Looking to the future, escaping the past

Following my interview with Max Mosley it is pointed out to me that I chose to meet the man in leather trousers.  This is a source of great mirth and concern on many a person’s part.  Yes Google predictor suggests that many people searching Mosley’s name do so in a rather morbid want for S&M related videos and photos.  Unfortunately for Max Mosley, the headline, ‘F1 boss has sick Nazi orgy with 5 hookers’ precedes him.  And it is unfortunate. Max Mosley is a charming man.
His most overriding quality is his forward thinking.  Yet he is a different breed of forward thinker.  Max Mosley is a forward thinker who has been placed in a world overwhelmingly preoccupied with his past. Even the interview process itself forces him to think back, but each time he does, the picture of Max Mosley we see today becomes a little bit clearer.  The former FIA president had a rather unconventional student life. ‘Because I spent from sixteen to eighteen living on my own in London I used to rush up to London all the time. Until my last year when I was married and then we had a little flat up the Iffley Road, because we were married and had a kitchen people used to come around for egg and chips.’
Oxford served Mosley well and marked his first foray into motor racing.  ‘In a nutshell, the last term of Oxford, my wife was working, the person she worked for had a couple of tickets for Silverstone he didn’t want.  She said ‘Do you wanna go and have a look?’ and I said ‘Yes’, evidently, and so I’ve said to her subsequently it’s all her fault. So we went and I was hooked.’ From motor racing to press privacy, Mosley’s interest is infectious and his ability to spark debate in a short interview reveals why he was coveted to appear in the Gorbachev lectures on Press Freedom.
Formula One held such fascination for Mosley that he ended up taking two jobs to fund his habit.  ‘Once I was at the bar I could teach in the evening and have some money and afford to buy a little racing car’.  Yet the changes in Formula One since the time a newly graduated student could arrive on the scene and race in Formula Two as well as start a business are extreme.  Is it possible that Mosley wishes for a simpler time?  ‘It’s so different it’s hard to imagine, our budget in the first year was £113,000 including the drivers.’ Such a budget translates to about £2 million in today’s money and his team came third in a major global challenge.  ‘You really couldn’t do that for less than 100 million pounds now, so in real terms its probably upwards of 50 times more expensive.’
Despite his own financial accomplishments, Mosley is acutely aware of the value of money.  His desire to take on the News of the World in court seems to have been intensified by the knowledge that the average man or woman could not afford to do so and therefore, dishearteningly, will not see the point. Even Mosley was left with £30,000 to pay after winning. ‘If they publish it, you can’t un-publish it.  Secondly, if you sue, even if you win, you end up out of pocket.  I sued and I got record damages, they had to pay the costs which including their own were £850,000.   I got £480,000, but my bill was £510,000. So I’m saying that’s not a remedy, because not only do you not take it out of the public mind, on top of that you’ve got a big bill. A solicitor explains to his client after it’s been published: 1) It’ll cost you money, 2) It won’t do any good and 3) You’ll have all the private information repeated in open court. Don’t sue.’  Mosley felt strong enough to sue. Why? For the greater principle of press privacy. ‘I don’t think the tabloids respect it enough.  I’m a little bit party privy because I had this big run in with News of the World, but I think there’s a lot to be said on that. The difficulty is that the press all feel that they should be completely free to publish what they think at their discretion and I don’t agree.’
At one point Mosley appeared to be standing alone in his battle with certain tabloids.  Yet with the most recent scandal involving the News of the World his fight became a little easier.  He can now openly declare Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre as linked to such underhand activities. ‘I think the sort of Guardians, Independents, Financial Times, would never do that, on the other hand, The Star, the late News of the World I think would go much too far if they were allowed to, I think to the point of becoming criminal.’  It is this borderline criminal activity that Mosley is fighting to stop.
He reveals in his talk that The Daily Mail was part of 956 transactions with private detectives – not all illegal but some of them bound to be.
He would like it considered illegal when a newspaper partakes in such interactions. ‘They were frightened I’d take out an injunction. And of course that’s what’s so bad about it, they knew I’d get an injunction which means they knew what they were doing was illegal but of course they did it anyway.’
People who know Mosley might not be surprised that he decided to take the News of the World to court.  His forward thinking and ability to see innovation in a seemingly stalled situation are evident in all aspects of his life. He speaks of exploring the potential for kinetic energy recovery systems in Formula One cars with the same voracity as he argues for the reconciliation of a free press with public privacy, arguing, ‘If you see a motor car going down the road and when it needs to stop all the energy goes away in the heat, somebody’s spending all this money at the petrol pump and its all turned into heat and wasted.  To me it’s self evident that if all the energy can be recovered and reused it would be and in thirty to forty years time we won’t get a car on the road where that doesn’t happen.’  The brain that propelled the evolution of motor racing and the one which is now pushing both the press and the law to evolve are one and the same.
Mosley is still on the motor racing scene, but ‘very sort of peripherally, I mean I’m technically on the senate of the FIA but I don’t go…I talk to people quite a lot, I talk to [Jean] Todt, my successor, I talk to  Bernie Ecclestone.  Various sorts of people, it they ring up and say “What do I do about something?”, but I really have lost interest, I’ve moved onto something else now.’
Mosley laments the fact that his name is still connected with a scandal and not his accomplishments, ‘nowadays people can Google it and it gets published all over again’.  He knows his reputation has taken a beating: ‘You can’t take the information back again so the damages are really no good’.
Yet, at seventy-one, Mosley is channelling his energy into this new venture and another search engine shows that ‘Mosley – Nazi’ and ‘Mosley-video’ have dropped down the list of popular topics. Interest in Max Mosley’s case and character seems to have begun to transcend our fascination with scandal. Five years after the man himself worked it out, we and the Googlers of the world appear to have finally caught on.
Rebecca Sloan