Bernie and Max are penpals!

I always had a little suspicion in the back of my mind that Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley didn’t quite see eye-to-eye as they’d have us believe. The 2005 United States Grand Prix was a case in point. Bernie Ecclestone — of course — wanted the race to go ahead in a way that would allow the Michelin teams to compete. But Max Mosley stood in the way of any such plans.

Bernie Ecclestone must have been spitting feathers. I know I would have been (hell, I was anyway). Furthermore, the whole saga just went to show that Max Mosley does not care about the interests of Formula 1 in general. He is only interested in throwing his weight around and helping out Ferrari.

Now they are engaged in a public war of words through the medium of the letter. After Max Mosley’s stunt last week of sending a letter to the FIA club presidents in a last-ditch bid to save his bacon, Bernie Ecclestone yesterday returned the favour to try and dispel Mosley’s claims.

By now it is pretty clear that Max Mosley’s decision to hold a General Assembly in June was a ploy to buy himself some time. He will be hoping that a combination of the time spent to let the scandal die down a bit and his new conspiracy theories will be enough for him to see off a confidence vote in just over a week’s time.

But Max Mosley is surely mistaken if he thinks his letter will help put him in the clear. Keith Collantine has already cast his eye over the letter, and I have to agree with the points he has made.

Mosley claims that he has received 62 letters of support, and only 13 asking him to resign. But this total represents a small proportion of the 222 votes that are eligible to be cast in the confidence vote. And, as Keith has pointed out, those who want Mosley to stay are more likely to write to him and say so. Mosley’s attempt to demonstrate that he has widespread support falls flat.

He then goes on to suggest that allowing the next FIA President to be chosen democratically would be detrimental to the interests of the FIA. Beautiful. I would have thought that the FIA clubs would find that quite insulting.

In the letter he goes on to bring up some spurious allegations about negotiations between the FIA and the Formula One Commercial Rights Holder (CRH) (who is, to all intents and purposes, Bernie Ecclestone). Mosley reveals that the 100 Year Agreement between the FIA and the CRH is currently under renegotiation. Quite how Max Mosley has got himself into a situation where he needs to renegotiate a “100 Year Agreement” which was supposedly settled back in 2001 is glossed over in the letter.

Mosley alleges that the CRH is angling, “in effect to take over Formula One completely”. This includes giving the CRH the right to determine regulations.

However, as has been pointed out today by Pitpass, such an arrangement would not be allowed by the European Commission anyway. And this fact is the very reason why the FIA and the CRH are separate. Max Mosley seems to be suggesting that Bernie Ecclestone intends not only to ignore the EC’s demands and take over F1, but also that Bernie thinks he will get away with it. Bernie isn’t that stupid. The allegation simply doesn’t add up.

In the next sentence Max Mosley asserts that such an arrangements would be detrimental to the FIA’s ability to protect “traditional Grands Prix”. For one thing, this is clearly an attempt to gain votes from some countries whose Grands Prix are currently under threat. I do wonder exactly what powers the FIA has to protect “traditional Grands Prix”.

If such a power exists, the FIA is surely not doing a very good job of it. Last year the calendar did not contain the German Grand Prix and it will be doing the hokey-cokey with the Nürburgring-based grand prix (whatever it gets called in the end) for the foreseeable future. The Belgian Grand Prix, held at the hugely popular historic Spa-Francorchamps, has been only a semi-permanent fixture in the calendar since the start of this century.

The fact also that the French and British (and now Australian) Grands Prix are constantly operating underneath the Sword of Damocles suggests that this ability to “protect traditional Grands Prix” is a very empty concept.

Sure enough, what exactly constitutes a “traditional Grand Prix” is not defined, and seems to be just a hazy concept present only somewhere in the darkest recesses of Max Mosley’s head. It is a meaningless fig-leaf.

Mosley goes on to point out that “there has been a struggle for control of Formula One that goes back to the original Concorde Agreement in 1981.” Pointing this out is presumably supposed to scare the voters into selecting the status quo option. But this seems like a very odd tactic to me.

Max Mosley has been in charge of the sport for the majority of that period — since 1991. The fact that Max Mosley himself admits that he has been unable to put a lid on this “struggle for control” says it all. Why should the voters be persuaded to keep someone in on the basis that they can see off this “struggle for control” when that person has evidently failed to do so for the past 17 years?

He then undermines these arguments by promising that he will step down in 2009 anyway! What a joke. Max Mosley’s letter seems to be a last-ditch, desperate attempt to save his reputation. The notion that Bernie Ecclestone was somehow involved in the News of the World allegations looks paranoid (especially when there is a rather simpler explanation — News International getting its own back).

The fact is that Max Mosley himself knows that his position is untenable. This is evident from the fact that — despite beating his chest about the fact that he is attending the Monaco Grand Prix — he is spending the entire weekend locked up in his private offices and, on his rare traipses outdoors, refuses to answer any questions from the media. This whole thing stinks of someone who can’t bear to go down without bringing others with him — hence his cack-handed attempt to bring Bernie Ecclestone into the centre of this whole sorry saga.

Yesterday Bernie Ecclestone responded with a letter of his own. In it, Ecclestone asserts his support for the FIA being the “sole body governing international motor sport” and confirms that the CRH “supports and concurs” with the European Commission’s requirements to keep the commercial and regulatory branches of F1 separate. He confirms that the CRH has no interest in controlling regulations, while pointing out that the FIA’s decisions should not be detrimental to the commercial interests of F1.

In fact, there is not anything very controversial in the letter at all — which you would expect, since Bernie Ecclestone had to defend himself. But it does add to the amount of arrows that seem to point to the fact that Max Mosley is not quite telling the whole truth in his letter of last week.

What is interesting about the letter is the constant emphasis on how it is in the interests of F1 for the FIA to be led by a “respected” President. And Max Mosley is anything but respected nowadays.

The sum of these two letters has been pointed out by Clive at F1 Insight: “Max either admits to lying or has to call Bernie a liar.”

Meanwhile, there are suggestions that the Thursday press conference at the Monaco Grand Prix was rigged. The panel was stuffed full of Max Mosley’s cronies, friends and allies. There are suggestions, too, that conference moderator Bob Constanduros was pressured into asking a question about Max Mosley. Funny how all this should happen at the last grand prix before the General Assembly.

Over the course of the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, it is becoming clear that Bernie Ecclestone has completely withdrawn any support he had left for Max Mosley. First he pointed out that Mosley’s letter was just “a smokescreen to stop all the other nonsense”.

In the Telegraph he was even stronger:

Everybody’s wrong except him. Everybody was involved in the orgy except him. He is just lashing out at anything he can. If he wants me to be the enemy he should be very careful because if he makes me an enemy I could make sure that he never whips anybody again.

I’m not sure about the bravado at the end there, but Bernie is absolutely right about Max Mosley here. Throughout this whole saga, Max Mosley has been trying to build conspiracies, shift the blame, and try to make out that it’s the News of the World that has brought the sport into disrepute. But no-one forced Max Mosley to whip prostitutes in a basement. Say what you want about the privacy issue (and I certainly have my opinions there), but once the facts are in the open there is nothing you can do about it. And it is no-one’s fault but Max Mosley’s.

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