Hembery: F1 must plan for life after Ecclestone

2013 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery says F1 needs to plan who will run the sport after Bernie Ecclestone.

The Formula One Group boss is the subject of several court cases at present. Among the most serious of which is an investigation into whether he paid a bribe to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, who was sentenced to eight-and-a-half year in prison in June.

In October Ecclestone will go on trial in the UK on charges he undervalued Formula One when it was sold to current owners CVC Capital Partners in 2005.

Ecclestone said last month he may be forced to leave his position in charge of the sport due to ongoing legal action.

Hembery praised Ecclestone’s work in charge of F1 and said it was important the sport was prepared for a time when he was no longer able to run it.

“I think anyone involved in the sport would like stability,” Hembery told F1 Fanatic. “I think Bernie’s done an incredible job for the sport and he continues to do some amazing things for the sport.”

“His push to get the sport into all parts of the world was visionary. Like many sports it was very European-based and it’s become a global sport. It’s the only sport I can think of that’s genuinely global and goes around the globe every year which makes it a unique proposition.

“I don’t think that if there’s going to be ever a change, Bernie talks about sometimes maybe there will be, if that does happen I think the only question we’d have is is there another ten little Bernie Ecclestones to take over because it probably will take ten people to replace him.

“So that’s our question mark. If something happens we’d be disappointed and we’d be concerned because we’d like to know what the plan would be.

“But as long as Bernie’s there then, despite what some people say, a lot of good still goes on.”

Asked about his forthcoming court appearance Ecclestone told The Telegraph: “I wish they would bring it forward. It’s going to be amusing.”

“We’re in the entertainment business”

Hembery said Ecclestone deserves credit for making a success of Formula One while other forms of motor racing have struggled. “It’s maybe not appreciated,” he said.

“We’re fortunate in the sense that, we get involved in all sorts of motorsport around the world, and I can assure you that trying to get the media, television channels, to even show motor sport is difficult. To get them to pay to show it is extraordinary. It’s almost unique. Many other categories try it and it doesn’t happen.

“You’ve got to be careful, not a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water type of thing. So our only concern if it comes up is what happens.”

Hembery endorsed Ecclestone’s view that F1 provide entertaining racing to keep people watching. “We’re in the entertainment business,” said Hembery.

“A lot of people don’t like that word and they think it’s degrading Formula One. It’s not. We’re competing with – particularly when we’re talking about going to Asia, to India, to Russia – people will watch it as long as it’s good to watch.

“People will not watch a procession. They will not watch races where there’s only one or two overtaking manouevres. If we have races like that they will watch football, they’ll watch cricket, they’ll watch basketball, baseball and everything else.

“We want it to be a valuable sport. We want to be attractive to a huge, wide audience. They only way you’ll do that is making racing exciting. Exciting racing is, by and large, about overtaking.”

2013 F1 season

Browse all 2013 F1 season articles

Image © Red Bull/Getty images, HRT F1 Team

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

48 comments on “Hembery: F1 must plan for life after Ecclestone”

  1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    14th January 2013, 10:36

    I like Hembery. Seems like a genuine bloke.

    1. He’s a genuinely good guy who has time for the common fan, the little man, and the ordinary “bloke,” as you say – and I speak from direct personal experience, which Keith will back-up/confirm.

  2. ‘entertainment’ and ‘business’, two words i’d love to see disassociated with f1.

    1. Then it would stop being a sport. In fact, it would probably stop being altogether.

      “Entertainment” is a necessary word, because people go to races and/or watch them on television for their enjoyment. When you are doing something you enjoy, you are being entertained. Therefore, it Formula 1 stops being entertaining, it stops being enjoying. Which turns it into a chore, and nobody wants that.

      “Business” is also necessary, because teams are regularly spending a hundred million dollars per season just to be reasonably comeptitive. The best teams are spending four times that amount (or more). With so much money flying around, and so many commercial sponsors interested and invested in the sport, somebody has to manage it all; hence, business. If you took that element away, it would become a free-for-all with various factions wrestling and mud-slinging as they tried to seize the biggest slice of the pie for themelves.

