Bernie Ecclestone hits 80 with no sign of slowing down

Feature

Bernie Ecclestone, the most powerful man in Formula 1, turn 80 years old today.

He’s been a racing driver, a manager and a team owner. But above all it’s in his role as president of Formula One Management that he exerts far-reaching influence over F1.

As he marks his 80th birthday he shows no sign of slackening the pace, having announced deals to hold F1 races at new venues in the USA and Russia within the next four years.

It would be no small understatement to say Ecclestone’s vision for Formula 1 has not always struck a chord with the sport’s fans.

While his relentless drive to expand the sport has brought many benefits – improved safety standards, enormous worldwide television coverage and huge revenues – it has come as a price.

Team numbers have dwindled – and Ecclestone has hinted the increased grid size the sport has enjoyed this year is likely to fall in the near future.

A new generation of super-circuits have been built in exotic locations at no-expense-spared costs and boast tremendous facilities. But increasingly insipid layouts fail to challenge the drivers or excite the spectators.

And the sport has endured innumerable drawn-out political rows over F1′s revenues.

While 2010 has been a far less politically turbulent year than 2009, hostilities have merely been suspended – they have not ceased.

The Concorde Agreement – the document which sets down, among many other things, how much money the teams receive – is due to be renewed again in 2012.

Negotiations over the complicated three-party arrangement between Ecclestone, the FIA and the teams have never failed to provoke acrimony. Last time the teams threatened to leave and start their own rival championship.

Meanwhile there are rumours the FIA wishes to re-negotiate the terms of the 100-year commercial deal it signed with Ecclestone in 2001.

While Ecclestone hunts for greater resources in an ever-growing roster of countries, other areas of F1′s commercial operations have been neglected. The sport has been woefully slow to embrace new technologies such as the internet and high-definition broadcasts.

No-one would deny the scale of his accomplishment in driving the sport to an ever-larger audience, and the progress that has been made along the way.

And Ecclestone has never shown the slightest interest in making way for a successor or scaling back his workload. As he passes his 80th birthday F1 is still dancing to his tune, as it has been for decades.

Red Bull present Bernie Ecclestone with Zimmer Frame

Here’s some more pictures of the Zimmer Frame Red Bull presented to Bernie Ecclestone at the Korean Grand Prix weekend to mark his 80th birthday:

Bernie Ecclestone

Images ?é?® Red Bull/Getty images

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38 comments on Bernie Ecclestone hits 80 with no sign of slowing down

  1. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 28th October 2010, 9:32

    So many jokes to make about that steering wheel…;)

    My only real criticism of Bernie is his dealings with the circuits. Older races will get shafted because they’re not in super-mega-rich countries you can afford to lose money on a vanity project to bring tourists in. Much better to take all of a race’s profits up until an agreed-upon fee, so that no race actually loses money. If Bernie really thinks F1 can do without Spa permanently, he’s in for a shock when new races downgrade their payments because the calendar isn’t as attractive anymore. And after he’s exhausted all the big countries and others start, one by one, becoming tired of F1, a new government comes into power that cuts the funding and the race falls off the calendar, he’ll be left with a calendar that’s less and less valuable to be a part of.

    Yeh, he comes up with some stupid ideas but thankfully they never get implemented. It’s when FOTA starts making them it gets worrying.

    I’m not sure where F1 will go after Bernie does, most likely it will continue in the same direction that CVC wants Bernie to take it. For all his faults, that’s a problem best left as far in the future as possible.

    • his_majesty said on 29th October 2010, 14:55

      He doesn’t care what happens to F1. He’s only in it for the money. He knows he doesn’t have a long time left on this planet (thank god!). He is F1s worst enemy.

  2. Adam Smith said on 28th October 2010, 9:48

    I think I can see the front wing flexing in that first shot!

  3. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 28th October 2010, 10:18

    For all the criticism he receives, nobody has done more for the sport than Bernie Ecclestone. Under his leadership, Formula 1 has turned into a truly global event as we push out into new markets. It’s because of Bernie that the sport has pushed beyond its European boundaries, into Asia and the Americas and Australia. It’s because of Bernie that the sport has retained a sense of identity and direction where other formulae – like A1GP – have fallen by the wayside. His practices may be unpopular, his tactics may be brutal and his opinions may have caused their share of controversy, but I am hard-pressed to believe that Bernie has deliberately sabotaged the sport or tried to change it into something that it is not. I don’t believe for a second that he would leave the likes of Spa and Monza and Silverstone in the dust unless he absolutely had to. However much he might be hated by the fans, Bernie is the kind of man who can live with being hated, because he knows that he has to. And when the day comes that we finally lose Bernie, Formula 1 will have suffered a huge loss. But no doubt Bernie is already planning for that day; the sport will probably run itself when he is gone. Then again, I expect Bernie to out-live us all.

