Formula One’s former governor Max Mosley says he warned the sport’s authorities against taking a controversial stake in it which now threatens to put the brakes on the sale of the business.
American conglomerate Liberty Media last month agreed to buy F1’s parent company Delta Topco for £3.3bn from its controlling shareholder, private equity firm CVC, but it has since emerged that F1’s regulator, the FIA, stands to make nearly £33m from the deal as it owns a one per cent stake in Delta Topco.
This has fuelled concerns about a possible conflict of interest as the FIA’s consent is needed for the takeover to proceed.
MEP Anneliese Dodds has written to the European Commission (EC), which must also approve the sale, urging it to launch an investigation.
The EC previously investigated F1 in 1999 when it received complaints that the FIA favoured the sport.
Three years later it announced that it had closed the file because the “FIA has sold all its rights in the FIA Formula One World Championship”.
Mosley, who was president of the FIA from 1993 to 2009, says the 2013 purchase of the one percent stake is “arguably contrary to the deal that we did with the Commission back in 2001”.
He added: “I queried it at the time because it didn’t seem to me to be entirely in keeping with the arrangement we made with the EC, by then 12 years previously. But the FIA’s view was that it was 'de minimis' – too small to matter – and they said this will have no effect on governing motorsport.
“I was slightly surprised because the turnover of the FIA in those days was in the order of $50-60m a year, which was the theoretical value of the one per cent, so it’s more or less like a year’s income and I didn’t see that as ‘de minimis’.”
Mosley says the FIA had to sell its shares in any motorsport series as a condition of the EC allowing it to govern all of them.
“Of course this arrangement included Formula One," he said. "On the face of it, the FIA’s one per cent share in the Formula One business seems problematic.”
CVC, Liberty and the FIA declined to comment.