      1. Completely agree. I’m tired of hearing that entertainment and business should not be the focus of f1, but lets face it.. all sports are entertainment and all teams are in it for the business. This isn’t a charity

    2. *pic of “Are you not entertained?”*

      Kind of ridiculous to assume F1 could exist purely from ticket sales…

    3. Why wish for something that is impractical and unrealisitic?

      1. Drop Valencia!
        14th January 2013, 11:30

        Billions of people of faith do every day….

    4. F1 without business = your local amateur motor sport events

  3. The last quote is basically saying ‘we’re very rich and we want to get even richer’. Not good for the fans not good for the sport.

    1. Or it could mean that Hembrey wants to see Formula 1 reach as many people as possible, and that he thinks the best way to do that is to make the racing as competitive as possible.

    2. I don’t see that in Hembrey’s words at all. If you’re attributing it to his use of the word ‘valuable’, he means in the context of making the sport valuable enough for people to watch it over rivals.

      For example, Formula 1 circa 10 years ago was not ‘valuable’ unless you were a Ferrari fan. The races were so predictable & cars so reliable that baring a freak accident or two, you pretty much knew the outcome once qualifying had finished.

      1. My concern with Hemberey’s final quotes above are that it be all about quantity of passing. No matter the method. Sure people don’t want to see processions, and many would probably prefer more than one or two passes per race, but that doesn’t mean we have to go to the opposite end of the spectrum and invite mega passes per race that are due to tire lotteries and fake DRS passes that carry no real memorable meaning to racing fans. I hope there are still enough common-sense people in F1 to understand this, and why I have hope is that they have tweaked the DRS rules to make it less effective than in the first year. They MUST have heard the overwhelming negative remarks about phoney passes, and fan’s favourite drivers being passed like they were helplessly standing still.

        There’s a compromise between processions and the direction they have gone these days. And it shouldn’t be that hard to find, except for the will to do so. I worry that they have started to decide that ‘today’s audience’ needs to see as many passes as possible, regardless of the ways and means to justify that end. I want to see F1 treat it’s viewing audience with more respect and alllow them more intelligence than that.

        Bottom line for me…I think it is short term thinking that more passing equals more audience…I think that may work temporarily to attract new viewers, but as soon as those viewers get the impression that it’s more about timing on the tires, or a DRS wing being opened, they won’t see anything that special in the long run to hang in there for. For me, we need the gladiators on the track (not passengers) creating the show and the entertainment, and the word of mouth and the excitement and the viewing audience will follow. As will the money. Long term.

  4. Yet again I disagree entirely with Paul Hembery on pretty much every point he makes. To save us all some time, I have chosen this statement to expand upon:

    People will not watch a procession. They will not watch races where there’s only one or two overtaking manouevres.

    This perfectly supports the claim I already made a few days ago: Paul Hembery doesn’t get Formula 1. Some F1 fans indeed watch a Formula 1 race and if they notice that the race’s amount of overtakes is below average, they complain that it is a boring race. Formula 1 is much more than that. I love watching Formula 1 races, qualifying and practice sessions for the shear joy I get watching a Formula 1 car drive around a circuit as fast as possible, listening to the sound of the engine, watching the drivers struggle with a car, looking at the difference between different cars and different drivers…

    Formula 1 shouldn’t mainly be a business or a form of entertainment: Formula 1 is a sport. My fear is that with the attitude of Ecclestone with his desire to keep expanding, Formula 1 becomes a sport that is watched by many, but casually. My feeling about his attitude is that it attracts a casual audience, but it dismisses the core fan base of Formula 1: people that simply enjoy watching cars go as fast as possible. In my opinion, Formula 1 as it is today is fundamentally flawed and I hope (and think) there will be a breeze of fresh air in the near future.

    1. Appealing to the core fans of a sport alone is a good way to make sure no-one else watches your sport. F1 needs sponsors to survive. sponsors want return on their investment. Having a lower ratings return means sponsors will leave the sport.

      1. That’s exactly why I say the sport is fundamentally flawed. If you’d ask me, Formula 1 could better shrink than expand. Of course, the viewer numbers and (to some more importantly) the revenue for many parties will drop, but in return you end up with a ‘purer’ form of Formula 1. It will make Formula 1 affordable again, and it will attract more people who genuinely love motor racing. Quality over quantity, you could put it

        1. How is it a ‘purer form’ if you basically hamper the technological development?
          technological developments = money
          It has always been those (expensive) developments which set F1 apart from other motor sports.

