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Sex and scandal fused under Mosley's F1 reign

FOR all the achievements of his 16 years as head of the FIA, Max Mosley steps aside this week with his impact upon auto sports being questioned rather than celebrated.

With favored successor Jean Todt or outsider Ari Vatanen set to replace Mosley as FIA president after tomorrow's vote, Mosley will leave as a divisive figure, most remembered for his appetitive for political battle and personal indiscretions.

Mosley would prefer that his reign be remembered for the enormous commercial growth of its flagship event, Formula One, and for the enhanced and strict safety conditions he had helped implement.

But instead, it is reports of the 70-year-old Englishman's participation in a sadomasochistic sex session with five prostitutes last year that is most likely to be the enduring image.

Mosley's ability to survive that sex scandal was a testament to his shrewd political abilities, deft maneuvering and brazen personality that had helped him long preside over a sport of constantly shifting alliances and rivalries.

His stubborn nature proved to be his biggest asset, as he rode out a scandal that left many labeling the sport's governing body a mockery.

Instead of stepping aside when the sex sting was revealed 18 months ago, Mosley sued the British tabloid which broke the story and won the case while cleverly delaying any judgment upon his conduct.

He then U-turned on a promise not to run for a fifth term as the economic crisis hit F1 and manufacturers' such as Honda and BMW, and sponsors Credit Suisse and ING all pulled out. His drastic proposals for cost cutting in F1 put the teams on the verge of setting up a breakaway series and their anger over the FIA's role ultimately precipitated his departure.

"Everyone should know their part," said F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who alongside Mosley formed a duo that controlled both the business and regulatory sides of motor racing. "The governing body should govern, we should look after the commercial side and the teams should race."

Mosley's early ambitions toward a career in politics proved impossible given his family history - he is the son of Oswald Mosley, who ran the British Union of Fascists. With that option denied him, Mosley seemed to relish the intense brinkmanship and infighting that was offered by F1 and the FIA.

"They say that I compromised the image of Formula One and that of its sponsors but I don't even know any sponsors and, another thing, how many fans has Formula One lost because of me? None I believe," he said.

Mosley's appetite for political battle irritated many as bickering became more prevalent.

"He is more general secretary than a president really, which upsets a lot of people because he does get involved in everything," Ecclestone said earlier this year. "He's a remarkable individual and he's mischievous."

Under Mosley, the glaring inconsistencies of disciplinary measures brought accusations of FIA favoritism.

Renault this year received only a suspended two-year ban for ordering one of its drivers to crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to help his teammate win the race. The driver, Nelson Piquet Jr., received immunity for his testimony while team principal Flavio Briatore - one of those who sought to oust Mosley - was banned from the sport indefinitely.

Renault was also let off without penalty in 2007 following a spying scandal, while McLaren received a record US$100 million fine. McLaren then received only a suspended race ban for lying to stewards this year, after team boss Ron Dennis stepped aside.

"You have to put this in the context of inconsistencies in the way in which the FIA has treated breaches of the regulations over the years," former F1 champion Damon Hill said. "Is it just a very expensive form of entertainment or a proper sport? There is a whole book on what's wrong with Formula One."

Mosley denied the controversies were an indictment on how the sport is managed.

"Despite the inevitable controversies ... it continues to be one of the world's great sporting contests and a testament to the work of the FIA team," Mosley said.

But fighting so many battles maybe took its toll, perhaps more so after Mosley lost one of his sons to a drug overdose earlier this year.

"Some days I wake up thinking 'Do I really care about spending all day long trying to solve other peoples' problems, in effect stop people going bust while allowing them to make money, in return for which I get roundly abused?' Do I really want to do this?"


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