When people get older they tend to say whatever comes to mind without passing it through the common sense filters that most of us have.
Take the Duke of Edinburgh, for example. Here’s a man who asked a native Kenyan woman who presented him with a gift: “You are a woman, aren’t you?”
HRH may have a long and distinguished history of gaffes but Bernie Ecclestone is rapidly catching him up. The trouble with Bernie is that while the Duke’s comments are frequently hilarious “Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?” (in 1994, to an islander in the Cayman Islands), Bernie’s are usually in poor taste and not in a funny way.
The latest glimpse into the bizarre world that Bernie inhabits is his comment that the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994 was “good for F1.” This was given in an interview with Brazilian paper Folha de S.Paulo:
It was unfortunate. But the publicity generated was so much… It was good for F1. It’s a shame we lost Ayrton. He was popular, but many people became interested in F1 because of the publicity generated by his death.
Putting aside the wisdom of declaring this in a Brazilian paper, I can’t believe Bernie could say such a thing.
If anything positive came from Senna’s tragic death it was that safety has now been improved so much that Felipe Massa can be hit in the face with a piece of suspension and be back in a car a few of months later but to declare it a good thing?
Maybe something was lost in translation but Bernie has sunk to a new low with this one.
Image: Williams F1
The Official Formula 1 Website has an interview with Niki Lauda and Bernie Ecclestone where they talk about Flavio Briatore and the Renault race fixing scandal and reminisce about the good old days.
Back in the 70’s you didn’t cheat by purposely crashing into a wall. No, you cheated by building an obviously illegal car with a whopping great suction fan on the back, winning one race and then withdrawing it before it could be declared illegal:
Q: How were the two of you working together in the years 1978 and 1979?
NL: We cheated together!
NL: We did. Remember the Swedish Grand Prix in 1978 when we were running the car with the ventilator [the famous Brabham BT46B fan car]. I won with that car.
BE: Stop. That was not cheating. It was pushing the technical requirements to the limit. You were able to keep that victory. Later on they banned the ventilator. It was much too good for the time.
NL: True. At that time I was a bit stupid. All practice and qualifying I had to drive with a 200-litre fuel load, while all the others where low on fuel. I was fuming. I only made it to P12 on the grid. In the course of the race I knew why: so nobody would guess how fast the car really was – otherwise they would have banned it before the start.
BE: Thanks Mr Lauda. People from other teams came to our pits for a little spying, so I said to (Brabham team manager) Herbie Blash very audibly, De-fuel the car. So they all were putting their minds at rest when they saw our meagre qualifying time. They had no idea that we didnt de-fuel the car.
It’s been a while but I knew that it was impossible for Bernie to go more than a couple of months without saying something completely outrageous. And boy was it worth the wait.
He’s called Ferrari idiots, he’s insulted black, Jewish women drivers and now he’s expressed his admiration for Adolf Hitler.
In his latest interview in the Times, Bernie suggests that perhaps Adolf Hitler was misunderstood; he didn’t really want to dominate Europe and exterminate the Jews. He just wanted to get things done.
A bit like an über-David Allen:
In a lot of ways, terrible to say this I suppose, but apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was in the way that he could command a lot of people, able to get things done.
He also thinks the Iraq war was a bad idea:
We did a terrible thing when we supported the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. He was the only one who could control that country. It was the same [with the Taleban].
Despite Max Mosley’s insistence that he wasn’t forced out, that his departure from his position as President of the FIA was always ‘planned, agreed, arranged’, the fact that he will not be standing for re-election in October is clearly a victory for the teams.
On the face of it, the FOTA-FIA war was about budget caps and two-tier regulations, but really it was about Max Mosley and his autocratic style of running the sport. After Wednesday’s announcement, Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo called Mosley a ‘dictator’.
Max himself said:
As far as I’m concerned, the teams were always going to get rid of me in October; well, they still are.
Now the teams have their stable regulations and have got rid of Max, will FOTA turn its attention to his mate Bernie?
In March, there was a threat to boycott the season opening Australian Grand Prix over claims that the teams were owed tens of millions of dollars in unpaid fees by the commercial rights holder. In the end the teams backed down, but there is no doubt that FOTA is stronger because of its recent victory and they may try to use the momentum to push through changes to the commercial side of the sport as well.
The teams have long been unhappy that they only receive 50% of the sport’s revenues and there have been questions over the wisdom of taking Formula One to half empty venues like Turkey over other older and better attended circuits.
Max will turn 70 next year and Bernie himself is 10 years older. I can’t see Ecclestone offering his retirement any time soon and I don’t think the teams actually want to get rid of him but I wouldn’t be surprised if FOTA managed to wring a slightly more favourable deal out of him now.
Image: AP Photo/Gareth Watkins
Last week Bernie Ecclestone was calling Ferrari and Formula One “a marriage made in heaven, one of those super things that work well”. This was after Max Mosley’s suggestion that if Ferrari didn’t like his new rules they could sod off.
We know that Ferrari are Bernie’s favourite team but considering his recent divorce from former model wife, Slavica (possibly costing him £1 billion), I’m not sure he’s someone I’d want to be taking marriage advice from.
Tomorrow, Ferrari go before the French courts to seek an injunction preventing the introduction of the new rules. They are relying on a secret deal made in 2005 between Ferrari and the FIA that gives the Scuderia veto power over any new regulations. A deal that Max Mosley doesn’t seem to think is valid anymore.
Legal action. Shady deals. Threatened boycotts. What ever happened to racing?
Luckily we have Bernie to lighten the mood. Speaking to The Times, when asked about the court action, Ecclestone said:
It’s good, it keeps it in the bloody newspaper. They should have done it before – idiots.