    Eighty years is a remarkable achievement. Happy Birthday, old man.

    • DGR-F1 said on 28th October 2010, 10:59

      I don’t think that you can put all of these achievements purely down to Bernie.
      For a start, look at how long its taken to get back into America, and nearly dropping Canada as well. The push into new countries such as Russia is as much down to the work done by the teams to promote the sport as anything Bernie himself has done. He just appears at the last minute to shake the President’s hand and make silly jokes.
      Also, I think F1 exists as it does as a result of the work done by Ferrari, McLaren and other teams in the past who keep the history of the sport alive and make the connections with past and present racing achievements.
      Bernie is doing nothing to make the sport interesting to new manufacturers, does nothing to help new teams or drivers, seems soley interested in the big bucks and the flashy venues, and has driven ticket prices out of the reach of normal wage earners.
      He might not actually be conspiring to lose Spa, Monza or Silverstone, but he won’t lift a finger to help save them, and yet will be complaining next year that he now has too many venues to chose from, even though he is the one who makes the deals.
      Also, in his other job as FIA Promoter, he does a terrible job selling WRC, WTCC, DTM and all the other FIA motorsports, putting all his efforts into F1, although by the looks of it he’s only doing what Jean (and Max before him) has told him to do.
      The sooner Bernie goes and is replaced by somebody paid by FOTA the better it will be for all concerned!

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 28th October 2010, 11:29

        For a start, look at how long its taken to get back into America, and nearly dropping Canada as well.

        Bernie didn’t go into America until he had the right deal. Do you really think Indianapolis would have hosted the race for forty years the way Austin fully intends to?

        The push into new countries such as Russia is as much down to the work done by the teams to promote the sport as anything Bernie himself has done. He just appears at the last minute to shake the President’s hand and make silly jokes.

        Taking Russia as an example, Renault are the only ones who have done any actual work there. And even then, it’s a long-term deal, buying into AvtoVAZ. Aside from the odd demonstration, no-one has done anything there. It’s Bernie who makes contact with the budding promoters, Bernie who negotiates the contracts, and Bernie who makes the races happen.

        Also, I think F1 exists as it does as a result of the work done by Ferrari, McLaren and other teams in the past who keep the history of the sport alive and make the connections with past and present racing achievements.

        But Ferrari and McLaren do nothing to secure future races. They’re not the ones who charged with the future of the sport.

        Bernie is doing nothing to make the sport interesting to new manufacturers, does nothing to help new teams or drivers

        Probably because that’s not his job. He looks after the commercial side of the sport; teams and drivers go through the FIA. And I don’t think you’ve noticed the way he lobbies in behalf of drivers – the likes of Chandhok joined the grid because of Bernie’s perceived influence.

        seems soley interested in the big bucks and the flashy venues, and has driven ticket prices out of the reach of normal wage earners.

        Simple economics dictates that the price will go up. Even with one race every weekend, there is still only a limited number of calendar slots available. And as demand increases, so does the price. Bernie has to charge new venues the same amount as existing ones because he cannot undercut the price. It would just compromise every other event. Besides, half the money from every new circuit deal goes straight to the teams. The rest gets divided up between Bernie, CVC, FOM and half a dozen other entities.

        He might not actually be conspiring to lose Spa, Monza or Silverstone, but he won’t lift a finger to help save them, and yet will be complaining next year that he now has too many venues to chose from, even though he is the one who makes the deals.

        It’s not Bernie’s job to protect the circuits. The promoters enter into a legally-binding arrangement with FOM that demands certain things on their behalf. If they don’t live up to their end of the deal, why should Bernie move heaven and earth to save them?

        The sooner Bernie goes and is replaced by somebody paid by FOTA the better it will be for all concerned!

        Actually, that’s a very bad thing. As soon as FOTA get influence over this, individual teams will start manipulating things to their own ends. Both of us know that if FOTA get control, the teams will start politicking. The likes of Ferrari will try to use their influence over the teams they supply engines to to change the way the end-of-year payments are made, meaning more money for them and less money for those they don’t consider worthy of being in the sport. It’s the same as if they get control of the rule book – they’ll manipulate it to their own ends, ruining the sport faster thn anyone else as they attempt to gain control over it.

