Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has opened up on multiple topics including the state of the sport plus Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, regret about Max Mosley and more.
In an interview with Autocar UK at his residence, Ecclestone discussed multiple topics, including some myths about himself in terms of him chasing money, where he states that he is after good work more and also that he doesn’t fear failure as much.
Ecclestone also stated that he doesn’t have a legacy as such and that he wouldn’t return at the helm of F1 because Chase Carey was pretty clear when he took over. They also talked about Tesla not being a brand like Ferrari, plus Elon Musk and more.
On topics related more towards F1, Ecclestone discussed about the current state which he reckons in not providing as much entertainment, even though it is fulfilling the engineering and new technology aspect plus adds that he wouldn’t have let Formula E thrive.
Ecclestone also spoke on the drivers like Hamilton, Vettel and Verstappen, while he regrets not supporting the then FIA President Mosley as much as he should have when a scandal broke out which led to the latter being pushed out and not re-voted.
On state of F1, changes, future:
Ecclestone: “There are all these ideas about increasing overtaking, but the racing today isn’t much different to how it always was. What you need is competition. It’s when a team dominates that it gets frustrating. I don’t think that is the way to go. F1 has been established for 50 years; why change it? I mean, the world is changing so fast that it’s difficult to know what people really want to watch or how they want to be entertained.
“It seems that the so-called younger generation aren’t interested in cars any more in general. I suppose in a few years time there won’t be anything to get excited about with a car. If it’s an electric car for everyone, it’ll be the same. We need to make sure that F1 remains an entertainment package.
“I’d go back to normally aspirated engines that make a bit of a noise and look exciting. I don’t see how the engines that we currently have, which are the best bit of engineering that has ever been done, are of any interest to the public. What gets people excited: how much fuel an engine uses or how much power it produces?
“The sport used to be able to embrace engineering progress and still be exciting. Today, the level of engineering is superb, but is it good for entertainment? I don’t think so. I watch every race. I look at the sport and criticise it a little bit, if I’m honest. Not so much the racing, but the way the teams and drivers operate.
“I get really upset when I see a driver walking along, and standing beside him is a young PR [public relations officer] with a microphone or something, waiting to see what he says. If the guy wants to explode and say something, let him. It’s like they have minders to keep them out of trouble. It’s too clinical. There are the rules too: don’t touch the white line, whatever you do. Don’t risk not finishing, as you’ll never make the points up.
“You used to have at least six cars failing to finish every race, with mechanical problems or risk-taking. Now races are being decided by how long a pit stop takes. Somebody needs to tear up the rulebooks – and really write new rules. We need to keep the basics of F1 but just get away from all these super-high-tech things.
“And then we need to stop telling drivers what they can’t do. I want to see sportsmen over the edge. Not to the point of an accident, but proper wheel-to-wheel racing. And if it goes wrong? Remember when Nelson [Piquet] got out of the car and whacked Eliseo Salazar after they crashed into each other? The people loved it. It’s human.”
F1 needs Ferrari or vice-versa, Formula E threat:
Ecclestone: “I never took any notice of Ferrari threats. I’m not a man to take notice of anything other than what I want. If Ferrari wanted to leave, then they should have done it. They never did, and as it happens I have only fond memories of Mr Ferrari. He always told me what was really going on, even when he was busy telling everyone else the opposite.
“I think F1 without Ferrari isn’t at all good. And Ferrari’s brand is so strong that they could walk away from F1 and still be huge. Even when they aren’t winning in F1, you could ask a man in the street who won the world title and he would just say Ferrari. As for Formula E, I would like to visit a race one day.
“I feel sorry for the guys running F1 now, as they have to consider the impact of Formula E. I would have buried it. It would have saved all the arguments. It wouldn’t have happened if I had been there. But now everyone is only talking about electric cars, so it would be a bit of a courageous thing now to go against it.”
On Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen:
Ecclestone: “You would automatically say Lewis Hamilton is the best driver at the moment. But are there other guys who would do a job as good as or better than him in the same team? Probably yes. Max Verstappen, a hundred per cent. Certainly Sebastian Vettel, although he has he gone off a little bit. All these guys are as good as the support they get.
“Lewis has got the maximum support. There’s not one thing missing from what he’s got behind him. With Vettel, we’ve seen it before: all of a sudden the kid from nowhere who nobody has heard of – Charles Leclerc – comes along and performs, and everyone fell in love with him at Ferrari. I’m close to Sebastian, but we don’t talk about things like this.
“But I’m guessing he feels a little bit that he has been put on the back-burner. Vettel is not in an easy position. His contract runs out at the end of this year. If this year he could show his capabilities, he should stay with Ferrari. If not, he was very happy at Red Bull, because they loved him. On reflection, it was better for him to remain at Red Bull.
“But I think most drivers would like to drive for Ferrari. I think financially he thought it was a good thing to do. I don’t think Hamilton would get on very well in Ferrari at this stage. He’s used to being more or less in charge. If he went and they remained in love with Leclerc, they would bury him. Hamilton is different from all. That’s great.
“He’s a first-class guy. He’s actually bigger than F1. Nothing wrong with launching clothes lines or having rappers as friends. I don’t think people give him an instruction book and start telling him what to do. He’s in a position where he can speak out and wake a few people up, and I’m pleased he’s using it. He has also said he feels the sport is a bit too safe now, which I agree with. I don’t want anybody to get hurt, but some of that knife-edge excitement has gone from it.”
Regret of not supporting Max Mosley, F1 was good with grid girls:
Ecclestone: “I do have one regret of not supporting Max Mosley when he needed support over the News of the World story in 2008. Too many people said we couldn’t have him as FIA president after that. I didn’t support him publicly enough. I apologised, but it damaged our relationship for a while. I think Max appreciated I didn’t have a lot of choice. But it was a private matter that shouldn’t have made the public domain.
“On grid girls, I think them in the sport was making it colourful. That’s what F1 is supposed to be: colourful. The sponsors were happy. The teams were happy. The girls had good careers that have been taken away.”
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