NASCAR

Sex and scandal fused under Mosley's F1 reign

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MADRID (AP)

Sex and scandal are never far from Formula One's headlines, and outgoing FIA president Max Mosley's 16-year reign only seemed to pull them closer together.

Although Mosley helped achieve near perfect safety conditions for motor racing's biggest sport, a video of the 69-year-old Englishman's participation in a sadomasochistic sex session with five prostitutes will most likely become the enduring image of his tenure.

With favored successor Jean Todt running against outsider Ari Vatanen to replace Mosley in Friday's vote at the governing body's Paris headquarters, Mosley leaves the multibillion dollar series as a figure who nearly tore it apart - both with his personal problems and professional policies - before finally being ousted by the teams he once dismissed.

That Mosley even survived the sex scandal with his presidency intact was a testament to his shrewd political abilities, deft maneuvering and brazen personality that helped him successfully preside over FIA since 1993.

His stubborn nature probably proved to be his biggest asset after an affair that left many labeling the FIA a mockery.

"Those that criticize are those that think sex is just the classic missionary position," Mosley would reply.

Instead of stepping aside when the sex sting was revealed 18 months ago, Mosley sued the British tabloid that broke the story of his sexual habits and won the case.

He then U-turned on a promise not to run for a fifth term as the economic crisis hit F1 and manufacturers' like Honda and BMW, and sponsors Credit Suisse and ING all pulled out. His proposals of a budget cap and standardized engine left F1's teams on the verge of setting up a breakaway series and, ultimately, cost him.

"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."

The son of Oswald Mosley, an acquaintance of Adolf Hitler, who founded the British Union of Fascists party, Mosley seemed to relish confrontation over compromise.

"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.

Under Mosley, accusations of favoritism dogged the FIA because of its many controversial decisions, especially this year's race-fixing scandal perpetrated by Renault.

The Times of London once said the FIA "shows how to make a crisis out of a drama." Renault would receive only a suspended two-year ban after ordering one of its drivers to crash at the Singapore Grand Prix so that a teammate could win the race. The driver in question, Nelson Piquet Jr., received immunity for his testimony while team principal Flavio Briatore - one of the key bosses to push Mosley out of the sport - was banned for life.

"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 let Renault off without penalty in 2007 following a spying scandal that ultimately cost McLaren a record $100 million fine. But McLaren then received only a suspended race ban for lying to stewards at this year's Australian GP after the team promised to oust Ron Dennis.

"Formula One is always controversial," Mosley reasoned at the time, (he turned down numerous interview requests from The Associated Press). "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's hands-on approach and ego irritated many as back-and-forth 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."

Mosley began his career in racing, flirting with a brief career in Formula Two racing and co-founded F1 team March before turning to the boardroom and taking up his current role. He helped set in motion major safety improvements since the death of triple world champion Ayrton Senna in 1994 - the last driver fatality in the sport.

Mosley installed cost-cutting measures that allowed F1 development to trickle down to the average driver while also trying to give the sport a greener image with the introduction of bio-fuels.

But fighting so many battles finally 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?"' he said. "Do I really want to do this?"

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