Category Archives: Interview

Max Mosley: Liberty Media should have kept Bernie Ecclestone on as Formula 1 boss

Max Mosley has questioned Liberty Media’s decision to oust Bernie Eccleston from his position as chief executive of Formula 1, and said he would have “kept him on”.

In his first interview since Ecclestone was moved aside, the former FIA president told me the sport’s new owners may find it “quite difficult” to cope without the 86-year-old, who ran F1 for nearly 40 years.

The American firm completed its $8bn (£6.4bn) takeover of the sport in January.

In September, Ecclestone said he had been asked to stay on for a further three years. But last month, F1’s ringmaster told the German media he had been “dismissed”, with vice-chairman of 21st Century Fox Chase Carey installed as his replacement. Ecclestone has been appointed chairman emeritus.

Speaking to me at F1’s annual Zoom charity auction in London on Friday, Mosley said: “I think it may be quite difficult (for Liberty Media). I think what he (Ecclestone) was brilliant at was dealing with the promoters and the organisers and the whole structure of the championship. For somebody new to come in without all the personal relationships it may be difficult.”

“If it had been me I’d have kept him on doing the things that he’s demonstrably very good at and concentrated my efforts on doing the things that up to now have not been done, like interactive television, virtual reality, social media, the internet and all the rest of it. All of that’s been slightly neglected in Formula 1 and that’s the sort of thing that Liberty will probably be very good at.”

In a wide ranging interview, Mosley, who was president of the sport’s governing body from 1993 to 2009, revealed he thinks:

  • Liberty Media should maintain an “open mind” about the format of Grand Prix weekends
  • The sport’s new owners have a “difficult” decision to make on whether to pursue more pay TV deals
  • The hiring of former technical director and team owner Ross Brawn to help run the sport was “a good choice”
  • New rules designed to improve the racing this year are “questionable”

Ecclestone’s legacy

When asked what Ecclestone’s legacy would be, Mosley said: “In a way Formula 1 is his legacy.

“People tend to forget that probably the potential in the World Rally Championship is, and always has been, greater than Formula 1. Arguably also long distance racing like Le Mans. But Bernie came into Formula 1, and it was big when he came in, and he’s made it so much bigger.

“When I was FIA president I kept thinking why can’t we have another Bernie to do the rallies, to do the long distance and there just wasn’t one. All of those different aspects of the sport could be built into just as big a business as Formula 1.”

Liberty’s plans for the future

Carey has stated his wish to make races “bigger, more exciting, more successful”, and put “21 Super Bowls” on the calendar. He also wants to better promote the sport on digital platforms and drive up revenues.

Mosley suggested Liberty should “keep a very open mind” on the future format of Grand Prix weekends, adding: “Just because something’s been successful doesn’t mean it can’t be done better.”

Has the American media giant underestimated the challenge? “It’s hard to tell,” said Mosley. “They may be brilliant and they may have the whole thing completely thought through. On the other hand they may find more difficult than they thought.

“I always imagine if somebody put me in charge of horse racing and said ‘right, you’ve got to sort that out’, it always looks easy from the outside. You see all the things that you think they’re doing wrong. And then when you get all the files and the dossiers put in front of you, you find out what’s really going on.”

Mosley said Liberty’s priority should be “growing the audience”- a task which many observers have noted may be difficult as the sport increasingly disappears from free-to-air television.

But he added that the switch to pay TV does not give him cause for concern, saying: “It’s now become so established it would take a fairly major effort to wreck it.”

“I think there’s always a conflict between getting money from television rights and then perhaps distributing it to the teams but less money from sponsors, or more free-to-air television and more money from sponsors. That’s quite a difficult business decision which Liberty would have to take. “

However Mosley was in no doubt about the wisdom behind Liberty’s decision to hire former technical director and team owner Ross Brawn to help run the sport.

Brawn, who masterminded all seven of Michael Schumacher’s F1 titles at Benetton and Ferrari before winning the title with Jenson Button at his own team, has been appointed to run the sporting and technical side of F1.

“Ross completely understands the sport and he understands what needs to be done and he’s got an absolutely first class analytical brain,” said Mosley.

“I think he’ll be an enormous asset to them and that side (the sporting aspect) isn’t really what Liberty should be doing. Ross is outstanding so they made a good choice there.”

‘Questionable’ new rules for 2017

New-for-2017 rules will see this year’s cars not only look radically different but become much faster.

The tyres will be wider, as will the front wings and the main bodywork of the cars. The result will be more aggressive looking cars, huge downforce gains and lap times up to five seconds a lap quicker.

