Any audience with Max Mosley usually has the same outcome. You go armed with questions which you think will either catch him out or prove difficult to answer. And you invariably come away wondering what all the fuss was about and feel apologetic for asking.
Sounds pathetic, doesn’t it? But that is the measure of the FIA president’s eloquence and extraordinary self-assurance, even in the aftermath of events that would have upset the equilibrium of most people. I’m talking about the opprobrium heaped upon the FIA in the aftermath of Spa and, on a more personal basis, the revelations about Mosley’s private life splashed across the News of the World.
Mosley had a semi-informal meeting on Friday with seven journalists from Britain’s national daily newspapers. And he kicked off by criticising us for generating the outrage among F1 fans over the FIA’s methods when dealing with the incident at Spa.
‘I am sorry to have to say this but I think the British press have gone into complete hysteria over this matter,’ said Mosley. ‘They are utterly incapable, or so it seems, of writing objectively and the proof of that is the fact that five drivers sat in the press conference yesterday (Thursday) and expressed a view about what happened in Belgium which may or not be right. That view does not accord with the view of the British press. I have just been through the cuttings and did not find one single mention of that press conference.’
Mosley was referring to Massa, Rosberg, Trulli, Bourdais and Fisichella agreeing that Lewis Hamilton had gained an advantage by cutting the chicane, but that the subsequent penalty was harsh (as reported on this website). These remarks indicated Mosley’s wish to take no prisoners and triggered some hard questions from the accused sitting before him.
Because the subject is a matter for the appeal court in Paris on 22 September, Mosley was naturally unwilling to pass any opinion on the track activity between Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen.
But he did make two significant points. It had been wrong of McLaren to ask Race Director Charlie Whiting for an opinion and it had wrong for Whiting to give one. Mosley’s argument is that Whiting needed to be focussed on running the race at a potentially treacherous time as drivers tackled a wet track on grooved slicks. Whiting’s apparent approval (at that point) of
Hamilton’s actions is likely to form the central plank of McLaren’s defence and it will be interesting to see how this pans out in the appeal court in the light of Mosley’s comment.
Mosley, who was in Peru at the time, categorically denied that he had been in touch with his officials before the verdict had been reached. He also defended the present system of stewards rather than have a referee delivering on-the-spot judgement in order to eliminate the damaging delay in declaring a result. With so much invested in every F1 team in terms of people and finance, it would be wrong for one person to make a snap decision without examining all the evidence. Mosley told us that we could make up our own minds about Hamilton after hearing the details in court on 22 September.
Mosley was adamant that the FIA is not out to ‘get’ Hamilton. ‘I think he is a brilliant driver and it would be really excellent for Formula One and the world championship, if he won it,’ said Mosley. ‘But that doesn’t mean we are going to help him or hinder him. We are going to be utterly neutral. But that said, it would be brilliant if he won because he is a supreme talent and when it’s difficult, that’s when we see it. He has done a great job, and whilst we can admire, we mustn’t assist or hinder.’
Does this help or hinder your understanding of what happened at Spa?