Bernie Ecclestone says helping Ferrari in Formula 1 is 'smartest' thing to do
Bernie Ecclestone believes that Formula 1 cannot lose Ferrari from its stable, as he thinks the Italian manufacturer is the biggest thing in the sport. "The F1 is Ferrari , Ferrari is the F1," he said in an interview to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
"Helping Ferrari has always been the smartest thing to do. And it always has always been done through technical regulations. The teams are important for the F1, but Ferrari is more than that, so many things have been done over the years that have helped Maranello win."
When asked if it is fair on other teams if the governing body is coming to the aide of Ferrari, Ecclestone had a blunt 'no' to it. "[Former FIA boss] Max Mosley has often helped Ferrari, and I too wanted to see Ferrari win. A season can be won by others, but other teams also have an interest in challenging a competitive Ferrari."
And so he thinks that Mercedes may have as well helped Ferrari this year with the power units. "In this case, no one can know it, except who did. Certainly, at one point a hand with this engine had it," he said. 'Mercedes' - he said when pushed. "It is the same reason: a world champion won against Sauber is one thing. One won against Ferrari is another.
"I do not know [for sure if Mercedes helped], I'm saying, maybe, but in the past, Honda has already done so. If Mercedes had decided to translate technology to Maranello, I say it was a good move.
"But it is certain that with this friendly situation there is between the two teams, the best thing for Stuttgart in 2017 was to make sure that Red Bull did not have the most powerful engines and Ferrari was competitive enough to be a credible rival to beat."
When Red Bull's Christian Horner was asked on the matter, he said while a Mercedes-Ferrari alliance seems like happening, however, he is not certain if they will go to the extent of sharing vital engine-related details with each other.
"It’s usual Bernie thinking, I would say, in the way that he’s pieced that together. It’s very clear that there’s a very tight relationship between Ferrari and Mercedes, the way they operate in meetings, one won’t lift the hand up without the other one being in agreement these days.
"So there is that dynamic. It’s not the first time that’s happened in Formula One, it won’t be the last time. As far as whether or not one has helped the other, that’s not our business. I’ve got no idea. I’d be surprised but yeah… what you see with Mercedes and Ferrari today, they’re very aligned in all of their thinking," he said.
Speaking on the current engine situation, which was passed under Ecclestone's time and has received big criticism - the former boss said he was surprised when Ferrari agreed to the hybrid power units, despite it being a huge change.
"I was opposed [to 2014 engine change], Mosley said that it was the right thing, and in the end the teams were convinced and this engine passed, but the mystery was Ferrari. Maranello was good at producing powerful engines and suddenly they agreed to have that to do with these expensive and sophisticated toy.
"[Former Ferrari boss] Luca Montezemolo did not know anything about engines but his engineers convinced him that it was better so. Poor Luca, he found himself having to make a decision based on what someone else should have knowing well, and it was the wrong decision, but it's not over here because now they have to choose the engines of 2021, and [current Ferrari boss] Sergio Marchionne is in the same identical position."
More so, the reason Eccelstone thinks why Mercedes got an advantage in the hybrid era is because of Ross Brawn's presence during the time of the decision. "The key time was when Ross Brawn was in the engine work group, who would decide which engines to put up from 2014. He knew exactly what was going on, not because he was a good engineer, but because he was of the Ferrari and then he went to Mercedes and brought the know-how with him."
On further topics, Ecclestone believes the FIA should have had a longer gardening period in the case of Marcin Budkowski, who now will be able to take quite a bit of the information over to Renault - whether directly or indirectly. Also, as expected Ecclestone was against the idea of Austin's driver announcement, stating that he built F1 like a five-star restaurant, however, Liberty Media is turning it into a McDonald's with all the changes.
"Maybe it [the driver announcement] was great for the Americans but for the F1, no. I got a lot of comments from my friends - one said.....at some point I was hoping to jump off Snow White. I had built a starry restaurant, they are turning it into a McDonald's. At one point I saw two Sauber riders dressed in pink. I thought: finally a good pair of Formula 1 riders," he said.
He was also against the FIA handing out penalty to his 'favourite' driver on the current grid, Max Verstappen in the US Grand Prix. "It's been a mistake to a thousand percent, with me it would not happen," he said. "Interpreting F1 rules do not serve lawyers, but sports people with the brain. Then there is a case where you are a Finnish and former railroad steward. You can do a nonsense."