          To me this sounds like an argument of a person who doesn’t know that there are hundreds of other motor sport series’ with less budgets and in your opinion ‘purer’ forms of racing.

          Affordable F1 with less audience = Formula 3!

          1. @spankyspeed

            “Affordable F1 with less audience = Formula 3!”

            I would agree with you it is wasn’t for two major differences. Formula 3 teams don’t design their own cars, Dallara does. Secondly and more inmportantly the drivers in Formula 3 are not the best drivers in the world, as is the case with Formula 1 – same thing goes for GP2- and DTM-like series.

            Also I do not understand why a reduction in cost would ‘hamper’ technological development. Teams will always try to find ways to produce the fastest car possible, whether it is was five, fifty or 500 men. For sure the cars smaller teams design are less sophisticated, but do we want to see cars that are at the end of their development and therefore are pretty much equal? Frankly, I would say it’s much more interesting to see teams in the devolpment stage during the season rather than seeing them launch a car that has already been through countless iterations.

            By the way, I didn’t mean ‘purer’ in the way you use it in your comment. I was making a point about returning to the very basics of motor racing: actual racing, not serving as a platform for sponsors.

      2. Moving F1 to Pay TV channels should reduce the ratings quite nicely then!

      3. Casual fans will move to greener pastures eventually.

        sponsors want return on their investment.

        This is not what a sport is about.

        1. @crr917 – Name for me one major that does not have sponsors invested in it. Premiership football has sponsors. The National Football League has sponsors. Cricket has sponsors. The Tour de France has sponsors. The Olympics have sponsors. This is not a concept that is unique to Formula 1.

          1. And because major sports have sponsors it’s all fine? I did not specify F1 in my comment either. Sponsors should not expect profit from their involvment with sports. If it turns they do profit good for them. Else they should see themselves as supporters of something they value (besides money) and be content. At the moment all sports are marketing exercise and I doubt any sponsors’ investment surpasses the advertising benefit.

          2. @crr917 Here’s one for you then: what sponsors should expect?

          3. @maroonjack
            Nothing except seeing their team/player participation in the event. Prepare for the worst and pray for the best :)
            Shouldn’t there be a difference between sponsor and investor?

          4. @crr917 Sponsorship is done with the expectation of a commercial return. There is a difference between a sponsor and a benefactor.

        2. @crr917 I think you are looking at this in a bit of a romantic and naive manner. While I wish it was the case that companies would just pour money into sports out of the good of their hearts, and simply prepare for the worst but pray for the best, that is not reality. If it was as you wish, we wouldn’t have pay drivers, nor would we have most teams and drivers in most racing series struggling for sponsorship dollars, post-global recession anouncements going back to 08.

          But while F1 and other entities are a sport and a business and there to entertain as well, the companies that provide sponsorship dollars to make the whole thing run are just that…companies…they are businesses…involved in sport, sure…but they are businesses. And businesses cannot have their shareholders sitting there happily forgoing dividends from their investments, on a hope and a prayer that advertising moneys are having a positive effect.

          Make no mistake…sponsors free up advertising money for things like racing while they have it in their budgets and while they see the advertising impact as being a profitable venture. They wouldn’t do it otherwise, given that they have investors to answer to. So if a venture will not be profitable, or if after some time the impact of investing in a sport is no longer there, the sponsors pull out or don’t do it to begin with. They have to. Their investors are there to make money. As is the company.

          So I don’t see how you can call for a difference between sponsor and investor. Everything in a business entity is tied in. Sponsorship in events gets the brand’s name out there, which generates revenues and grows the company in a best case scenario, and the investors benefit. There are no guanantees of course, and I’m sure sometimes companies’ CEO’s have to convince the board/shareholders that there will indeed be financial gain in investing in, in this case, F1. And boards of companies get to vote on this type of stuff ie. investors have a say.

          1. @robbie I agree with you. And it seems you agree with me that it would be better if things were as I wish?

