Legend Stewart says Mosley sex scandal could have financial impact on F1

Updated: April 6, 2008, 9:05 AM ET
Reuters

MANAMA, Bahrain -- Formula One great Jackie Stewart warned on Sunday that Max Mosley's involvement in a sex scandal could have a commercial impact on the sport and called for the FIA president to resign.

"If he was chief executive of the CBI [Confederation of British Industry], the FA [Football Association] or the Olympic committee, he would have already stood down," the three-time champion told Reuters at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

International Automobile Federation head Mosley is suing British Sunday tabloid The News of the World for unlimited damages after they published allegations about his involvement in a sado-masochistic orgy with prostitutes.

The newspaper published further details in its latest edition on Sunday. Mosley, whose father Oswald founded the pre-war British Union of Fascists, has denied there were any Nazi connotations.

Stewart said the affair, which has eclipsed events on the track this weekend, could make potential sponsors think twice about entering the sport and suggested commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone could force Mosley's hand.

"He has to [resign] himself but Bernie Ecclestone holds a very key role in that," said the Scot.

"If he is going to listen to anybody, then he should listen to Bernie because it was he who sold him the commercial rights. Bernie has been largely responsible for getting him where he is today."

Ecclestone is a member of the FIA's world motorsport council and, while he may privately want Mosley to tender his resignation, has refused to join the chorus of those clamoring publicly for his compatriot's head.

The Automobile Association of America (AAA), the largest motoring organization in the world with 51 million members in the United States, called on Saturday for Mosley to go.

"For a multi-national corporation, corporate ethics are part and parcel of their daily business. There are things you can do and things you cannot do," said Stewart.

"Even if the chairman of the board or the CEO was excited about coming into Formula One, the marketing director might turn around and say 'There's a lot of stuff going at the moment, why don't we hold back until we see how they are going to handle that?'"

"The sport in my opinion is vulnerable when it comes to moral issues."

Stewart said team bosses were reluctant to speak out about the situation for fear of retribution but the concern was growing.

"The sport's leadership, unfortunately, has to be whiter than white," he said.

"That is one of the considerations that I think is now starting to develop ... most of the team principals are not very interested in talking about this because they are concerned that there may be implications of speaking out.

"But now they are beginning to worry about that, about not speaking out, because if it's going to have a commercial effect on them they've got to say 'we do not condone this.'"

Most Formula One sponsors are tied to multiple year deals but Stewart expressed concern about what could happen to deals coming up for renewal.

Although Mosley has called for an extraordinary general assembly of the governing body, the meeting could take months to organize with FIA members dispersed all over the world.

The Monaco Grand Prix on May 25 is the glamor highlight of the Formula One social calendar and a race that serves as a magnet for sponsors, dealmakers and multi-national corporations. The proposed meeting is likely to happen before that.

"I don't think he can hold on for that long," Stewart said.

"It's more to do with him saying 'I'm going to have to step down' than that Federation having to vote because seldom do you go to your own family and ask them if you are going to resign or not," he added.

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