Max Mosley was an enigma. The former boss of the FIA, Formula 1’s leading governing body, was rarely out of the headlines, for both good and bad. But this took a turn for the tragic last month, when Mosley passed away from cancer, aged 81. It’s brought him back into the public eye, just weeks before the release of Mosley, a documentary that show Max, warts and all, and leaves it up to the audience to decide where they stand.
Directed by Michael Shevloff, Mosley contains interviews from the man himself, as well as Formula 1 stalwarts like Bernie Ecclestone, and famous faces like Hugh Grant. Despite Mosley making a name for himself through his partnership with Ecclestone, working together to form the Constructors Organisation to better represent teams, a staggering amount of the documentary focuses on other facets of Mosley’s life.
In particular, the last act hones in on Mosley’s relationship with the tabloid press, following a News of the World scandal in 2008 exposing his private life. From here, the figurehead of motor racing is barely seen again, instead favouring a Mosley driven by justice, privacy and greater regulation of rampant paparazzi and tabloid activity. It’s a fascinating and very timely subject, to be sure—in fact, following his death the Daily Mail are continuing to release hit-pieces on Mosley—but for those going into the documentary looking for a profile of the motor racing star, it’s a slightly unrelated aside.
That said, when Mosley covers Formula 1, and motorsport more generally, it does so with aplomb. Starting with the death of legendary racer Jim Clarke in the 1960s, in one of Mosley’s first races as a professional driver, it tracks the evolution of the sport from risky endeavour to the commercialised titan it is today. Every crucial beat is covered, especially the tragic accident that claimed the life of F1 driver Ayrton Senna in 1994, handled with such panache and care. It also delves into the brutal politics behind the races, particularly the threat of the Féderacion Internationale du Sport Automobile, a governing body that challenged the increased commercialisation and regulations put forward by Mosley and Ecclestone. Sadly, Shevloff struggles to orient unfamiliar audiences with the context of these groups and events – and some extra detail on how Mosley met people like Bernie Ecclestone, and what his role involved, could’ve helped entice those less familiar with the sport.
That said, Mosley is a considerably more sombre watch in retrospect, following its subject’s passing. A grand deal of the film follows Mosley and his team in India, as they campaign for increased road safety by producing cars that attain a five-star NCAP rating for crash durability. It shows a different side to the magnetic celebrity status he garners elsewhere, portraying him as a man dogged by his family name—his parents were aligned with fascism and Nazism—and truly passionate about using his platform to improve life for others. You could argue it’s a little self-serving in this sense, but its message is ultimately one of using your power for good, not to line your pockets that little more.
It makes Mosley an appealing watch to those without any investment or interest in motorsport. You don’t need to know your Schumacher from your Senna to appreciate the journey Max Mosley took, and you don’t even need to agree with him every step of the way, either. It’s a detailed, if at times disorienting, look at a man who left a palpable mark, not just on Formula 1, but on motoring as a whole.
Mosley will be released in cinemas on July 9th, followed by a VOD/DVD release on July 19th.