          2. I don’t think I even take it as far as wishing in reality, even though I myself used the term ‘I wish’ in my second sentence. My bottom line is that it is not reality, so I don’t sit around and wish for it. Companies that spend money on advertising through racing have to make a profit for their shareholders and so will not simply throw money out there for the good of their hearts. Full stop. There’s no point in wishing otherwise, and I’m not sure that if companies did as you wish it would be better. It might make for a lack of accountablility in that teams wouldn’t have to worry about results because there will just be more money to follow no matter what. And it might make F1 what it has often been, and what continues to be an issue to this day…a money game. He with the most money/resources wins.

            At the end of the day I think it is better that teams have to be accountable for the moneys that they get, toward the entities that give it to them, and so I think it take back my ‘I wish’ comment as I think further on the concept of a bottomless pit of money offered ‘just because’ and on a wing and a prayer.

    2. In a nutshell, you are right. The problem is, as PM mentioned above, the sport is expensive to run and participate in because of the development required to participate.

      There are two financial issues in F1 – the cost of running it and the *cost* of running it. The former is CVC/FOMs shameless profiteering and the latter is the cost in dollarpounds of making a man, an engine and a lot of carbon-fibre go a bit quicker than the next man. Someone has to pay for it all.

      1. Regarding the teams’ operation costs: the only reason this is expensive, is because teams such as Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari have say 500+ employees and the best tools available (super-computers, wind tunnels…). Of course a reduction in cost will have consequences for the teams, who will have to cut their budgets regarding the number of employees and their resources.

  5. If you want a larger audience, allow the cars to be more enjoyable to watch on TV. Why not let the cars be more agile? Cut the minimum weight and ask Pirelli to make wider tires. All inexpensive ways to make more interesting racing with little development needed.

    1. Presumably wider tyres and less aero must come up in the OWG meetings? I’ve been pedalling this for ages on F1F and still no reply as to why wider tyres and less aero dependence wouldn’t be advatagous.

      Perhaps because the top team personnel who make up the OWG would see this as equalising the field even more perhaps?

    2. F1 cars are the most agile there is. Over 6Gs under braking, over 5.5Gs during cornering. Safety comes into play with higher numbers.

    3. IMO if overtaking is what we want to see ( I do) then the best way to achieve that would be to make bulletproof tyres that do not wear out when a car is; 1 following another closely
      2 being chucked all over the road to make passes off the racing line.
      Also it would help not to have rubber marbles littering the track off the racing line and a harder compound would allow for a more progressive loss of adhesion allowing drivers a variety of lines through a corner rather than just the 1 racing line.
      Lap-times might increase but the cars would appear to be going faster and driver skill would be a greater part of a teams success than it is now.

      1. And I forgot, it would cost less by using fewer tyres, transporting fewer tyres and reducing the number of pit crew required.
        If showbiz is what it’s all about let’s have some oversteer, get rid of passing in the pits and the need for DRS .

        1. @hohum good point, but I agree with Keith. I don’t think a driver would pass up an overtaking opportunity because of marbles.

      2. @hohum

        it would help not to have rubber marbles littering the track off the racing line

        I still don’t believe this does anything to inhibit overtaking. You just don’t see drivers sitting behind cars refusing to pull off the racing line because there are marbles there.

        Indeed, the driver in front usually moves off-line to begin with to discourage the driver behind from trying to pass. Which says to me that the presence of marbles isn’t as great a disincentive to racing as some claim it is.

        1. @keithcollantine, I’ll not argue with that, it has always seemed a little exaggerated to me as well but the commentators are always going on about it and that in itself must worry some drivers if they have become “mistake prone”.

          1. Hmm…regarding marbles. While I take the point that drivers will sometimes go off line to defend a position, seemingly in the marbles, (ie. so marbles must not be the issue some make them seem), I think that most tracks only present a few good passing spots, and those spots are perhaps where the marbles don’t collect, BECAUSE drivers commonly go off line to defend in those places. So I’m not convinced they are going off line at places where the concentration of marbles is as much of an issue as at certain other spots on the track.

            My point would be that with less marbles, and going hand in hand with that, more consistant tires, perhaps there would be one or two more passing spots at each venue, thus promoting the passing that F1 is so concerned about, that way. And to avoid processions from the more consistant tires I call for, should go hand in hand a great reduction in the amount of aero dependancy F1 insists these cars have. Forget the lottery tires, and the fake DRS passes…consistant tires, and a great reduction in the dirty air effect, and then we’ll be watching a real, apples to apples event. Yes of course it is still apples to apples in that all the teams have the same issues to deal with and rules and regs to work around…the learning curve on the tires etc etc. But is just feels like unnecessary effort that only harms the show by dumbing it down.

