Bernie Ecclestone is bored with Formula 1 (updated)

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Bernie EcclestoneMany thanks to Alex who alerted me to this fascinating interview with Bernie Ecclestone in the Daily Mail.

The article does not appear to have been written for Formula 1 fans and so Ecclestone did not get a grilling him on the kind of questions I would put to him – like why a sport awash with cash might only have 20 drivers in it this year, why the television coverage is so bad, what his plans for succession are and so on.

But it does reveal why Ecclestone so rarely consents to giving interviews in the first place – he does not come across very well:

I hate democracy as a political system. It stops you getting things done. I think people should have decisions made for them. Torture is just an old-fashioned way of getting things done.

He was drawn into making a few remarks about the sport he has dominated for over three decades:

Living on the edge made the drivers of the past interesting people. Now, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton feel they have to keep up appearances for the sponsors.

But it seems Ecclestone is losing his appetite for the work. He may still be the man in charge despite CVC’s purchase of Formula 1 in 2006, but it must have forced some restraints on his approach to business. It is believed many sponsors and teams are unhappy with the loss of the United States Grand Prix this year.

His purchase of Queens’ Park Rangers football club last year is a sign his mind is wandering to other things. His remarks about democracy are his way voicing those frustrations:

In the old days it was easier to be dictatorial. But now in Formula One we have more of a democracy.

If he is bored, then it’s time he moved on. Formula 1 needs fresh blood and fresh thinking. There are all manner of opportunities the sport is shunning for no good reason.

Why, for example, does it not have a title sponsor like the Premier League or NASCAR? The millions that could bring in could help keep historic venues on the calendar like Monza, Spa and Silverstone, which are a tangible asset to the F1 brand, but are never going to be able to compete with the money brought from countries like China and Shingapore.

Ecclestone has run out of ideas. He’s failed to reach an agreement on F1’s commercial terms with the teams, and all he does now is chase the quick buck from people who want a Grand Prix.

If he’s bored of us, I’m bored of him as well.

Update 17/2/08 12.42: More from Bernie Ecclestone in today’s Mail – he has criticised the FIA’s “racing against racism” campaign. He said: “I don’t think it’s necessary. All it does, like all these things, is give attention to the people who want attention.

I think in Barcelona it was the group of people who caused the same trouble at the football. I don’t think they’re fans; I don’t think they’re anything, and I don’t think they were supporting Alonso in particular.”

Given the people in the infamous photograph of spectators at the Circuit de Catalunya were wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Alonso No. 1” I think Ecclestone is not clear on the facts.

Is he seriously suggesting that racist football fans have started coming to F1 events and the way to solve that problem is to pretend it isn’t happening? If ever anything proved Ecclestone is not the man to run F1 in the 21st century, this is it.

Photo copyright: GEPA/Red Bull

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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19 comments on “Bernie Ecclestone is bored with Formula 1 (updated)”

  1. Bernie isn’t bored. He’s more frustrated than bored, really. He can’t seem to do what he wants because there’s too many people that go against his decisions. Which makes me think… if Bernie had that dictatorial rule that he seems to want, where would F1 be right now?

  2. this is the weirdest interview I have read for quite a while … does not even sound real :-)

  3. Time for him to shove off then and let someone new make their mark.

    Bernie can go off and run GP1 with his dictators hat on.

  4. A very weird interview indeed- don’t most sports bosses view things like sex scandals as being bad for their team/league/series? After reading this, it would appear Bernie craves a venue similar to pro wrestling (something I absolutlet despise), where money and entertainment value come before sport and competition as the priorities in management.

    Once again I tip my hat to the editor- I love seeing that discussion about the USGP, but perhaps the best point here is the lack of a title sponsor for the series. NASCAR dose rake in plenty from their title sponsor deals, and were more than happy to ditch the tobacco sponsorship when they picked up NEXTEL as the title sponsor a few years back.

  5. I think “bored” is too kind a word — all the way around this situation.

    Ecclestone’s becoming more and more erratic this season … as if he wasn’t always shady and subversive, but he’s actually begun to alarm me with not just his anti-West sentiments, but especially by his anti-West actions. If this demented man has his way, F1 will only be run in virtual police states in the future.

    While I love F1 and hate to see all of this happening in the sport — it is a sport. My bigger concerns lie in the messages he’s allowed to send … the messages he puts himself into a unique position to receive. Those, in my opinion, have nothing whatsoever to do with racing.

    I’m not happy that there won’t be an American GP, but I would be happy if Bernie Ecclestone never had occasion to step upon American soil again. To put it mildly, he is not welcome in my home.

  6. You’re welcome Keith!

    Journeyer wonders what F1 without restrictions on Berrnie would look like. Well we know what his motivation is: short term gain for him, damn everyone else and the history and future of the sport. Traditional races in Europe would be replaced by races in rich places that have no history of motorsports at all, and damn those of us that grew up with this sport. It’s pretty clear from the interview that his wife has little time for the little man, he has little time for life, and so all he can do is sit behind his curtain and tinker with his toy. He was brilliant in amassing his fortune,and now he needs to bugger off into the sunset on his yacht and let the racers race in the places that the fans want to see the races. Pretty simple, really.

  7. The interview illustrates a lot of what is wrong with the powers-that-be. Too many wrong-headed ideas, totally scattered approach to logic and too much desire for power and money instead of actually improving the things they are meant to administer.

  8. The money generated by the title sponsorship of NASCAR goes to the series ownership, same as Bernie would do if he had one. Does NASCAR invest in their property more than Bernie does in F1? Undoubtedly, as NASCAR also owns six (I believe) of the tracks they race at, including Daytona.

