Mosley in reverse gear over legal threat

The FIA president calls for talks during a visit to Silverstone but teams forge ahead with plans for new series
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The Independent Online

Red Bull might have left their fellow Fota teams to lick their wounds in the British Grand Prix, but all of their fellow renegades – McLaren-Mercedes, Ferrari, Brawn-Mercedes, BMW Sauber, Renault, Toyota, or Toro Rosso-Ferrari – were buoyed by a surprise visit from the president of the FIA, Max Mosley, in which he backtracked after his threat to issue legal proceedings when they announced late on Thursday their intention to start their own series.

Mosley had not been scheduled to visit Silverstone yesterday after attending on Friday, and when he told reporters: "I think we would rather talk than litigate," the teams took it as a sign that he may be beginning to feel the pressure after a tense weekend.

Forsaking his customary hard line, Mosley said that he believed that a solution remained possible.

"We are talking to people all the time," he said. "It will all be back to normal, it's just a question of when. I think an agreement is very close, I think what divides us and the teams is minimal and really is something that we could sit down and iron out very quickly and we said to them we are ready to do this."

The Brawn team owner, Ross Brawn, offered a different view, however, when he confirmed that the Fota teams were pushing ahead with their plans for a breakaway series, rather than seeking to reopen negotiations with the sport's governing body.

"The decision has been made by Fota (Formula One Teams' Association)," he said. "Fota now has to press ahead with its ideas and plans, we can't wait until January and decide which way it is going to go. As each day passes, and each week passes, then the options for a reconciliation will reduce."

Sources within the paddock suggest that Mosley's sudden reappearance may have been motivated by a desire to seek a quick resolution to Formula One's problems – which some attribute to his style of management – because he has got wind of a possible coup at the FIA's World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris on Wednesday.

In the past such things would scarcely bother a man who is proud to rely on a fearsome intellect unmatched within the sport, but insiders suggest that he has been rattled by the teams' continuing appearance of unity and their commitment to taking an option he had not dreamed they would choose.

Mosley also denied there was any personal friction with the Fota representatives Luca di Montezemolo, who is also the president of Ferrari, and his fellow Italian Flavio Briatore, the team principal of Renault.

"Montezemolo and I have known each other nearly 40 years and I get along with him fine on a personal level," Mosley said. "Flavio is great on a personal level but obviously sometimes when you have got something as complex as Formula One, you can have disagreements about how things operate within the sport. But on a personal basis we've always got along fine. I came in this morning in his helicopter."

Mosley was also at pains to redress comments he made in which he called the Fota team representatives "loonies".

"We divide the teams into two camps, which are the moderates who want to talk and want a settlement, and what we call the 'loonies' who appear not to want a settlement," he explained.

"It's more of a jokey reference than anything else. I don't think they are literally loonies, but I think they are a little bit immoderate in their approach."

Meanwhile, Formula One's commercial rights holder, Bernie Ecclestone, told the BBC: "We'll do our best to fix it. I'm sure we'll find a way. We have us, the federation and the teams, and that's the way it should stay.

"I think people will have enough sense not to bust this business up. People complain and say we should get rid of Max, but they don't understand we can't get rid of him. He is president of the FIA, and there are 122 votes throughout the world (via the FIA General Assembly). They will vote whether they think Max should be there or not, but he's done a lot of very, very good things for Formula One, on safety and everything else."

It remains to be seen how many will share Ecclestone's view in Paris on Wednesday.