Motorsport

Gone At Long, Long Last? - A Reminder Of The Truly Ridiculous Things Bernie Ecclestone Has Said

Gone At Long, Long Last? - A Reminder Of The Truly Ridiculous Things Bernie Ecclestone Has Said

In terms of longevity, he made Pat Hickey look like a novice and a bit of a political lightweight. But the long reign of Bernie Ecclestone at the top of the Formula 1 appears to be over.

Despite feeling he had more to give at the age of 86, Bernie disclosed to the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport that he has been forced out of his role as Formula 1 chief executive.

I was dismissed today. This is official. I no longer run the company. My position has been taken by Chase Carey.

Bernie's vast army of admirers (a constituency which does not include Formula 1 drivers) should not worry. They'll be pleased to learn that the old lion is all over his new role as "a kind of honorary President."

"I have this title without knowing what it means," he told the magazine.

Bernie had a mixed year in 2016. On the political front, he enjoyed a smashing year. Anyone who suspected that Donald Trump would be a man after Bernie's own heart can rest assured that they are one million percent right. He told the Brazilian media outlet Globo recently...

"Trump's election is the best thing that could have happened to the world. I have met him a few times, and believe me, it will be better for the world"

Advertisement

This is a persuasive endorsement from a man who once praised Hitler for his ability to "get things done."

Like the Donald, Bernie is a disturbingly ardent admirer of President Vladimir Putin and his feminist credentials have often been impugned as less than impeccable. This might have something to do with his 2005 suggestion that women should wear white "like all the other domestic appliances."

And while Bernie remained for most part a loud sceptic about the possibility of a woman thriving in Formula 1, he wasn't totally closed to the idea. Indeed, he was quite bizarrely specific about the type of woman he wished to see succeeding in F1. As he told Autosport magazine in 2000.

She would have to be a woman who was blowing away the boys. ... What I would really like to see happen is to find the right girl, perhaps a black girl with super looks, preferably Jewish or Muslim, who speaks Spanish.

(If that woman is out there, it is highly unlikely she is reading this post but we would urge her to start working her way up the motor sport ladder, beginning on the karting circuit.) 

For what it's worth, Bernie has also never thought much of the idea that a grotesque human rights record should disqualify a country from hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Advertisement

Human rights groups kicked up a hell of a stink over the decision to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix in Baku in the oil rich state of Azerbaijan last year. The government of Ilham Aliyev has a desperate record on human rights and an unfortunate predilection for locking up journalists and bloggers.

Bernie informed the world that Formula 1's conscience - "a hard entity to ruffle" - was 100% clear after hosting the race there. Bernie was assuredly talking about his own conscience here. Since 1977, he has only had to look into his own soul to know what was best for Formula 1.

In any event, most of these human rights abuses have occurred in dictatorships, a system of government that Bernie has long thought far superior to our own system of democracy.

If you have a look at a democracy it hasn't done a lot of good for many countries - including this one. I like people who make up their minds.

In late 2015, he told a quite outstandingly sycophantic interviewer from RT that democracy has no place in Formula 1 or anywhere else.

Advertisement

On the other hand, he did out himself as an opponent of the 2003 Iraq War. But the mainstream anti-war movement were understandably hesitant to embrace his rationale.

We did a terrible thing when we supported the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein, he was the only one who could control that country. It was the same (with the Taliban). We move into countries and we have no idea of the culture. The Americans probably thought Bosnia was a town in Miami. There are people starving in Africa and we sit back and do nothing, but we get involved in things we should leave alone.

So, while the political centre of gravity tilted sharply in Bernie's direction in 2016, his stewardship of Formula 1 grew increasingly unpopular.

In March 2016, the Formula 1 drivers, through their union 'The Grand Prix Drivers' Association' (there's a high-end trade union) attacked the sport's administrators for "jeopardising" its future success.

It is fundamental that the sport's leaders make smart and well-considered adjustments.

We feel that some recent rule changes - on both the sporting and technical side, and including some business decisions - are disruptive, do not address the bigger issues our sport is facing and in some cases could jeopardise its future success.

The drivers have come to the conclusion that the decision-making process in the sport is obsolete and ill-structured and prevents progress being made. Indeed, it can sometimes lead to just the opposite, a gridlock. This reflects negatively on our sport, prevents it being fit for the next generation of fans and compromises further global growth.

Advertisement

For Bernie, the beginning of the end may have arrived when he lost a high profile battle with a revolving door at the High Court in London in late 2013.

After two unsuccessful attempts to gain entry to via said revolving door, he gestured to one of his aides to let him in via the nearby glass door. He was thus forced to listen to a chorus of yelping hacks hollering "Oi Bernie!!" for about 45 seconds longer than he needed to.

It has been reported that Liberty Media are about to takeover the sport after their shareholders voted in favour of the move. The media group currently own 19% of Formula 1.

Liberty Media, which owns TV3 and Virgin Media, are run by Irish-American businessman John Malone.

Advertisement

They bring to the table bold plans to revive a moribund brand. A senior executive told Matthew Garrahan of the Financial Times that they plan to make every Grand Prix "the equivalent of the Super Bowl."

Rather than being mere weekend events, the envision Formula One becoming week long events.

They also intend to bring Grand Prix to big US markets, with New York, Miami and Los Angeles being examined. Whether this will entail extending the season or whether it means the end of the Hungarian Grand Prix is another question.

The incoming management are deeply critical about the quality of marketing undertaken by their predecessors.

There’s no marketing, no research, no data, no digital platforms … This sport has unique global content and hasn’t done enough to take advantage of that. We need to build the rivalries and enable people to understand the technology that goes into the sport.

The sponsorship money brought in by Formula One teams has declined dramatically in the past few years. The combined total raised by teams is down from 950 million in 2011 to 750 million this year.

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

You may also like