But many have expressed concerns. More downforce and bigger tyres means higher cornering speeds, but wider cars need to punch a bigger hole in the air meaning slower straight line speeds. In theory, the combined effect will be shorter braking distances therefore potentially making overtaking more difficult.

And Mosley, too, is worried. “My personal view is that it may have gone in the wrong direction,” he said. “I would have gone for less aero and perhaps more mechanical grip.

“Deliberately setting out to make the cars quicker is questionable because all the rules for the last 40 or 50 years brought in by the FIA have been to make the cars slower – either slower or safer, because speed equals danger obviously.”

This article was originally published on the ITV News website in February 2017 

 

F1 INSIGHT: Life on the road as an F1 mechanic

Getting a Formula One car to the other side of the world and onto the grid in front of thousands of spectators and millions of television viewers is no simple task.

Before the Lewis Hamilton’s and Sebastian Vettel’s of this world can even think about turning a wheel, there are a myriad of processes that need to happen before an F1 car is ready to race.

In the first edition of my F1 insight series, McLaren Design Engineer Alistair Niven explained the design process – the most essential phase in the development of a Grand Prix car.

The next, crucial job is for the team of mechanics to ensure the car is ready to be tested and then raced.

I’ve been speaking to former Red Bull Racing mechanic Dan Fox about life on the road and the demands of the profession. He started by telling me it was a job he aimed for from a very young age.

“I wanted to become a Formula One mechanic from the around the age of five.”

“My family was involved in motorsport and we always watched the Grand Prix growing up. I went to my first Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1988 and I was hooked.”

But for Dan, the journey to achieve his childhood dream of becoming an F1 mechanic was a long one, involving a lot of hard work and dedication.

“I worked my way up the ladder in the junior formulae, a bit like most F1 drivers”, he said.

“I started off at an indoor kart track called Magna Karta in Milton Keynes while I was at school. While I was working there and doing my GCSE exams I would send letters and CVs to race teams in the area.

The journey to becoming an F1 mechanic was a long one

The journey to becoming an F1 mechanic was a long one

“At the end of 1997 Fred Goddard from Fred Goddard Racing called me over for an interview and I started there in early 1998.

“We ran Formula Ford Zetec cars in the British Championship against the likes of Jenson Button that season. We also had a number of F1 and F3000 cars that we ran for customers in Boss Formula.”

It wasn’t long, though, before Dan started working with some of the stars of the future.

In 1999 he worked in Formula Renault and a year later moved onto British F3, working with Gary Paffet.

The following year was another Formula Renault campaign – this time as a mechanic for current Formula One driver Heikki Kovalainen.

After a few more years in British F3 and the World Sportscar Championship, Dan finally achieved his goal of becoming an F1 mechanic.

His F1 career began with Red Bull Racing in 2005, with whom he would remain for five years, working with the likes of David Coulthard, Mark Webber and reigning World Champion, Sebastian Vettel.

“The job was very much as I expected it to be”, he said.

“Lots of my friends and ex colleagues worked in F1 plus I had read books by Steve Matchett about his time at Benetton.”

Although a familiar environment from his time working up through the ranks, Dan was keen to stress the demands of his role with the Red Bull team.

“The most demanding aspect of the job was the long hours and time spent abroad”, he said.

“When I was in F1 there were no curfews and in those days we had in-season testing.

“Sometimes we would work from 6.45 in the morning through to 4am the following day, for three days in a row at tests and race weekends.

F1 mechanics work flat out during a Grand Prix weekend

F1 mechanics work flat out during a Grand Prix weekend

Dan said it is “difficult for the armchair enthusiast to understand” the demands and pressures that F1 mechanics are under, “but there are many good books out there which give info about what goes on in Formula One.”

“After a Grand Prix ends and TV viewers at home tuck in to their Sunday lunch, F1 personnel are just about to start another days’ work, packing everything away and prepping the cars ready for transport back to the factory or the next race.

“Most teams don’t finish this until midnight.”

In his five years with Red Bull Racing, Dan said his favourite moment was the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix, when David Coulthard picked up a third place finish – a huge achievement then, for a team that has made a habit of winning the Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championships in recent years.

Monaco 2006 - when the Red Bull Racing team were sponsored by Superman Returns

Monaco 2006 – when the Red Bull Racing team were sponsored by Superman Returns

It was a race weekend when the team were sponsored by the Superman Returns film, and Coulthard duly wore the Superman cape during the podium ceremony.

One of his most challenging tasks as an F1 mechanic, however, came a month later in Montreal.

“We had one hour to change an engine in David Coulthard’s car before the start of the 2006 Canadian Grand Prix, after it had an air leak from part of the pneumatic valve system”, he said.

