Bernie Ecclestone says Formula 1 ouster 'hasn't been hard' on him
The longtime boss holds a post that he describes he doesn't know what it means.
After nearly 40 years in a commanding position to run the Formula 1 business, Bernie Ecclestone's reign ended earlier this year when the Liberty Media takeoever was finalised. It was indicated that Ecclestone will remain as the head for another three years, however, the 87-year-old reveals that current boss Chase Carey asked him to step down.
When asked by Graham Bensinger in an exclusive sit-down interview, if that removal hurt him in any way, especially after building the sport to what it is today, Ecclestone in a rather calm and collected mood, said it wasn't very difficult - even when pressed on.
"No, it hasn’t been hard at all," he said. "I mean that day and maybe for a month afterwards or two - [it was like] what the hell! [But] I want Formula 1 to go up, up, up. I wanted to get better and I am happy if things are done [today] that I didn’t do and [if they] are improving the business - I would say [and admit], I should have done those.
"I think it is [also] good to get that [on him staying for another three years] straight. Donald Mackenzie that sold the company, said to me, if we sell it to these people, will you stay for three years with them? I said, providing I am just able to continue with another company property…..yes, sure…and then I was asked by Chase to meet him one day and he said, I would like you to stand down as I want to take that position."
During the time this played out, Ecclestone admitted to be surprised and shocked with how quickly he was handed the 'Chairman Emeritus' title, which he said he didn't understand what it meant - but he added that he understood why Liberty would take such a decision, aside the relationship being already strained.
"It was just different [Liberty Media and CVC]," he said. "CVC let me do, whatever I wanted to do, hoping that I got it right. And in this case with Liberty, they want to run….they think the company is not been run very well and they want to run it differently, so that’s the difference.
"It [F1] probably is not run the way, they have been running companies. It’s a different world all together, I was running the company as Chief Executive to make as much money as I could for the company - that’s what I was employed to do, which is what I tried to do.
"And it looks to me like they [Liberty] are not looking as if they are trying to make money. They said I was always trying to make money overnight, I am not looking into the future. I think, my friends [in the sport] at the moment say they are looking at things much longer-term. "
In his interviews when he was at the job, Ecclestone had always said that his replacement has to be someone shrewd like him as a used car dealer, Bensinger asked if he thinks Carey is the right person to do the job, he said:
"I think [with] Chase, I don’t know him [personally], so it is difficult to say. I think probably he’s more corporate minded than entrepreneurial. I don’t know it [if he's doing a good job] because they have elevated me in a very honourable position and it is so high in the company, so I can’t look and see what’s going on. So, I don’t know.
"I don’t do anything particularly," he added, when asked about his role in detail. "Somebody in the company that has been elevated to a position which was a bit different when they were with me, they are told other stuff not to discuss things with me, so they don’t, officially.
"It bothers me because I think maybe they figure what I have been doing is wrong, also I have no idea. You know what happens in companies, suddenly things change and people try and cut out things for themselves a little bit, so we got people that pick up got important positions which they never had and the reason they never had is basic because they couldn’t achieve them. "
One of the things which Liberty has done so far is hiring multiple personalities, even with Sean Bratches and Ross Brawn to handle different departments in F1. This was something which never happened under Ecclestone, who was given the ' democratic dictator' title for his one-man show.
"Probably, it would have been right [to have more people]. I mean our new shareholders are taking that because they have been in different types of businesses and probably they have achieved by doing this and they are probably right. Maybe I should look back in two or three years and say my God, I should have done that," he said.
"The people that built a television like a ready complete free hand, you can do it [yourself]. So, I either say do something and you get on with it or don’t get involved, I do it myself. I think it’s more difficult to do the way I have sort of been lucky enough to be with the business [than have different department heads].
"Even in Europe today with the the European Union, the way anything anti-competitive....I have liked it felt, we have always been anti-competitive. I don’t want competition, so I have been against that – that’s not being serious, it basically seems funny, but it probably is serious. I have managed to deliver [for] the old people who ran the company before, CVC.
"The chairman that really owned most of the shares from CVC, I mean he allowed me to do whatever I wanted to do, which may have been wrong but that’s what happened and I managed to produce quite a lot of money for the company, so they were happy," he explained.
Even till today, Ecclestone is said to be a tough negotiator with his style of getting what he wants, especially when dealing with sponsors or race promoters. But the Brit feels he is not that tough, as the basic case here is that if one wants to buy something, the people selling has to happy to sell at that price - which same when one is selling.
However, Ecclestone admitted to being a little 'mischievous' with his antics, which was seen as he was trying to unsettle the parties, whether it was the promoters or sponsors or even the FIA, teams and manufacturers. He added that it was not him who wanted out of any contract, but it was others who always tried to chicken out from the said deal.
For him, a verbal deal counted much more than a signed contract. He revealed about the days with Brabham, when he had 'handshake' deals with his drivers, whether it was Nelson Piquet or Niki Lauda - even with sponsors, he wouldn't sign until the time came for the actual payment. His saying was: "If you say you are going to do something, you better make sure you do."
While talking about the the various controversies he was involved in, when the topic of Max Mosley was touched upon, Ecclestone admitted to feeling 'third-rate' on having to ask his friend Mosley to step down from the FIA president role, amid the growing pressure from the media, sponsors, teams and the manufacturers.
"[It] was me being thoroughly third-rate because a lot of sponsors and teams and whatever manufacturers said, we got to get rid of Max because of all this promotions which was nobody’s business [or] anything. Anything was alleged [the sex scandal], it got up to his private [life], not to do with anything else.
"I said to Max, you know, you were to stand down because it’s damaging, but afterwards I apologized to all the people in the FIA and everybody else I could. I felt really third-rate doing it. He’s a good mate. He’s done an awful lot for Formula 1, a lot for the sport, helped me a lot in different things. He’s a first-class person."
Talking about the drivers, Ecclestone feels Lewis Hamilton is doing as much he could to help F1 with the global presence and that he still delivering on track, which depicts his talents. At the same time, he also believes Sebastian Vettel is equally good and that none of them is better than each other.
But in a surprising admission, when asked as to what he would have done with F1 as the numbers dwindled in the last few years, the former boss lamenting the 'lousy show' due to the dominance put in by Mercedes - which wasn't the German manufacturer's fault - said he would have re-negotiated the money paid out to the teams.
He thinks, that in turn would have made it easier for Ecclestone to charge the promoters less, which would have allowed the race organisers to cover their expenses. He reiterated that the 2014 regulation changes really set F1 back, which resulted in the situation the sport is in.