"I don't trust that he's not gone yet," said one salty F1 veteran on the news two week's ago that Max Mosley had confirmed he would not stand for re-election and that the FOTA teams had called off their breakaway championship.
"He's like a snake with three slugs in it that's not dead yet. That's when they can be at their most dangerous."
Sure enough, barely more than 24 hours later there was Max 'reviewing his options' using some off-guard comments by Luca di Montezemelo to contrive a situation in which he might change his mind. Publicly, at least.
It was with relief that following Mosley's leaked letter to the Ferrari president, there wasn't a follow-up statement from the FOTA teams saying in light of Mosley going against the agreement that had been approved by the world council, they were pressing on with their breakaway championship.
In fact the teams reaction has been remarkably sanguine - because as far as they are concerned the F1 agreement has been approved from within the FIA regardless of how much Max might now harrumph.
"It was always my intention to stand down," said the president before his apparent about-turn, "but I didn't want to confirm that because it would have weakened my position in negotiations with the teams." The feeling is he is now using the threat of not standing down to push through his favoured choice as successor, Jean Todt.
An earlier comment from Toyota's John Howett saying that the teams would favour a president with no historical links to any of the current teams was taken as a coded message that Todt would not find favour with them. Which likely irked Mosley and played a crucial part in his 'comeback' threat because a) the teams do not get to choose and b) he had already suffered one humiliating defeat after almost two decades of victories and now here were the teams presuming to nominate their favoured successor and c) it was very important to him that Todt succeeded him.
There was a certain lack of grace from the FOTA teams in the aftermath of the agreement, though that was understandable considering the years of divide and rule.
They could have made more of an effort to maintain the fantasy that the agreement was on Max's terms. They couldn't quite disguise their joy at having 'won'. They had played their cards with considerable skill and nerve to leave the FIA and CVC with the terrifying prospect of having no credible F1 championship to run in opposition to a FOTA series, something that would have been ruinous for the commercial rights holder and ultimately the governing body.
The reason why the teams are so apparently unconcerned by Max's implied threat to stand again is they know the key membership of the FIA understands it would be a suicidal thing for the FIA to back, that Max would potentially be taking the body down with him if his standing jump-started the FOTA series into life. Although they can't guess with any degree of confidence what Max's next move may be, they can be reasonably certain the FIA membership would not allow him to do that.
Assuming Max does not re-stand, that the breakaway championship does not happen and everyone goes through with the commitment of staying in F1 until the end of 2012, it still leaves the teams with an unsatisfactory commercial deal. They are prepared to live with that, they say, until that time. In other words, three more seasons of that isn't worth the upheaval of going off on their own. But it will be interesting to observe the balance of power between the teams and Bernie Ecclestone, with one vital tool of control - Max - no longer there for the first time in decades. Would Todt come to assume that role? Quite possibly. Would he be as clever? Probably not.
But there's one nagging thought in all this. Let's just say Max does stand again - and the teams refuse to sign, and the matter goes to court. Why did they agree to the same terms as before, the only difference being who is president? Surely that's a vendetta? Surely that's not legal? Probably fanciful. But, like the man said, he's not dead yet.
To continue reading this feature, join Autosport Plus today.
Are you an Autosport magazine subscriber? Activate your online account
- Your Autosport Plus membership includes:
- Unlimited access to Autosport's news - no monthly cap.
- Read the best motorsport features, analysis and opinion.
- Explore Forix, our comprehensive motorsport stats database.
- Choose from a monthly or yearly membership.