SHANGHAI, China -- A few journalists, an automotive federation president, and a quiet little lunch in Shanghai.
Sounds tame enough, right?
Except that automotive federation president -- Max Mosley, head of the FIA -- came out with guns blazing. His target? Formula One's auto manufacturers, the ones he claims currently run the sport and the ones he claims are telling barefaced lies to suit their whims.
On the eve of the first Formula One Grand Prix in China, at the shiny new $300 million-plus Shanghai International Circuit, Mosley tells the world the sport is spinning out of control due to selfish, lying car makers.
The current debate is over whether F1 should stick with the existing 3-liter V10 engines
or switch to a 2.4-liter V8. Some engine manufacturers insist that the
cost of developing a new V8 would be huge and that they could save a lot of
money by staying with the current V10.
"What they are doing is that they are telling a barefaced lie, when they
say that, and they know it is a lie," he said, "and it is very dishonest
for them to say it, because all the engines are new developments."
Mosley made his ruthless comments during a lunch he held with select F1
journalists on Saturday in the Shanghai track's paddock. ESPN.com was among the invited guests.
To cut costs and, more importantly, to cut horsepower for safety reasons,
the FIA rule proposals call for the V8 to be introduced in 2006.
"When we first said, 'Let's have a V8 2.4-liter,' everybody said, 'That will
save a great deal of money,'" Mosley said. "Then later when it suits them
for various reasons, they say it won't save them a great deal of money, and
the story changes."
"The fact is that anybody who says that a 2.4-liter V8 is more expensive
than a 3-liter V10 is simply not telling the truth," he added. "The reason
is that the number of running parts is smaller, and therefore the cost of
the engines is smaller, [just] as night follows day."
Mosley wasn't done firing with both barrels.
"Now when they say, 'Oh but we have to develop a new engine,' that is the
most dishonest thing of all, because it implies that if we did not bring in
the V8 that they would keep their existing engines," Mosley said. "Well
that, I am sorry to say, is a downright lie."
Mosley says that the manufacturers will continue to pour money into engine
development no matter the configuration of the engine.
"They will not keep their existing engines," Mosley said. "They are all
developing engines. The V10 for the following year and the year after that
will be a development of the development. They are developing them the
whole time. They have not exploited all the loopholes. If we leave the
V10 exactly as it is, they will find four percent more power every year
like they have ... probably forever."
The only way it would be cheaper to keep on with the V10 concept, Mosley
said, would be to freeze all the engine specifications, seal all the
components, keep a specimen of every component so that the FIA can make
sure that new components were not introduced.
"Then and only then would it be cheaper to keep a V10," Mosley said.
It's not often that you hear a president of a major sanctioning body saying
that certain members of that body are "downright lying."
One journalist at the lunch had to make sure that we had heard what
we had heard. Has Mosley told the manufacturers face-to-face that they are
"Oh yes, I say it is not true," Mosley said. "[I say] 'I know that it is
not true; you know that it is not true. Can we stop this?' But they will
say whatever it suits them to say. The really interesting thing is that
when we first talked about a 2.4-liter they all said that this was a good
idea. In fact, it wasn't our idea. It came from a manufacturer."
Cost cutting is essential, Mosley said, and he pointed to Ford's
announcement that it is withdrawing from F1 as proof that Grand Prix
racing has become too expensive.
Mosley says it's the FIA's duty and plan to make F1 a platform where
the engine manufacturers can come and go without damaging the chances of
the core teams to survive.
"The fundamental problem is that F1 is spending more money that it is
receiving," Mosley said, "and it has become completely dependent on the
major manufacturers to subsidize it, and without the major manufacturers it
wouldn't be able to continue like it is at present."
"They [Ford] are the first manufacturer to go," Mosley said. "They will by
no means be the last. They completely proved the point that we have made
over and over again, which is that manufacturers come when it suits them
and they go when it suits them. And F1 cannot rely on the manufacturers
and it never has been able to."
Mosley said that F1 has become "addicted" to the manufacturer's money.
"They are very welcome when they are in; we should accommodate them, but we
should never allow F1 to build itself around the manufacturers, which is
what has happened, to the point now where F1 is dependent, they have become
addicts, they are dependent on the manufacturers' money. And the
manufacturers' money will not continue for very evident reasons."
Strong words indeed. And they will surely be denied, countered and argued
by those at whom the words were aimed. But that's Mosley's view, and he
expressed it plainly and clearly during an otherwise quiet lunch in China.
Dan Knutson covers Formula One for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.