A humiliated Max Mosley adopted the role of martyr yesterday as he resigned from the leadership of Formula One, ceding control to teams bent on his departure.
Formula One was convulsed by the biggest crisis in its history over the last week as teams including Ferrari and McLaren resisted severe cost-cutting measures that Mosley sought to impose on them. FOTA, the Formula One Teams Association, had threatened to embark on their own completely separate venture next year if Mosley refused to back down.
But a deal between the FIA, the governing body of which Mosley was president, and leading teams was reached in Paris yesterday, averting the threat of a rival berakaway series in the 2010 season.
After a meeting between 120 members of the World Motor Sport Council, Mosley declared: "I will not be up for re-election now that we have peace."
"There will be no split. We have agreed to a reduction of costs", he added. "There will be one F1 championship but the objective is to get back to the spending levels of the early 90s within two years". Mosley had wanted to enforce what he termed as a "voluntary" annual budget cap of £40m.
Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One's billionaire commercial rights holder, who together with Mosley brought the sport into the modern era, said he was "very happy common sense had prevailed". He had earlier predicted a lengthy court room battle.
Though his direct control over Formula One is effectively over from this morning, after 16 years at the helm, the latest chapter of Mosley's tempestuous relationship with the sport of which he was overlord is unlikely to be the last.
He had said in a letter to the FIA, published on Tuesday, that he was prepared to stand for a fifth term as president. He would, he said, defend himself and the FIA from "wholly unnecessary criticism" from "the dissident teams".
Less than 24 hours later, Mosley had fallen on his sword, in a classic revolt of the ruled against their ruler. He has successfully hard-balled leading teams in previous disputes, emerging as victor in a series of turf wars, but the prospect of a rival series, which would leave a rump Formula One made up of only two current teams and assorted novices, proved too damaging to concede. FOTA, led by Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo, presented a united front which Mosley could not breach.
He will therefore discontinue his presidency from October, sliding behind the scenes to exert his influence from there instead. In June 2004 Mosley said he would resign from his position in October of that year, only to rescind his decision a month later and secure re-election.
His departure brings to a close the reign of a ruling duopoly unlike any other in global sport. Together with Ecclestone, Mosley had made Formula One intoan exceptionally lucrative industry with a unique global audience. Teams needed money from Ecclestone, who retains half of all revenues for himself and the company he represents that owns Formula One. And they needed co-operation from the governing body, run by Mosley.
The last fiteen months have been largely thankless for the 69 year-old, whose father and mother were the 1930s fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley and Diana Mitford respectively. Six weeks ago his 39 year-old son Alexander was found dead in his west London flat following a drug overdose. In July last year he won a High Court battle with the News of the World after the tabloid published highly damaging revelations about an orgy in which he had taken part. Mosley admitted to being involved in a sadomasochistic sex session with five prostitutes, but vehemently denied there was a Nazi theme to it.2