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Max Mosley, former F1 top executive, dies at 81

May 25, 2021

The former motorsport executive, whose family had ties to the Nazis, died after a battle with cancer. Mosley was active as an advocate for tougher press regulation following a tabloid exposé of his sex life.

Max Mosley pictured in Monte Carlo, 2008
Max Mosley (l) won a key case against UK tabloid The News of the World in 2008Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Max Mosley, the former Formula 1 executive and ex-racing driver, died at the age of 81 on Monday.

He had been battling cancer.

Mosley served three terms as president of motorsport's governing body the FIA from 1993 to 2009.

Current FIA president Jean Todt posted a tribute on Twitter, writing: "Deeply saddened by the passing of Max Mosley. He was a major figure in F1 & motorsport. As FIA President for 16 years, he strongly contributed to reinforcing safety on track & on the roads. The entire FIA community pays tribute to him. Our thoughts & prayers are with his family."

Family ties with the Nazi regime

The son of British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, the F1 official became a campaigner for tighter privacy laws later in his life.

Oswald Mosley and Max Mosley’s mother, Diana, married secretly in Berlin in 1936 at the home of Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels. Adolf Hitler was one of the guests.

As a youth, Max Mosley attended boarding schools in Germany, and learned to speak fluent German. 

Mosley won a payout from the now-defunct British tabloid News of the World in 2008 after they incorrectly reported that he had attended a Nazi-themed sex party. The tabloid had published a secretly-filmed video of Mosley engaging in sex acts with several prostitutes. One of them was wearing a German Luftwaffe jacket and another had a striped prison-style uniform.

While the video's authenticity was confirmed, British judges would later reject the Nazi label, and ruled that the story was not in the public interest.

Mosley’s lawyer, James Price, said at the time that his client’s life had been "devastated by the reports. The humiliation is of the highest order."

Mosley would later become a regular donor to those fighting privacy cases against the UK press.

'Like family, like a brother'

Following reports of Mosley's death on Monday, Bernie Ecclestone, the ex-Formula 1 CEO and Mosley's business partner, said it was "like losing family, like losing a brother."

"He did a lot of good things not just for motorsport, also the [car] industry. He was very good in making sure people built cars that were safe," he told the BBC.

Mosley, in his role as FIA president, led an overhaul of safety procedures in Formula 1 following the death of Brazilian star Ayrton Senna in 1994.

The five most spectacular Formula 1 circuits

The Briton also oversaw the stunning global spread of Formula One, with new races in Asia and the Middle East.

From Oxford to FIA chief

Born in London in 1940, Mosley studied physics at Oxford University, before later becoming a barrister.

He had a brief spell as a racing drive in the late 1960s, competing in Formula 2.

Mosley helped set up March Engineering, which competed in Formula One in the 1970s, and used his lawyer’s training to make his way up motorsport’s administrative ladder.

In 1993, he was elected unopposed as FIA president, replacing Frenchman Jean-Marie Balestre and dominating the sport for more than two decades.

jf/dj (AP, Reuters)