F1 carmakers question Mosley's leadership in scandal's wake

Updated: April 3, 2008, 1:03 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

MANAMA, Bahrain -- Leading Formula One car manufacturers put pressure on Max Mosley to resign as president of the sport's governing body on Thursday after a sex scandal involving the Briton.

Mosley, who has said he will stay at the helm of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), showed no sign of changing his mind, however.

Meanwhile, FIA said in a statement Thursday that Mosley had called a special assembly of the federation to consider the issue. The full FIA membership was invited to a meeting in Paris at the earliest possible date.

"The widespread publicity following an apparently illegal invasion of the FIA's President's privacy will be discussed," the statement said.

Mercedes, BMW, Honda and Toyota all issued statements critical of Mosley's position after Britain's News of the World Sunday tabloid detailed how he had paid for sex with prostitutes in what was depicted as a Nazi-style orgy. But the statements stopped short of calling for his resignation.

"Toyota Motorsport does not approve of any behavior which could be seen to damage Formula One's image, in particular any behaviour which could be understood to be racist or anti-Semitic," the Japanese carmaker said.

"Senior figures within any sport or business, including motorsport, must adhere to high standards of behavior.

"When all the facts are known, it will be for the FIA to decide whether Mr. Mosley has met the moral obligations which come with the position of FIA president."

Mosley, who has blamed a "covert" operation against him and is taking legal action against the newspaper, apologized to all national FIA clubs and bodies in a letter on Tuesday but said he would not stand down.

He also denied any "Nazi connotation to the matter," as reported by the newspaper.

The Times of London newspaper reported that Bahrain's Crown Prince Sheikh Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa wrote Mosley asking him to stay away.

"The focus quite rightly should be on the race. With great regret, I feel that under the current circumstances, it would be inappropriate for you to be in Bahrain at this time," the Crown Prince wrote in a letter sent to Mosley and F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone on Tuesday.

German manufacturers BMW and Mercedes, who are partners with McLaren, issued a joint statement before Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix making clear that the scandal was not simply a personal matter.

"The content of the publications is disgraceful," they declared. "As a company, we strongly distance ourselves from it.

"This incident concerns Max Mosley both personally and as president of the FIA, the global umbrella organization for motoring clubs," they added.

"Its consequences therefore extend far beyond the motor sport industry. We await a response from the relevant FIA bodies."

Mosley, in a statement to Reuters, issued a sharp reply.

"Given the history of BMW and Mercedes Benz, particularly before and during the Second World War, I fully understand why they would wish to strongly distance themselves from what they rightly describe as the disgraceful content of these publications," he said.

"Unfortunately, they did not contact me before putting out their statement to ask whether the content was in fact true.

"No doubt the FIA will respond to them in due course as I am about to respond to the newspaper in question."

Honda said senior figures in sport and business had to maintain the highest standards of conduct.

"The Honda Racing F1 Team is extremely disappointed by recent events surrounding Mr Mosley and we are concerned that the reputation of Formula One and all its participants is being damaged," their statement said.

"We request that the FIA gives this matter careful consideration and reaches an immediate decision in the best interests of F1 and Motorsport."

There was no immediate comment from champions Ferrari and Renault.

The German and Japanese car companies were previously united in the Grand Prix Manufacturers' Association (GPMA) which clashed with Mosley repeatedly while threatening to set up a rival series before a deal was reached.

Mosley said on Tuesday that he had received considerable support from within the FIA and motor sport "suggesting that my private life is not relevant to my work and that I should continue in my role.

"I am grateful and with your support I intend to follow this advice."

Former F1 champions Jackie Stewart and Jody Scheckter have called on Mosley to step down before his mandate ends in October 2009.

While Ferrari and Renault made no comment, Ferrari's world champion Kimi Raikkonen -- no stranger to tabloid scrutiny in his native Finland -- offered a degree of support to Mosley.

"It's his personal life. For me, he can do whatever he wants and it's not really my business or anybody else's to put their nose in it," the Finn told reporters.

Nico Rosberg also alluded to the scandal.

"We are racing drivers and we need to try and set a good example in general, because their are people watching you," the Williams driver said. "It's important to think about other people, young people especially. Young drivers coming up -- you need to set a good example for them, especially."

A video posted Sunday on the News of the World's Web site showed a man identified as Mosley arriving at an apartment and taking part in sex acts with women, one in a prisoner's uniform, while speaking German. The video can no longer be found on the paper's Web site.

Mosley termed the tabloid report a "wholly unwarranted invasion of my privacy."

Mosley is the son of British Union of Fascists party founder Oswald Mosley, a former British politician who served in Parliament for both the Labour and Conservative parties. Oswald Mosley died in 1980.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.