    Before we toss Bernie under the bus, we need to recall what the F1 series was like before he acquired the rights. His current trends may be disagreeable but one can’t argue much with where he’s brought us from where it was. At least the way I remember it.

    He just needs to reacquire the proper focus. It should be about the drivers, the teams and the sport. The fans (like all of us) will follow and grow.

  9. I just recalled the words of Mark Webber from about a week ago:
    “He’s (Ecclestone) certainly got his head screwed on and he will do what is best for the sport.”
    reading that interview makes me wonder, who’s head he has got screwed on … Because if he seriously believes in what he said in that interview, the chances he will do what is best for F1 are very very slim …

    The title sponsorship is not a bad idea, especially if the money would be used the way you mentioned – to keep the traditional tracks on the calendar. But I can imagine what kind of figures would the 18,000 year hobbit expect for a deal like that, and I can’t imagine who would pay that :-). one could probably buy couple of F1 teams for that kind of money

    But, there is no need for title sponsorship to save the traditional races … good will would be enough. just declare Monaco, Monza, Silverstone, Spa etc as untouchables and that is it. all it would take is less greed

  10. Keith, Bernie’s opinion is actually shared by a lot of people on the Net, that the FIA may have overreacted. I don’t necessarily think Bernie is wrong on this one, Keith. It’s just a difference of opinion with Max (oddly enough).

    Time will tell if Max’s approach works or not.

  11. loves to be dictatorial ? – doesnt like democracy – adolf is not dead – just got shrunk in size and transplanted – countries with no history of car racing where a minority rule and it would take half a year or more for any of the locals to buy a ticket – if it was not televised(poorly) – there would be no commercial point to these races – tourism – how many really of us have the money or wish to go to the majority of the new venue’s ? – bernie may have done great things in the past – but like all people who do not listen to others – he is showing that he is a thing of the past – dinosaur!! – apart from that hope he has a long retirement – just make it quick bernie

  12. Without wishing to make a pun, it’s not a black and white issue (!)

    I think some people make a fair point that only small numbers of people were involved in the abuse. And the point that the media will inflate stories like this to sell newspapers is well taken.

    But say F1 did take the route of ignoring it. Do you really think the people dishing out racist abuse to Hamilton might go home, open up a newspaper and think “oh dear, no-one’s paid attention to me, I won’t do that again.”

    No, they’ll think they’ve gotten away with it, they’ll do it again, and some people that didn’t do it the first time will probably join in. And then the problem gets worse. Ignorance is the same as acceptance in this case.

  13. Bernie also said that what happened at Catalunya was an “isolated incident” which suggests that he would take it more seriously if it happened again.

  14. Keith…

    What you said has some sense, but as I said before, getting those people to jail, or banning them from F1 events, or taking a spanish GP away from the calendar, which is the general idea, how do you think that will work out? Do you think they will go home (or jail) and think “oh, I lost money/freedom/spanish GP! Ok, i’ve learned my lesson, really, we’re all equals!” ?

    I don’t think so.
    And democracy is not holy, for those of you reacting to Bernie’s “dictator” comments. I think he’s been screwing F1 up and I liked so much more on the early 90’s, but to say he’s an idiot because he doesn’t like democracy is just an stupidity. There are those of you who like it, and those who don’t, and both have reasons (some good, mostly naive ones).

  15. re:Given the people in the infamous photograph of spectators at the Circuit de Catalunya were wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Alonso No. 1″ I think Ecclestone is not clear on the facts.

    I think it’s been increasingly obvious over the last few years that neither Mr Ecclestone nor Mr Mosely are particularly clear on many facts.

  16. on the racisme bernie is spot on if you ask me.

    One little thing happens and you must react because ppl are so affraid of racisme. It doesn’t matter if you are black or white, your not a race fan if you do these kind of things.
    Racing is known for their great fans. If you loved or hated Schumi,you could still sit next to eachother at the track and have fun together. That’s how it should be. These few individuals are not fans in my eyes (and of bernie)

    I’m also convinced that bernie knows what’s good for the sport, and will act like it…but he does a lot of that work behind closed doors.
    I do disagree on the new venues (with bernie), we must keep the old great tracks in stead of new tracks with big money and new facilities.

  17. F1 had to do something about the racism issue. Whether “Racing Against Racism” is the right thing to do depends largely on what it turns out to be. At the moment, all it is is promises, which doesn’t really communicate the issue of equality very well. What’s really needed is staff training at venues on how to recognise and proactively deal with troublemakers in a responsible manner, along with some code that lays down the boundaries of what is and is not acceptable at an F1 venue in plain terms. In fact, I believe part of it is already on the race tickets and simply needs to be highlighted and expanded. The code would basically be a written form of the unspoken code that’s united F1 people for half a century, so shouldn’t be too difficult to write. One would suppose…

    Genuine misunderstandings (as one person has claimed) would not happen if the rules on spectating were made clear and deliberately offensive people (whether they’re being racist or behaving in some other unacceptable manner) could be removed with the minimum of fuss or upset to other people.

    In the interim, it may well be that the authorites have to check all custom banners before they are permitted onto the circuit, but that’s not a measure I’d like to see insisted upon for too long if possible.

  18. Bye bye then Bernie, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    Oh, and by the way, can you take Mad Max with you when you go?

    Thanks :)

  19. That was a very strange interview, but I got the sense that Bernie was screwing with the reporter, who didn’t quite get it. As bad as Bernie (and Max) sometimes are, I worry about what will happen after they’re gone. I think Bernie’s right about the sport being better under a dictatorship (his) — he created great wealth for the likes of Williams, Dennis, Briatore, etc. and now that’s his biggest problem — none of them agree on anything, so nothing ever gets changed. Plus, it’s a closed shop, a cartel of teams, really; none of the money generated ever gets put back into the sport, and on and on …

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