Mosley must resign to end FIA crisis, says Ecclestone

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The Independent Online

Max Mosley has firmly rebuffed suggestions by 24 member clubs of his FIA organisation that the sport is in crisis in the wake of his much-publicised sex scandal, and rejected their call to stand down ahead of a vote of confidence in him at an extraordinary general meeting of the FIA in Paris on Tuesday.

The beleaguered president has been toughing it out ever since the story of an orgy with five hookers broke in a Sunday newspaper on 30 March, and even though the clubs – from America, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Singapore, Spain and Switzerland – represent 86 per cent of the overall FIA membership, they have only 25 per cent of the vote.

Mosley is adamant that he will have sufficient support from other clubs come Tuesday to retain his role at least until his term of office expires in October 2009. He claims it is essential that he stays in order to complete delicate negotiations on the sport's future.

His long-time cohort Bernie Ecclestone is the sport's commercial-rights holder, and with Mosley created the Concorde Agreement by which the sport has been run ever since their watershed battle with the FIA (then the FISA) back in 1981. He has been playing his usual complex game during all this, alternately praising and criticising Mosley in what many have seen as their traditional strategy of appearing to be at war while remaining firm allies.

It is in neither's interest to see the other fall. But this week Ecclestone finally revealed the pressure he has been under from investors, sponsors and manufacturers in F1 as Mosley steadfastly refuses to go away.

Ecclestone said: "They point out that as a chief executive or chief operating officer of a major company they would have gone either immediately, or within 24 hours, in the same circumstances. They cannot understand why Max has not done the same.

"He is a strong man. Once he makes a decision he sticks to it. He feels that there is still important work to do at the FIA. But in my view there is a way to accomplish this and retire at the end of the year at the FIA general assembly in November. I would be happy to sit at his side to help him to achieve that.

"He should stand down out of responsibility for the institution he represents, including F1. Everyone who I speak to in a position of authority across F1 rings me to say he should leave. It is regretful that he has not made that decision."

Even Ecclestone believes that "these incidents" have left Mosley in an untenable position in which his credibility – and therefore the credibility of his sport – has been terminally undermined. Ecclestone said: "The general feeling is that people would no longer be comfortable speaking to him in the same way. I have spoken to Max about this and advised him to stand down in November and not to go to the vote next Tuesday.

"He is being punished for the wrong reasons. He has done a first-class job as president. Like all of us he has made some mistakes, but 90 per cent of the decisions he has taken have been to the benefit of all. He deserves to be remembered for all the positive work he has done, not for an exposé in a tabloid newspaper. That is why he should announce his decision to resign now and not go through with a vote of confidence. That is not in his best interests, the FIA's or the sport's."

Meanwhile, racing continues next weekend with the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is very different to Monaco, where Lewis Hamilton won brilliantly last weekend, describing it as "the highlight of my career". But Hamilton scored his first GP victory in Canada last year and is intent on increasing his new championship lead.

"It looks as though the title will be a race between Ferrari and ourselves, though I wouldn't discount BMW," says McLaren's chief executive, Martin Whitmarsh. "If we can progress at a better rate than Ferrari we'll win the championship, and vice versa.

"Braking and straight-line speeds are critical in Can-ada and we've been focusing on those areas. This year our car has excelled in sweeping, high-speed corners: Montreal hasn't got any of those, but we have done very well there before and I'm confident we'll be very strong again."