Formula One and Beyond: The Autobiography Kindle Edition
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We don’t have a major literary achievement here; Mosley writes like I imagine he talks and annoyingly refers to previous chapters by number, as if this were some type of legal document. And in the interest of getting non-F1-fanatics to persevere till the end of the book, the bit where he discusses his victory over the News of the World and Rupert Murdoch, he dumbs down the technical bits a lot. Regardless, the fanatic will be well rewarded from reading this tremendous book.
It takes you through Max Mosley’s fascinating –and tragic- life and sheds light on the sundry controversies he was involved in, unwittingly (he did not choose to be Oswald Mosley and Diana Mitford’s son) or otherwise.
He comments on his highly nonstandard childhood by saying “being a small child, it never occurred to me there was anything odd about all this.” The funny thing, of course, is that this applies to his entire life, which he manages to recount from a good distance and with excellent humor.
There are chapters about his childhood (he skipped Eton and got tossed in and out of schools across Europe and travelled around a lot), his struggles with Physics at Oxford and his early success at the Bar, his days as a racing car driver, his truly inspiring entrepreneurial years from setting up March F1 to making it the world’s preeminent racing car manufacturer (and engineering legends such as Chris Amon and Ronnie Peterson along the way), his double act with Bernie Ecclestone that upended Jean-Marie Balestre’s FIA, the emergence of Formula 1 as a major business, his years running the FIA, his highly effective NCAP safety campaign (comfortably his biggest legacy), and of course his struggle and victory against The News of the World and Rupert Murdoch.
This being Max Mosley, the story is told “one controversy at a time” and that’s what's awesome about it. You get his angle on all of them. At the beginning of the book he’s fighting his poor finances more than anything else (hence that ugly oil tank on the back of the original March F1 –there was no time or money to fit it nearer the middle of the car), later it’s one stunt at a time (the cancellation of the 1975 Canadian GP, the manufacturers’ no-show at the 1980 Spanish GP, the rogue 1981 South African GP, the garagistes’ no-show at Imola in 1982), after that it’s one infringement at a time (six wheelers, the Brabham fan car, water tanks, secret WWII BMW fuel mix, grooved tyres, Ferrari’s Malaysia ’99 barge boards, the Michelin debacle at Indy in 2005, Stepneygate, the Brawn double diffuser, Nelsinho Piquet’s Singapore slingshot), one financial deal at a time (the Concorde Agreement, the £1 million Bernie donation to Tony Blair, the Kirch deal, the 100 year deal) and finally one court appearance and one cross examination at a time.
It’s also told one death at a time. Deaths come thick and fast in this book, and they are woven into the story very well. So Mosley drove several times past Jim Clark’s wreck at Hockenheim in 1968 in his maiden championship F2 race, was personal friends and effectively teammates (sharing Frank Williams’ garage) with Piers Courage when he was killed, close competitor for sponsorship and good friends with Bruce McLaren when he was killed, Roger Williamson’s team manager (and his father’s host in the pitlane) when he burned, had a contract with Ronnie Peterson for the next year when he tragically died at Monza and of course Mosley was the recently anointed FIA boss when Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger were killed.
I came away with enormous admiration for Max Mosley. He’s had a remarkable life and his claim to fame (that the Euro NCAP he instituted has saved thousands of people from a premature, violent death) is genuine and permanent. Also, you’ve got to admire the self-effacing kind of guy who flies to be on the side of the Ratzenberger family for their son’s funeral when all the showboaters were busy carrying Senna’s coffin, sworn enemies included.
And the whole story is told effectively out of the neighbourhood I live in, where Max Mosley spent a large part of his life. I know exactly which café on the Brompton Road he takes his breakfast in when he’s staying at the mews house behind, I once tried to rent out the garage on Adam and Eve Mews where he had parts for the original March fabricated; even the carpet on his picture with his wife lives on (in the scarves Paul Smith sells, if you must ask)
As a fanatic, I have my own, often different, views from the ones expressed here. In particular, I once used to bet very heavily on F1 results and I always –ALWAYS—made money betting FIA decisions would lean in favor of making the championship tighter. The effective three race ban on Schumacher and subsequent additional exclusion from his amazing Spa victory saved the 1994 championship from ending mid-August, the Malaysia ’99 decision kept Irvine in the game till the last race, the judgement on those square Michelin tyres tightened the competition, the ban on the third suspension element on the Renaults almost lost a championship for Alonso and the double diffuser made for a wonderful fairytale in 2009, while potentially preventing Toyota from quitting. You won’t find one judgement that consolidated anybody’s lead. But yes, that’s but a conspiracy theory of mine and it was FANTASTIC to be reminded of all those stories (and the money I made betting, that was good too)
So my thesis is the man wasn’t always totally above it all, despite what he says in his book. A good example is how he, a champion of safety (and an extremely effective champion of safety, at that) was happy to look the other way on the sliding skirts issue when he was fighting on the side of Bernie and against the manufacturers. This much he actually, and candidly, admits himself in the book.
Finally, you don’t get to survive the legacy he was given as a young man without nursing some blind spots, and you could drive an F1 car through some of Max Mosley’s. Terribly little on Colin Chapman relative to his stature and no word on the double-chassis, double-banned Lotus 88. There’s extensive coverage of Imola ’82 but not a word on Gilles Villeneuve’s tragic loss weeks later at Zolder (or Elio de Angelis’ premature death testing at Paul Ricard a few years later). There’s not a word on the team orders scandal that shook F1 at the Austrian GP in 2002. Most glaringly, there’s no mention of the fact that his bête noire, Rupert Murdoch, actually owns Sky, who have taken over more than half the live coverage of F1 from the BBC and are allegedly even bidding to buy out CVC outright.
Regardless, you can’t call yourself an F1 fan if you don’t go out there and buy this book NOW.
I had always wondered how Bernie Ecclestone got to own Formula 1 and here we get the full detail of how he got into that position. He was the one who was prepared to take the risks to make it happen. As a bloke of a certain age (mid 50s) I was fascinated to learn of the F1 days in the 60s and 70s and of my heros back then ... and then on into the big money days. The second chapter of Max's life in F1 deals with his role of head of the FIA and his continued dealing with Bernie.
The NCAP story comes next with his chosen few Alan Donnelly and others and having to break through the car companies to get safety into cars .... and then of course the third chapter of his life which is internet privacy. Taking on the big guns of media (News Corp) and internet commerce (Google) and winning! An extraordinary life and an extraordinary read!