Bernie Ecclestone speaks softly, but carries a big stick
Many ask, where would Formula One be
without Bernard (Bernie) Ecclestone, the mastermind behind the sport's immense
popularity? His marketing genius has not only made him incredibly wealthy,
but the majority of team owners and drivers as well. At the ripe old age of
73, the soft-spoken former F1 driver is more in charge of the sport than ever.
And his cunning ability to maneuver F1 to higher levels is simply magical.
never actually started a F1 race.
Once he did not qualify and another time he had to withdraw.
Luckily for F1, he decided to change his
focus from driving to managing the career of Jochen Rindt (who posthumously won
the world championship in 1970, driving for Lotus). Bernie later became the owner
of the Brabham team, successfully managing the outfit to win two drivers'
championships with Nelson Piquet in 1981 and 1983.
Born in 1930 at St Peters
(Suffolk) in Great Britain, at the young age of 16 he left school to pursue his
passion: motorsport. More than 50 years later, Ecclestone is now one of the
richest people in Great Britain, ahead of the Queen of England!
His success is clearly the result of always being one step ahead of
everyone else. To him, Formula One is like a chess match, where the grand
masters are always 10 or 20 moves ahead of their opponents. Ecclestone is
clearly the Grand Master of motorsport, and his genius now has governments on
their knees, at times begging for mercy.
In case you have not noticed, his latest
tactic to extract as much money out of F1 as possible is to play one government
against another. Through cunning behind the scenes moves and careful
planning, he has raised the image of F1 to that of something every country
desires, whether to put a particular city or country on the map or bring in large
sums of tourism dollars.
F1 has become so expensive, gone are the
days when simple ticket and concession sales can cover the sanction fee he
charges. One-by-one Ecclestone is forcing the "privateer" promoter either out of
business or to seek government assistance.
And if they do not want to play his game,
well there's another country waiting in the wings who is willing to pay....and
they can afford it because the government is willing to subsidize the event with
tax dollars just to get the race.
So powerful and cunning is Ecclestone he is willing to challenge
the world anti-tobacco
movement in each country head-on,
canceling their coveted F1 race if they don't bend their anti-tobacco rules for
F1. Who else would even dare to attempt such a thing?
Ecclestone now has so many countries in
his back pocket asking for a race that the "traditional" races on the calendar are
in jeopardy of losing their event if they can't meet Ecclestone's money, tobacco,
and circuit improvement demands.
When the European Union countries agreed
to a tobacco ad ban in 2006 and then reneged on that date and passed anti-tobacco
legislation that kicked in earlier, Ecclestone threatened to move races out of
Europe to other countries who were not so anti-tobacco. And he made good on his
But was it really
tobacco legislation that was the issue or
did he use that as a smoke screen to extract more money from his unsuspecting
Austria, Belgium and Canada are the latest
examples of countries that had to cough up extra money to keep their F1 race.
Belgium and Canada did, Austria didn't. In Canada the tobacco laws were not
changed, they just had to pay large sums of additional money to keep their event.
France is the latest target. The
Magny-Cours promoter could not afford his high prices, so France, tied as the
oldest most traditional Grand Prix on the calendar lost their race. A new
promoter may step up to take over the event, but it looks certain the government
is going to have to subsidize it one way or the other. Who will be next?
In some respects this upheaval in the F1
schedule is healthy in that the sport is moving away from being so
European-centric to becoming a truer worldwide championship. Turkey,
Bahrain, China, Dubai, Malaysia, Russia, who would have ever thought those
countries would ever be interested in F1?
You have to give Ecclestone credit, he
certainly is a mastermind who has moved from making race promoters his puppets, to
There are many in the F1 paddock who hope
he never retires. I for one enjoy watching him maneuver.
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