Max Mosley's future as the president of world motor sport's governing body, the FIA, is in increasing jeopardy following last Sunday's allegations in a tabloid newspaper. As Formula One convened for the first time since the report in the News of the World, four manufacturers have issued statements questioning whether he should stay on as head of the organisation.
In an attempted pre-emptive strike, Mosley yesterday called upon the FIA Senate to convene an extraordinary general meeting in which their full membership of clubs worldwide will be invited to discuss the "apparently illegal invasion of the FIA president's privacy".
In the days following publication of the allegations of Nazi-themed sexual activities with prostitutes, Mosley, 67, kept his head down before making clear his intention to fight on and resist mounting pressure to resign. As he claimed that legal matters kept him in London, however, it emerged that the Crown Prince of Bahrain had specifically asked him not to attend this weekend's Grand Prix here, the third race of the new season.
"In light of the allegations, I suspect you may be deliberating on your planned attendance at the Grand Prix here in Bahrain later in the week, an official letter said. "I therefore felt it important to convey the position of Bahrain and its people.
"Clearly of paramount importance is the success of the event for all concerned – the Kingdom of Bahrain, Formula One and spectators. The focus quite rightly should be on the race. With great regret, I feel that under the current circumstances, it would be inappropriate for you to be in Bahrain at this time."
Yesterday the mood in the paddock hardened further as the dominoes continued to fall. First BMW and Mercedes-Benz issued a joint statement.
"The content of the publication is disgraceful," it said. "As a company, we strongly distance ourselves from it. This incident concerns Max Mosley both personally and as President of the FIA, the global umbrella organisation for motoring clubs. Its consequences therefore extend far beyond the motor sport industry. We await a response from the relevant FIA bodies."
That was as clear a call for action as possible, but Mosley rebuffed it, claiming that they should have contacted him beforehand.
"Given the history of BMW and Mercedes Benz, particularly before and during the Second World War, I fully understand why they would wish to strongly distance themselves from what they rightly describe as the disgraceful content of these publications," he said – and time will judge the wisdom of his choice of words.
"No doubt the FIA will respond to them in due course as I am about to respond to the newspaper in question," he said.
Shortly afterwards, he was rocked again when Honda and Toyota issued broadly similar statements.
"It is necessary that senior figures in sport and business maintain the highest standards of conduct in order to fulfil their duties with integrity and respect," said that from Honda.
"The Honda Racing F1 Team are extremely disappointed by recent events surrounding Mr Mosley and we are concerned that the reputation of Formula One and all its participants is being damaged. We request that the FIA gives this matter careful consideration and reaches an immediate decision in the best interests of F1 and Motorsport."
Toyota Motorsport were even more robust. "We do not approve of any behaviour which could be seen to damage Formula One's image, in particular any behaviour which could be understood to be racist or anti-Semitic," they said.
"Senior figures within any sport or business, including motorsport, must adhere to high standards of behaviour. When all the facts are known, it will be for the FIA to decide whether Mr Mosley has met the moral obligations which come with the position of FIA President."
Condemnation earlier in the week came from Sir Stirling Moss, one of the most highly respected figures in motorsport history, and 1979 world champion Jody Scheckter. Now the ongoing fallout continues to weaken Mosley's position while further eroding the credibility of the FIA, the sport's governing body.
Yesterday driver Nico Rosberg said: "In general I agree that there should be standards. If you are figures like us, you've got to try and set standards. You need also think about other people. Young drivers are coming up and it's important to try and set a good example."
"Yeah, that's key," agreed Lewis Hamilton. "We are always looking up to someone to show us the way, and setting an example is the best way to say it."
The Grand Prix Drivers' Association is due to discuss the matter in their meeting today.
Hamilton, the championship leader, was in ebullient mood after a short break in Thailand spent mixing holiday time with training that included "a lot of running, lot of kayaking and swimming, and overcoming my fear of deep water – it's the unknown, not knowing what's beneath you."
After his misfortune in Malaysia, Hamilton believes he can defend his championship lead this weekend. "We have a very good package. Our underlying pace in Sepang was good as Ferrari's, and that gives us the confidence coming here."
‘Max – please don’t come to Bahrain’
I was sorry to learn of the media stories which emerged on Sunday in the UK.
In light of the allegations, I suspect you may be deliberating on your planned attendance at the Grand Prix here in Bahrain later in the week. I therefore felt it important to convey the position of Bahrain and its people.
Clearly of paramount importance is the success of the event for all concerned – the Kingdom of Bahrain, Formula 1 and spectators. The focus quite rightly should be on the race.
With great regret I feel that under the current circumstances, it would be inappropriate for you to be in Bahrain at this time.
I don't want to add to difficulties in which you find yourself, but I hope you understand the position we have taken.
Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al - Khalifa, Crown Prince of the Kingdom of BahrainReuse content