Analysis: Teams Look to Oust Mosley
Seven of the Formula One teams are expected to decide today to rally behind an internal FIA candidate that will stand against reigning president Max Mosley in the upcoming presidential election for the FIA
The candidate, however, will remain top secret and his identity would not be revealed for as long as possible.
The teams, which include Renault, McLaren, Williams, BAR, Toyota, Sauber and Minardi, are set to meet today in Munich, Germany, and discuss ways of ousting Mosley from the head of the sport's governing body. They are planned to also finalise details for a breakaway series which could run even sooner than 2008, should Mosley be elected again.
The idea for a 'manufacturers' breakaway series was initially aimed at addressing a more equitable distribution of income among the participating teams, after Formula One commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone has sold the majority of the holding company's shares to outside investors.
The breakaway series was initially seen as a bargaining chip to force Ecclestone to change the commercial agreement with the teams.
However, it now seems that Mosley's tenure of the FIA presidency has become the main driving force in the preparations for a breakaway series.
The teams are said to have agreed to withdraw immediately from Formula One had they been penalised with a ban in the FIA's World Motor Sport Council hearing two weeks ago, where the seven Michelin-shod teams were accused of bringing the sport into disrepute. The seven teams refused to race at Indianapolis for the US Grand Prix after Michelin's tyres proved unsafe for the track.
But the Indianapolis affair is only one of several other issues where the teams feel Mosley has misconducted himself, and the recent face-off with Red Bull driver David Coulthard has only added fuel to fire.
Mosley telephoned Coulthard last week to express his displeasure with the Scot's behaviour following the US Grand Prix and, according to a letter sent to Mosley and signed by the vast majority of the current F1 drivers, the FIA president had suggested to Coulthard that "the FIA might withdraw support for the ongoing safety initiatives of the GPDA."
After Coulthard made further public comments in criticism of the 2005 engine and qualifying regulations, Mosley wrote the Red Bull driver a letter which stated he would not attend a planned meeting with the drivers on the issue of safety in testing, with Mosley accusing Coulthard of politicising the meeting.
Mosley seems to be distancing himself further and further from the F1 fraternity, but he continues to earn the support of Ferrari team principal Jean Todt, who came out in the president's defence at Magny Cours last Sunday.
"Lots of people don't like Max Mosley, that's clear," Todt said. "I like Max Mosley, so that's the first fundamental difference. I like him, I rate him, I appreciate and respect what he does. We are not on safety, we are not on tyres, we are on politics.
"And politically I support him. I feel he's a great president for the FIA, even if I don't always share his opinion. At the moment you have seven teams - probably more than seven teams - who are trying to go against him. So for me, that's why we are not talking about safety."
Sole public speaker among the 'rebel' teams remains Minardi's Paul Stoddart, who said the team's wish to oust Mosley is not a matter of personal vendetta.
"I am the team principal who, over the last five years, had the most support for Mosley and the most respect," Stoddart said in France. "And I still believe that the job that Mosley has done as the FIA president has been fantastically good. But, in the last 12-18 months he has changed.
"This is not personal. Everyone thinks it is, but the belief is that the FIA president has acted against the interests of the teams so many times that if F1 is to survive and to thrive, it has to be without Mosley."
Beating Mosley is not an easy task, though. The opposing candidate would have to get the support of the majority representatives of the various national sporting authorities which have a voting right in the October elections, and right now there is no known potential candidate that has a strong support across the board.
Possible candidates mentioned include Robert Darbelnet, president of the American Automobile Association; Jacques Regis, head of the French motorsport Federation; and even Prodrive CEO and former BAR team chief, David Richards.
The complication for any candidate attempting to stand against Mosley, however, is the new FIA structure, suggested by Mosley and approved in April this year, that would require the candidate to present a full cabinet in the elections and secure in advance his deputies - not an easy task to do unless you're the incumbent.
Mosley himself could still decide not to run again, although this remains a very unlikely option. But the Briton has said on several occasions in the past that he would not support the idea of the FIA president lasting in the position for too long.
In a press conference held at the British Grand Prix six years ago, Mosley said: "As I feel at the moment, if I last until October 2001 that will be it; I will think very carefully before standing for a third time because it is actually wrong for people to do these jobs for too long."
More to the point, in his 1991 letter to the FIA's voting delegates, when Mosley was running against then-FISA president Jean-Marie Balestre, Mosley wrote: "I think you might agree that to elect the same person for a further four years and thus have him presiding for a total of 17 years, is rather too long."
When Mosley beat Balestre in those elections, the French presided for less time in the presidential seat than Mosley has already done to date...
This week's issue of Autosport Magazine features extended reporting, insight and analysis on the F1 teams' mutiny, by Tony Dodgins.
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