        • DGR-F1 said on 28th October 2010, 12:23

          1.But Ferrari and McLaren do nothing to secure future races. They’re not the ones who charged with the future of the sport.

          True, but who do you go to watch racing? Bernie? And I don’t think ‘the future of the sport’ is part of his job either.

          2.the likes of Chandhok joined the grid because of Bernie’s perceived influence.

          And look where its got him.

          3.The rest gets divided up between Bernie, CVC, FOM and half a dozen other entities.

          Most of which are owned by Bernie.

          4.It’s not Bernie’s job to protect the circuits.
          True again, but shouldn’t he as a promoter be protecting the heritage of the sport? Bernie only appears to want new venues at high prices, not historical ones with significance to the teams and the fans.
          Shouldn’t he be helping to ‘promote’ the sport in the places which need to attract more fans and income to survive? Also there are the places where he has races but there are no fans. Shouldn’t he be helping to ‘promote’ the sport there too? Or maybe that isn’t his job?

          5.Both of us know that if FOTA get control, the teams will start politicking

          There is politicking anyway, and Bernie gets involved with that too, he just keeps quiet about it now Max isn’t around.
          You are probably right about what could happen if the teams got their own way, but if a bigger group consisting of FOTA, GPDA and the circuits got together, I am sure they could settle disputes, work out costs and the rules without any need for Bernie or CVC and its debts.

        • Todfod (@todfod) said on 28th October 2010, 13:29

          PM offers Bernie a little excess praise. While he has added value to the sport, he hasn’t done anything way out of the ordinary or a super impeccable job. Its kind of hard to have a benchmark and draw comparison to what could have been differently. Gotta agree with a couple of things DGR says as well, a lot of it is undue credit and just a part of his job. A job that I find can be done equally well by an F1 fan with a strong business acumen and entrepreneurial drive.

  4. MercedesBeanz said on 28th October 2010, 10:49

    Interesting team and driver choice for this photo-op ;)

  5. JohnBt said on 28th October 2010, 10:53

    Wow! Happy Birthday Mr.Ecclestone, although as a fan I don’t agree with some of the tracks he skipped. Can’t doubt him for his portfolio in Formula One.

    Sense his dream son is Sebastian V.

  6. PrAtHeEk said on 28th October 2010, 11:11

    5th paragraph..typo keith..
    “it has come as a price”
    at isn it ?

    im just nit picking..amazing job as always :)

  7. Rahim.RG said on 28th October 2010, 11:13

    I don’t know about others but i like Bernie Ecclestone
    Congratulations to him….

  8. Ben Curly said on 28th October 2010, 13:28

    I think the buttons are arranged incorrectly. Viagra, Fabiana and cash limiter should probably be next to each other ;)

  9. Oliver said on 28th October 2010, 13:56

    Well lets just sit down and wait for 80 to hit Bernie.

  10. YoungGuns said on 28th October 2010, 14:19

    Congratulations to Bernie.

    As a long time follower of F1(attended my first Gp in 1965 East London South Africa) I have seen him and experienced a lot of his lifetime. I believe that the sport has a lot to be thankful to him. When he finally bow out F1 will be far poorer. His whole life is a dedication to F1 not so much Motorsport

  11. tobinen said on 28th October 2010, 16:20

    I may be in the minority, but I like the man. F1 is what it is today due to him.

  12. P5ycH0 said on 28th October 2010, 16:24

    IMO, Bernie ik killing the sport.
    Just look @ Spa. The circuit was sold out, but still made a loss. Spa can’t keep this up forever. Bernie is asking too much. Result: The ticket prices are ***** ridiculous.
    Even been with your family to an F1 race? It costs thousands of Euros.
    It’s just not right.

    • F1 isnt made for spectators who cant spend more than $50

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 28th October 2010, 22:21

      Just look @ Spa. The circuit was sold out, but still made a loss. Spa can’t keep this up forever. Bernie is asking too much. Result: The ticket prices are ***** ridiculous.

      Conflict. If those “ridiculous” prices are reduced, then Spa loses even more money. If the place sells out every year, then the prices have every right to become more “ridiculous”. Thanks to the high demand, you see.

  13. He has done alot. alot good and alot bad, but he has made F1 safer. thx.

  14. sumedh said on 28th October 2010, 16:41

    How perfect: Vettel takes away Webber’s front wing again!!! ;-)

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