“Later that season we had a major fuel leak on Christian Klein’s race car at the Hungarian Grand Prix and we could not fix this in time, so we had to use the spare car that day.

“For me, the worst moment, though, was in 2007 when Vettel (then driving for Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso) hit Webber during the safety car period at Fuji in the Japanese Grand Prix.

“We could have won that race and Webber had battled to drive with food poisoning.

“That day was a sad day for everyone involved.”

Keeping the tyres warm: F1 mechanics have a lot of responsibilities

Keeping the tyres warm: F1 mechanics have a lot of responsibilities

At the pit stops, Dan was initially responsible for putting one of the front wheels on before he later took charge of the rear jack.

He said his favourite race was Melbourne due to the circuit’s close proximity to the beach, but the facilities and hotels at Imola (which used to host the San Marino Grand Prix) and in Barcelona were “not great.”

Unfortunately for Dan, his F1 career came to an end in 2009. He had recently moved over from the Red Bull race team to the test team, which made him redundant when the ban on in-season testing came into force that year.

Since being made redundant, Dan has set up his own company, Team Fox Racing, based near Buckingham and only a short drive from Silverstone, providing “first class race car preparation at all levels of motorsport.”

His advice to any aspiring F1 mechanic?

“Work hard at school and try to learn a second language, which will help if you make it to Formula One.”

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ash Miller talks racing, dancing…and Hamilton’s move to Mercedes

Ash in action at Brands Hatch

From Brisbane to Brands Hatch, racing driver Ash Miller has been around for a while now. He may not be a household name, but his commitment to and achievements in motor racing to date – not to mention his talents outside of the sport – is something to be admired.

By the age of six, Miller was already pestering his Father for a kart, telling him he was “holding up” his Formula One career. In 2000, his Father was presented with an affordable package and Miller’s karting career was underway. It started off as a hobby and “a bit of a reward for doing well in school”.

After five years, Miller drew a line under his karting days at the state championships in 2005, which he describes as a “pivotal point”.

“We had such a terrible race meeting in terms of results, everything went wrong. It culminated with me being taken out deliberately about five laps into a fairly long final. It was the tipping point, I guess.”

Frustrated by the politics involved, Miller turned to car racing, which was he says was an “interesting” transition.

“Everything happens a lot slower in a car than a go kart. The first time in a car was quite easy compared to the go karting because with go karting everything is so fast paced and everything is on edge, everything happens a lot quicker.

“When the back end starts to come out (in a car) you can feel it almost before it’s happening, whereas in a go kart as the back end comes out it’s out before you know it.”

2009 saw Miller break through, claiming several victories and sealing both the Production Sports and the Mazda MX5 Queensland Championships.

The following year Miller raced undefeated, winning every round of the 2010 CUE One Hour Endurance Series for class 2E – by over a minute, on some occasions – sealing the Mazda MX5 National Title in between. The challenge of endurance racing was an altogether different challenge, though.

“Initially when we were doing car racing it was club meetings and sprint meetings and trying to get the experience up.

“We did the first round in the CUE One Hour Endurance championship because it was local. I co-drove with the son of the guy who engineered my car.

“I loved the amount of track time we got, because a driver is never going to say ‘no’ to more track time and I just really enjoyed the challenge, really enjoyed the strategy, the thrill of not just going ballistic.

“It was definitely a step up.”

Outside of motor sport, Miller is a qualified journalist. He started out writing for a national karting magazine in Australia. When the subject of payment came up, however, Miller realised he would have to gain a qualification and he subsequently obtained a degree in journalism.

Now he works on a freelance basis covering touring cars for Motor Sport News and says he would “love” to try his hand at commentating. Training as a journalist, though, has benefited him as a racing driver, he says.

“It’s helped out an awful lot with the motor sport, as a lot of the guys behind the wheel don’t really know how to deal with the media and we need to work with the media to get the most out of it.

“So being on both sides of the fence, it’s given me a real appreciation of both elements.”

Like his fellow countryman Mark Webber did in the mid-90s, last year Miller moved over to the UK to race.

Driving Druids at Brands

His first taste of competition was meant to be the Britcar 24 hour race. But two weeks before he was due to fly out the team had an accident with the car and he was out of the race before he had even turned a wheel.

Fortunately, GT3 driver James Walker – who has provided a lot of managerial support in finding drives – was on hand and helped secure him a drive in the final Renault Clio Cup race of 2011 at Brands Hatch, which he describes as “proper competition and the real deal.”

