max mosley, the former fia president and a controversial figure for much of his life—for different reasons—died today at the age of 81.
mosley led the fia as its president from 1993 until 2009. jean todt has served as the president of the organization since 2009. todt tweeted about mosley's legacy today on twitter.
"deeply saddened by the passing of max mosley." todt tweeted. "he was a major figure in @f1 & motor sport. as @fia president for 16 years, he strongly contributed to reinforcing safety on track & on the roads. the entire fia community pays tribute to him. our thoughts & prayers are with his family."
the second son of british politician sir oswald mosley and diana mitford, one of the famous mitford girls, mosley spent his childhood in ireland before being sent to school in france and later in germany. a very bright man like his father, he was probably meant to go into politics, but his father’s adventures in the 1930s as the leader of the british union of fascists meant that the mosley name was electoral poison and he was never able to go down that path. after studying at oxford he graduated with a degree in physics in 1961. he then began reading law at grays inn in london and qualified as a solicitor in 1964.
after a visit to silverstone in the early 1960s got his attention, mosley soon became involved in racing. he drove in mainly club events, but having access to money he was able to buy himself a formula 2 car in 1968 and founded the london racing team with chris lambert. max raced in the f2 event at hockenheim in which jim clark was killed. after lambert was killed in an accident with clay regazzoni at zandvoort in august the same year, mosley became piers courage’s teammate in frank williams’s f2 team.
mosley knew he was not really good enough to go to formula 1 and retired as a driver in 1969. he established march engineering with robin herd, alan rees, and graham coaker. the company was a great success as a racing-car production company, and march cars won many championship although it never really lived up to its potential in formula 1. jackie stewart drove to victory at the spanish gp of 1970, but the march racing factory team won only twice, with vittorio brambilla in austria in 1975 and with ronnie peterson at monza in 1976.
mosley became increasingly involved in the politics of the sport in league with bernie ecclestone, and after march withdrew from f1 at the end of 1977, mosley left and became the legal advisor to foca (formula 1 constructors association) and a member of the fisa f1 commission.
mosley played a leading role in the fisa-foca war between f1 and member teams of 1980-82, which led to the concorde agreement, of which he was one of the architects. after the political battles were over, mosley took three years out of the sport before becoming president of the manufacturers commission at the fia in 1986.
at the same time, he was involved in the establishment of simtek research in 1989, although he sold his share of the company when he became president of fisa (the sporting subsidiary of the fia) in 1991, ousting jean-marie balestre by 43 votes to 29. mosley announced that he would resign after a year so that he could be judged on his merits, but 12 months later he was re-elected for a four-year term. he then engineered the merger between the fia and fisa, and in october 1993 became the fia president for a four-year period. he was re-elected in october 1997, and again in 2001 and 2005.
mosley achieved a huge amount in terms of road safety, particularly with the euro ncap program. in formula 1, he led the revolution in safety after the death of ayrton senna in 1994. his political skills were much needed as the fia president, but he had weaknesses, too, one of them being a huge distaste for ron dennis of mclaren, perhaps because dennis was a former mechanic who was more successful in f1 than mosley had ever been. he also lost patience in his dealings with f1 teams and began to behave in a way that often bordered on dictatorial, steam-rolling opposition and even criticism.
in the end, many of mosley's achievements in motorsport and safety were overshadowed by a sex scandal that came to light in a tabloid newspaper. mosley claimed invasion of privacy and launched a campaign through the courts to stop the same sort of thing from happening again. his case resulted in a court victory in 2008 and the closure of the news of the world and a long-running battle with media magnate rupert murdoch.
after winning his privacy lawsuit and leaving his position at the fia, mosley largely retired from public life. he is survived by his wife and one son, and was predeceased by another son.