Many 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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