At this point, it dawned on Miller that he had to make a sacrifice with another of his exploits out of racing.

Long since he took up racing, Miller has been a dancer. He is four times an Australian Irish Dance Champion and he climbed the professional ranks, finishing 11th in the 2007 World Championships.

However he was faced with a “water shed moment” last year when the Clio Cup round clashed with the Irish national dancing championships and he realised he could only do one or the other.

After an impressive debut in the final Renault Clio Cup race of 2011 at Brands Hatch, Miller returned to the UK this year ready to race.

Disappointingly, the 2012 season didn’t materialise as expected.

“When I planned the move here I was in a good position with funding and I had a contact in Australia who was going to help me get started in the championship with the Clios this year. Things were looking good.

“But not long from flying out, his position changed and the funding was not withstanding, as happens. With a lot of the financial turmoil that’s happening, it’s unpredictable at the best of times.

“So I still went ahead with the move over here and used 2012 as a building block to make contacts for next year, put something in place and really be able to structure it properly so we can go into 2013 knowing exactly where we stand.”

“As much as it has been frustrating (not racing in 2012), I came over here knowing what a challenge it was going to be and throughout everything I’ve done in my life I’ve always reveled the challenge and believe that nothing is ever worth doing if it’s going to be easy.

“This has probably been the hardest challenge that I’ve had to face in my racing career. But you wake up every morning with a positive attitude and still with the belief that with every day that comes, you get a bit closer to the goal.”

While 2012 has been a frustrating year on the side lines – with the some kart endurance racing and the Karun Chandhok charity karting festival providing him the only chance to compete – Miller says he is “about 70 or 80 per cent confident” he’ll be racing in 2013.

I asked Ash how the motor sport scene in the UK compares to that of the Australia and whether it’s easier to get noticed.

“Absolutely”, he says. “Motorsport over here in the UK is still a very viable means of both marketing and it’s part of culture – much deeper ingrained in culture, from a grass roots level all the way up to professional level than it is in Australia.

“In Australia you’ve got this massive gap between grass roots motor sport and professional. The guys who make it to super cars have done because they have a lot of backing and that’s what the drivers coming up through the ranks in Australia are facing.

“The cost of a national Formula Ford season in Australia is another 30 to 40 per cent more expensive there than it is over here.

“And the coverage over here is much better for motor sport generally. You’ve got channels like ITV4 which run the British Touring Cars. That’s something that was really attractive for the Clio Cup is the package that you’ve got to be noticed with on television. You don’t get that in Australia.

“The Clio Cup is immensely popular with the fans. The fans go to see the support classes as much as the main event, whereas in Australia everyone’s there for the V8 Supercars and ignores everything else.”

On the current state of play in Formula One, Miller says it’s a “sad thing” that his fellow countryman Mark Webber “seems to have been trumped by this up-and-coming young star year after year” but if he were to bet on the outcome of this year’s World Championship he would “put it on Vettel.”

“I think Alonso’s faced with a harder and harder challenge and you can’t fault him for his determination.

“If there was a race for persistence then I think Vettel would fall for Alonso – he’s always there or there abouts.

“Korea 2010 was the pivotal moment where Mark might have ended up letting it slip out of his grasp. From a country man’s perspective, I’d love to say that he’s got a shot at the title for the next ten years, but from a realistic point of view as long as Vettel’s in the game I think he’s going to have a very tough time.”

“You hear a lot of people say about when Schumacher was dominant how boring Formula One was, but I think those who watch it don’t realise how much history is being made here.”

But what does he make of Lewis Hamilton’s switch from Mclaren to Mercedes?

“From a purist’s perspective and from a driver’s perspective, if your driving becomes a little bit stale and you start looking for a fresh challenge, you’re not one hundred per cent committed to the job at that team.

“From a results perspective it probably isn’t the smartest move but from a personal perspective, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Hamilton’s looking for a new challenge.

“He’s still discovering himself as a man, as well, he’s still finding out what makes him tick. Growing up in the eye of the world in Formula One you don’t exactly get every opportunity to discover who you are.”

“The one thing he (Hamilton) does have up his sleeve is Mercedes’ budget. They’re committed to Formula One which he doesn’t have to worry about.

“This is speculating, but I think where Hamilton may succeed where Schumacher has failed is the fact that Schumacher was very much at the twilight of his career. Hamilton is still eager and hungry…but he doesn’t seem to have the steely mental confidence that Schumacher had.”

As for his own future, Miller says his focus is very much on securing a drive in the Renault Clio Cup next season and his ultimate goal is Le Mans – although he “wouldn’t turn down a Formula One drive.”

Would anyone?