Mosley's future in balance as Ecclestone goes on the attack

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The Independent Online

There is no truth in the rumour that Ross Kemp and Martine McCutcheon are to be cast in a new Formula One soap series that is set to rival "Coronation Street" and "Eastenders", but the way things are here in Monaco they might just as well be.

"It never ceases to amaze me how gullible people can be in F1," a manufacturer's representative commented at one stage yesterday, and it was hard not to agree with him.

For every individual who is convinced that Max Mosley, the beleaguered president of the FIA, will be thrown out by the voting of the FIA member clubs on 3 June, there is another who will tap the side of his nose with the knowing smile of greater wisdom and tell you out of the corner of his mouth that Sir Oswald's boy will remain in power.

Likewise, there are two schools of thought regarding the so-called war between Mosley, as head of the governing body of world motorsport, and Bernie Ecclestone, his long-time cohort who is the commercial rights holder. They have been together since the days when Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise were a double act, and while it might be a little fanciful to modernise them with an Ant and Dec reference, you get the picture. Over their years together they have had more "wars" than the Middle East, and none of them have amounted to a hill of beans. They were never going to. The same sort of "they are divided" tactics that the two used so effectively to bamboozle the late Jean-Marie Balestre out of FIA governance in October 1991, have served them well time and again.

"But this time it's really serious between the two of them," one observer suggested, finger quickly headed towards nasal territory. "Bernie is really fed up with the way Max wants to control everything. They are headed towards the endgame."

Maybe. Maybe not.

After Turkey the spin doctors went into action, leaking a letter that Mosley wrote to all of the presidents of the FIA member clubs who will vote on his future. Effectively, he made an eloquent and yet completely self-serving plea to be allowed to stay on in his role as president, to complete his important works with the apparent promise that he really will step down rather than be seeking re-election come the end of his current term in October 2009.

That was followed by a letter from Ecclestone to the same presidents, setting out the situation from the viewpoint of the commercial rights holder. It all seemed like good stuff, Max and Bernie slugging it out verbally, mano a mano.

The former had strode down the pit lane the previous day, out in public in F1 for the first time since the sex scandal that surrounds him broke on 30 March. In between offering some his best scowl, Ecclestone had indulged his penchant for a little humorous sleight of voice by baiting reporters.

"Poor old Max. I feel sorry for him," he said. "Everybody's wrong except him. Everybody was involved in the orgy except him. He is just lashing out at anything he can. If he wants me to be the enemy he should be very careful because if he makes me an enemy I could make sure that he never whips anybody again.

"People have asked me to do that but I've been reluctant to say anything. But if he did try to do something bad to hurt me personally I would come out of the closet kicking and screaming.

"What he says in the letter is wrong. He is saying 'You have to keep me, I'm the only one who can do the job'. There are 222 clubs. That is what the FIA does, it administers clubs. The FIA could not function without F1. What Max is saying to the clubs is that they are idiots, that not one of them could do the job. I'd be insulted if I were them. Normally Max is more together instead of making silly, outrageous mistakes. Somebody from one of the more important clubs rang me to speak about the letter. He thought it was outrageous."

Sir Malcolm Sargeant could not have done a slicker job of conducting the orchestra.

The straw poll view here is that Mosley will get the one-vote majority he needs to stay in power, but yesterday it emerged that there may be hair on the cake. Sources in Japan suggest strongly that the influential and respected Japan Automobile Federation will withdraw their mobility and sporting memberships from the FIA if Mosley does not stand down – before the vote on 3 June.

There was a nice little bit of history yesterday as Bruno Senna, the nephew of the great Ayrton, triumphed in the GP2 race on the streets on which his uncle still holds the record for six victories.

Formula One standings


1 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 35pts

2 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 28

3 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 28

4 R Kubica (Pol) BMW-Sauber 24

5 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW-Sauber 20

6 H Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 14

7 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault 10

8 F Alonso (Sp) Renault 9

8= J Trulli (It) Toyota 9

10 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota 8

11 K Nakajima (Japan) Williams-Toyota 5; 12 J Button (GB) Honda 3; 13 S Bourdais (Fr) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2; 14 D Coulthard (GB) Red Bull-Renault 0; 14= N Piquet Jr (Br) Renault 0; 14= G Fisichella (It) Force India-Ferrari 0; 14= R Barrichello (Br) Honda 0; 14= A Sutil (Ger) Force India-Ferrari 0; 14= T Glock (Ger) Toyota 0; 14= S Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 0.


1 Ferrari 63

2 BMW-Sauber 44

3 McLaren-Mercedes 42

4 Williams-Toyota 13; 5 Red Bull-Renault 10; 6 Toyota 9; 7 Renault 9; 8 Honda 3; 9 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2; 10 Force-India Ferrari 0.

Super Aguri pulled out following Spanish Grand Prix because of lack of money