King of spin Mosley laughs off 'civil war'

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Had Darcy Bussell been at Max Mosley's annual pre-season lunch she would have praised the connoisseur of ballet as his verbal pas de deux and pirouettes proved a masterclass in suave huckstering.

Some believe the sport is on the verge of civil war and bound, it seems, for yet another season of domination as Michael Schumacher and Ferrari take their sixth and seventh consecutive world titles.

Not a bit of it, Mosley said.

"Formula One has never been in better shape in the past 13 or 14 years," he declared, reminding everyone of the billion dollars (£535m) on offer from commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone if teams sign up to his series for 2008 onwards. This will come in the form of 50 per cent of the gross income and backdated payments (with interest) for 2004 to 2007, spread out between 2008 and 2012.

"The income from 2008 will be enormous," Mosley said. "It's somewhere between $500m and a billion. It will certainly be significant." Then he praised steps that have been taken to reduce the efficiency of aerodynamics and tyres this year prior to a reduction in engine capacity for 2006, in order to slow cars down and enhance safety; and the rescue of the moribund Jordan and Jaguar teams by the Russian Alex Shnaider of Midland and the Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz of Red Bull.

However, Mosley derided the genuine concern expressed by the Minardi owner Paul Stoddart, on behalf of nine of the 10 teams, about the manner in which he and Ecclestone are running the sport, and their recently announced long-term alliance with their arch-enemy Ferrari. "Some people suggest to me that Stoddart should be running the FIA as he and Minardi know more than anyone about slowing cars down," Mosley said, his vituperative wit clearly unimpaired even though he came close to quitting his job as president of the sport's governing body last July.

He urged the dissidents to stop carping and to consider instead real means of reducing the cost per kilometre of operating their cars, and to join Ferrari in sharing out the sport's annual income rather than joining the proposed Grand Prix World Championship. But in his deprecating manner he revealed that he does not hold out much hope of them agreeing with his views.

"I doubt they are capable of agreeing. I understand it's very annoying that Ferrari keep winning. But instead of whingeing about Ferrari, they should build a good car and put a decent driver in it, and they will win."

Mosley put Ferrari's success down to the management of Jean Todt, and added: "I don't agree that Ferrari are killing the sport. I think the others are doing that by doing a crap job. It's not up to Ferrari to lose but to the others to win. I think we will have a great championship this year and I don't see Michael winning the first five races.

"People accuse me of lacking independence, but I don't care who wins the title so long as it is settled on the last lap of the last race."