            Passing by shear numbers per race has never been my thing, and I have always appreciated F1’s philosophy (at least up until recently) that passes should be rare and special which is what makes them memorable and talked about for decades afterwards. Who finds it memorable to harken back to seeing KR lose spot after spot because his tires fell off the cliff. Are the ones who took advantage of that because they happened to be on better tires at that moment, honoured for their maneuvers on KR? What about the DRS passes. People bemoaned MS being passed on that rainy day in Canada when he could have podiumed. So they remember that pass all right…in a negative way.

  6. I think that what we all have to remember, with respect, is that however certain people want the sport to run, it’s successful for a reason. You don’t get to this point by accident. Many of those who complain about the way F1 is run would probably not even be aware of the sport were it not for treating it like a business!

    1. @andrewtanner, before Bernie turned F1 into a (show) business, I could afford to go and see a F1 race every year, I am much better off financially than I was then but consider F1 too expensive for me now.

  7. Before Bernie, F1 raced in Europe,the Americas, Africa, Australia, & New Zealand, at that time most Asian countries were trying to drag themselves out of 3rd.world poverty, for them F1 was an impossible dream but as they have become wealthy they have bought into the dream, Bernie didn’t make it happen , they did.

    1. Yes Sir!!! That is the reason. They did it, not Mr. Ecclestone and his very dirty bussines.

    2. @hohum Also in Japan in 1976-77.

      1. @Ogurka, as you say, Japan lead the way to Asian prosperity and joined the F1 club before Bernie took control.

        1. Yes, at the vanguard of The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere :)

  8. f1 is boring now, i hope that after bernie leave f1, f1 back turbo engines ,old tracks,and retro cars

  9. I think the concept of a ‘sport’ being in the ‘business’ of ‘entertainment’ is old news…about 3 decades old imho. I think most sporting entities realized what we are talking about today, at least that long ago.

    I think BE is a bit unique, correct me if I’m wrong, in that unlike most major sports globally, he is one man that has made billions off an entity that is quite unique and is known to be ‘his game’. Other sports have billionaire team owners, as does F1, but unless I’m mistaken, baseball, basketball, football, soccer, hockey etc etc do not have one kingpin at the top dictating how the show will work, and benefitting financially to the tune that BE does…they have commissioners, presidents, boards etc who are paid small millions, not small billions. And car racing needs huge amounts of money spent on equipment where other sports’ biggest expenses are players’ salaries.

    But I’m not necessarily knocking BE for that. I think BE has done what virtually all sports have done in the last 3 decades. Expand and grow hugely, financially, with the advent of amazing television coverage and the sponsorship revenues that come with that. And racing, probably moreso than the other sports, would not exists without sponsors paying to advertise through the entity in question.

    So I don’t think BE is that unique among sports producers in terms of the thinking that it is a business and has to be entertaining. I just want the entertainment to come from a genuine show…not one that manipulates the audience into thinking they are watching an apples to apples competition. I think the MS/Ferrari era was manipulation, post-Senna, as F1 felt the need to CREATE a new chapter with MS ending the Ferrari WDC drought, rather than letting the sport be a sport and letting the chips fall where they may. And today I find lottery tires and DRS to be audience manipulation as well. I don’t get what would be so wrong with limiting their aero dependancy, and giving them consistant tires, such that the entertainment comes from confident drivers taking it to each other on the track unaffected by dirty air of the leading car. The results would be the same (passes) that they think they are providing when we see a driver on better tires pass a driver who is helpless on tires that have cliffed, or because of the gadget called DRS. But the difference would be, imho, and using a word used in comments above, the purity of it. Lottery tires that we know only exist because Pirelli has been mandated to make them thus, and DRS which makes drivers look defenceless and silly, and do not make for honourable hard-fought, skill-laden manuevers, are a cheap and easy way to CREATE a chapter in F1, and I still wish F1 would concern itself more letting the performers create the chapters, and leave the audiences intelligence intact at the same time.

Comments are closed.