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Ecclestone: We ran F1 like a 5-star restaurant not a hamburger joint

[ngg_images source=”galleries” container_ids=”17″ display_type=”photocrati-nextgen_pro_slideshow” image_crop=”0″ image_pan=”1″ show_playback_controls=”1″ show_captions=”0″ caption_class=”caption_overlay_bottom” caption_height=”70″ aspect_ratio=”1.5″ width=”100″ width_unit=”%” transition=”fade” transition_speed=”1″ slideshow_speed=”5″ border_size=”0″ border_color=”#ffffff” ngg_triggers_display=”always” order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″]Bernie Ecclestone has been under the radar for the past two months, since his ousting from the helm of Formula 1 as Liberty Media took over the sport and immediately marginalised him.

Ecclestone’s role in the sport is legendary and well documented.

Now, for the first time since being dethroned, he has decided to speak at length about numerous matters relating to the sport now and in the past.

With Bernie being Bernie, there are many interesting soundbites and revelations along the way. We highlight some choice answers during the recent interview with the deposed F1 supremo.

What is he doing these days? “I’m busier now than when I was working. Since I’ve been out of work, I’ve been flat out. Lots of things. Other people’s problems. Everything. Whatever. People know I’m no longer doing what I should do, so they contact me.”

Chatting with Sebastian Vettel: “He said to me: Are you going to Australia? I said: No. Oh sh!t, he said: who am I going to play with? I said: I’m not bloody well coming to Australia just to play backgammon with you. Can you wait till Bahrain? Ah, good, he said. So, yeah, that’s how it is.”

On his role as F1 chairman emiritus: “The last thing I am is an ambassador. I’d be a bad one, actually. I don’t plan my time. I try to do what I have to do when I have to do it. It’s as simple as that. It depends what Liberty want me to do here. I don’t want to stay here not doing anything positive for the company. Early days. It’s a little bit like a marriage. When you get married, you have your hopes.”

On his relationship with Liberty Media: “I can’t do anything. Even the staff have been told they shouldn’t talk to me. They want to get rid of the Bernie era: Let’s get rid of Bernie’s history. They always say the same thing. They probably think it makes me happy but it doesn’t: He has done a super job and a fantastic job but we have to move on, and they may be right. We don’t know whether they are or not. A lot of the things, I would have done if I could.”

Views on Liberty Media and their plan for F1: “Everyone wants to go to a restaurant where you can’t get a seat. So I was very strict with things like paddock passes. Liberty’s philosophy is more open. They have an American culture and at an American race everyone is in the paddock and the pits and they can chat with the drivers and sit in their cars. In F1, we have been running a five-star Michelin restaurant, not a hamburger joint. But maybe now the cuisine will be more accessible. Maybe it will even have a better taste.”

More on Liberty Media: “Was I annoyed when Liberty asked me to step down? No. The way I look at it, if somebody buys a car, they want to drive it. I was a little disappointed because I was asked before they took over, would I stay here for three years if they took over and I said, provided I was fit and competent, yes, I would. So I was a bit surprised the day after they completed the deal that I was asked to stand down because Chase wanted to be chief executive. Chase did that face to face. It may be that we will be sitting talking in a year’s time and me saying to you: Honestly, these people have done a bloody good job, they have done lots of things that we should have done or couldn’t do but have now been done.”

On Ross Brawn: Ross was in Benetton. He was a helper in the team, like a lot of them. It was the same at Ferrari I said to Michael Schumacher at the time: Who’s running the team? and he said: I am. Assisted by Mr Todt. They worked well and did a bloody good job. Ross was there but he didn’t design the car or anything like that.”

Keeping contact with people in the paddock: “A lot of people have contacted me from F1. They all say the same thing: Bernie, what do you think is going to happen? I say that Formula One has been around now for 50 odd years and it will be around for another 50 years, hopefully. Maybe we are going through another period where there will be changes. Life changes and you have to change with life. I’m terribly envious of Chase because he is in the lovely position of being able to do a lot of things I wanted to do and couldn’t. I’ve been trying to run the business as a chief executive of the company to make profits for the shareholders. I knew CVC wanted to sell the company. I was doing all I could do to make sure the company was set up to make good profits in order that they could sell.They let me run things the way I thought they should be run. Maybe it will be proved I was wrong and they should have let somebody else run it. Only time will tell.”

Any regrets: “Probably the amount of money I managed to get the promoters to pay to run the race. That meant they had to charge a very high ticket price not to go bankrupt quickly. What I wanted to do way back was see the teams getting less money and us charging less money to the promoter for running the races. They are all losing a lot of money. That’s what’s bad. People will say that’s a bit rich coming from me. But the reason I did this was to produce as much revenue as I could for the company. I negotiated with all these people. All of them seemed over 21. They seemed to have lawyers and accountants with them and they agreed the deals we put together. It suited them at the time. Whether, subsequent to that, they have decided they wished they hadn’t paid as much is a different thing.”

The Art of the Deal Bernie style: “Before I do a deal with any promoter, I always tell them before they start: You. Are. Going. To. Lose. Your. Arse. So don’t think for one moment you are going to be different from anybody else and make money. I’ll explain to you why you won’t make money They don’t believe me. After a couple of years, they say it didn’t quite work the way we thought and can we have a talk about the contracts.”

On Michael Schumacher: “I want to remember Michael as I knew Michael. Not the way he is now.”

On the late Jochen Rindt: “Jochen and I were bosom pals. In those days, it is terrible to say, we used to lose a lot of drivers. It wasn’t such a big shock that somebody got killed. It was a shock that somebody got killed that you were with. I was the one that put the two together for Jochen to be with Lotus. He could have done a deal with Brabham or Lotus. I said to him at the time I thought Colin would always somehow get the job done but at Brabham they were a little bit more secure and careful. I said it was a bit of a risk but if he wanted to win the world championship, I thought he had more chance of winning it at Lotus rather than at Brabham because I didn’t own Brabham at the time. It’s not a good feeling to think: Christ, if you hadn’t have done that, he wouldn’t have driven the car and wouldn’t have got killed.”

His views on pressure: “I work better under pressure. Anyone who’s competitive is happy to have pressure. When I go for a check-up, doctors says: You should take it easy. I say: Explain to me what that means… Well, you shouldn’t worry about things and put yourself under so much pressure they say, and I say: Why’s that?”

Conclusion: “People used to say to me: What do you actually do? And I said: I’m a firefighter and if there are no fires, I light them… I might have to light some!”