Max Mosley (1940-2021) was a controversial figure in and out of F1, his legacy tainted by a bizarre 2008 sex scandal and the antics of his father.
However, he was also responsible for astonishing progressions in F1 and road car safety, efforts that have saved tens of millions of lives.
This 2020 documentary caught up with him right at the end of his life, aged 80, when he was still busy battling the tabloid press and pushing for road car safety in India.
Max Mosley Documentary on Road Car Safety & Tackling the Tabloid Press
The trailer for the documentary is rather poor. It lingers on the 2008 scandal, which only comes into play in the second act of the film.
For the first half, we’re introduced to Mosley’s early life and his step up into F1.
He was the son of Oswald Mosley (1896-1980), who became the political leader of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) in 1932. He had a distant association with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, which didn’t endear him to the UK when WWII broke out.
Mosley’s father was eventually imprisoned for his efforts in May 1940. Once released, he spent most of the rest of his life in Paris.
Mosley was from a wealthy family and studied at university, but took up driving as well and raced in several F2 races.
He soon realised he wasn’t top tier material, and so turned his attentions to working in and around Formula 1.
In 1969, he co-founded March Engineering and the team enjoyed some early success in the form of two race wins.
However, one of the team’s drivers, 25 year old Roger Williamson, was killed at Zandavoort in 1973. The terrible accident laid bare the sport’s staggering inadequacies for basic safety.
Mosley was left to inform Williamson’s father that his son had died in the crash.
This badly affected Mosley. You can see this explored further in 1: Life on the Limit that documentary. It details the horrendous safety standards of the sport, particularly during the 1970s.
Once he met Bernie Ecclestone, the pair formed a unique partnership and transformed the sport in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
Hyper intelligent, Mosley was a daunting figure for anyone to take on. Particularly with his legal training and educational background.
And once he was elected the head of the FIA in 1991, he instigated sweeping safety changes across the sport.
He also drafted in the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) to increase road car safety across the EU, as for decades car manufacturers had generally ignored the need to improve safety standards.
Alongside his safety efforts, Mosley was also an early pioneer for F1 turning to an environmentally friendly future. We remember even in 2000 he was championing that, over a decade before anyone started to take that concept seriously.
Those were his highlights as the FIA president, but it also came with a bizarre twist in 2008 when The News of the World ran a shock revelations about his private life.
Mosley, the 2008 Scandal, and Controlling the Tabloid Press
The expectation from The News of the World was Mosley would retire early in disgrace after its front page story.
Unfortunately for the tabloid, it didn’t quite bargain with Mosley’s ability to battle back and use his legal skills to usurp its claims.
He sued the tabloid… and won! The massive financial hit the News of the World took after that case contributed to its collapse in 2011.
He then began to challenge the gutter press on its salacious habits, pushing for new laws to control Murdoch’s media empire.
This helped expose the News International phone hacking scandal in 2011, where it emerged tabloids were regularly invading the privacy of celebrities (and anyone else) in the name of a story.
The tabloids still claim this is “freedom of speech” and brainwash their massive readerships into thinking that’s what they’re defending by buying the likes of The Sun.
We make it no secret just how disgusted we are by the English tabloids.
They are beyond vile and are responsible for an enormous amount of devastation in the country, with the last 12 years being of ever-worsening proportions.
The chief offenders are The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Daily Express—blatant Tory propaganda with Murdoch telling its readership what to do, in between articles about celeb cellulite and “woke” cancel culture.
Mosley’s assault on the tabloids made him a figure of relentless character attacks in the tabloids up until his death.
But back in 2008, after the scandal hit, Mosley won a vote of confidence to continue on as president of the FIA. He did this until retiring from the position in 2012.
He began a battle for greater privacy laws, arguing his sex life had little concern for the wider world.
But he took a major personal tragedy in 2009 when his son, who struggled with mental health problems, suddenly died at the age of 39.
Max Mosley’s Legacy
Mosley died in May 2021 at the age of 81, which led to a big reaction in the motorsport community about his legacy.
The Sun (a tawdry rag of the most vile nature) predictably labelled Mosley the “Enemy of the Free Press”.
In fact, the tabloids all revelled in the moment to get their revenge on the man who dared to challenge their relentless bullshit.
For tabloids so keen on whipping up a frenzy about “the woke” and “free speech”, they didn’t half overreact like petulant children hellbent on stamping out any free speech that criticises them.
And in many ways that’s now a huge part of Mosley’s legacy.
Whilst the motorsport community mourned his passing more respectfully, what’s left is a legacy of road car safety campaigns and challenging the garbage churned out by Murdoch’s gutter press.
As you can see, Mosley was a controversial figure who riled up many people on the right.
His family background made his life difficult and he never was able to shake off the legacy of Oswald Mosley and the blackshirts.
But amongst the controversies and whatever opinion you have of them, Mosley’s pioneering work for F1 and road car safety should be his lasting legacy.
There’s simply no denying that, alongside Bernie Ecclestone and Professor Sid Watkins, his work saved millions of lives worldwide.
And continues to do so! That’s some legacy—far above a tabloid newspaper’s attempts to smear his name.