Former FIA president Max Mosley – one of the most central figures in Formula 1 for 30 years – has died at the age of 81 after battling cancer.
The news was confirmed by Bernie Ecclestone to the BBC, with Ecclestone saying it was “like losing a brother”.
Mosley was the president of the FIA from 1993 to 2009 before he was succeeded by the current president Jean Todt, but his motorsport story started long before then. Already a lawyer, Mosley got as far as racing Formula 2 cars, and took part in the tragic race at Hockenheim in 1968 when Jim Clark lost his life.
After deciding to stop racing himself soon after his own crash in a Lotus at the Nurburgring, Mosley co-founded March Engineering in 1969. The Briton was the son of the controversial politician Sir Oswald Mosley, who was the leader of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, but found motorsport offered a world where his family history had less of an impact.
As part of his involvement with March, Mosley was invited to sit in on Grand Prix Constructors’ Association meetings, due to his background as a lawyer. His presence later evolved into he and Ecclestone helping form the Formula One Constructors’ Association (FOCA) in 1974, and Mosley officially became FOCA’s legal advisor three years later.
This led to Mosley being a central figure in the FISA-FOCA war that eventually led to the-then governing body of motorsport negotiating with the teams and drawing up the first Concorde Agreement in 1981.
Having steered clear of party politics due to fears his father’s history would count against him, Mosley spent a spell away from F1 in the early 1980s to work for the Conservative Party in the UK, but returned to the sport in a role for FISA and went on to replace Jean-Marie Balestre as FISA president in 1991.
After impressing in the role, Mosley then took over from Balestre as president of the FIA in 1993, increasing his influence in motorsport terms, although he said he was further motivated by the impact he could have on global road safety. It was in this role that he used F1 to push Euro NCAP crash testing, improving performance of European cars in accidents, as well as major improvements in motor racing safety following the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola in 1994.
In F1 terms, Mosley and Ecclestone made for a formidable pairing who controlled many aspects of the sport after Mosley leased F1’s commercial rights to Ecclestone up to 2110. Mosley went toe-to-toe with disillusioned constructors’ on numerous occasions and was regularly at loggerheads with Ron Dennis, but after stating his intention to step down a year before the end of what was set to be his final term in 2004, Mosley was convinced by the FIA Senate to stay on, being elected unopposed to remain as FIA president until 2009.
In 2008, another breakaway threat from a number of teams under the umbrella of the Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA) prompted Mosley to suggest he may run for a fifth term, but when an agreement between the FIA and FOTA was reached regarding the 2009 regulations, it included the commitment from Mosley to step down as planned, and he endorsed current president Jean Todt as his successor.
Away from his role in F1, Mosley become a campaigner for improved privacy laws in the United Kingdom after a report about his sex life in the British press, also taking on Google in a number of European courts.
A documentary about Mosley’s life – simply titled ‘Mosley’ – was released in the UK in March.
“We are saddened to hear that Max Mosley former FIA President has passed away,” an F1 spokesperson said. “A huge figure in the transition of Formula 1. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.”
Current FIA president Jean Todt said: “Deeply saddened by the passing of Max Mosley. He was a major figure in F1 and motor sport. As FIA President for 16 years, he strongly contributed to reinforcing safety on track and on the roads. The entire FIA community pays tribute to him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”