Flavio.
Q. How would you imagine Ghosn would react to a big penalty?
MM: I don't think it would be so much how he would react if there was a big penalty to us. If he thought the team had done it he would probably be unhappy but we don't know, we haven't heard their defence.
Q. The telemetry data appears rather damning though?
MM: This is true but we don't know. They might turn up at the hearing with 13 examples of where he has spun off and the telemetry shows he kept his foot on it the whole time. Then the whole picture changes. We just don't know.