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On Bernie, dictators and struggles for new teams
On Bernie, dictators and struggles for new teams
Posted By:   |  03 Jul 2009   |  9:51 pm GMT  |  59 comments

There are a few interesting threads around today. The Times has an extraordinary interview with F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone where he explores the theme of ‘dictators’.

Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo recently implied that FIA president Max Mosley was a dictator and Bernie sets out here to defend the breed as people who ‘get things done’.

“Politicians are too worried about elections, ” he says. “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.

Warming to his theme, Bernie tackles the sensitive subject of Hitler, “In the end he got lost so he wasn’t a very good dictator. Either he knew what was going on and insisted, or he just went along with it — either way he wasn’t a dictator.”

Meanwhile I keep hearing stories about the new teams struggling to come to terms with the fact that the F1 they will be entering next year is not the same as the F1 they have signed up to. They came in on the basis of £40 million budget cap and two tier rules which allowed their Cosworth engines to run at higher revs than the other engines and gave them some aerodynamic advantages too.

Although the deal struck between FOTA and the FIA last week will mean that F1 budgets will be dramatically reduced, it will still not be anywhere near the £40 million next year which was originally on the table. The idea is to get down in 2011 to the budget levels of the early 1990s, which was around £40 million without the engine costs, which were at least that much again.

John Booth, team principal of Manor, one of the new entrants, is quoted today in his local paper, the Yorkshire Post as saying, “”Hopefully, it should become clearer in the next couple of weeks. There does seem an intention from all concerned to get the costs under control. We have only been planning to join formula one for the last five or six months. Over the years it has not been feasible, you had to be a multi, multi-millionaire to even consider it.”

Meanwhile Manor is currently the subject of some controversy regarding the involvement of FIA chief steward Alan Donnelly in the team’s F1 entry.

According to the Guardian, Manor already has VIrgin as a 20% shareholder and Donnelly was working on finding further equity partners and sponsorship for the team in Saudi Arabia. The paper reveals details of a leaked email to illustrate the point. The email was allegedly sent on on 29 May, two weeks before the FIA announced the three successful new teams.

This is part of what looks like quite a systematic attack on Donnelly, following on from the stories about him lobbying teams in Turkey, particularly Ross Brawn’s to leave FOTA’s proposed breakaway and sign up to the FIA world championship.

It would appear that the tactic is both to undermine Donnelly and his FIA role by alleging conflicts of interest and possibly to force an enquiry into the process by which the entries for 2010 were made, with a view to getting the process re-run.

It’s all part of the ‘great game’; the battle between FOTA and Mosley.

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Holy smoke! Is he talking about the same Hitler I’m thinking about or was there someone else?


I’m surprised this has blown up into such a big issue now. Bernie gave an interview in the Daily Mail last year where he expressed similar enthusiasm for dictatorships. I remember raising an eyebrow then, but the media didn’t seem to jump on it then in the way they have now. The article is here:–wife-said-I-asked-mistress-Bernie-Ecclestone.html

In any case it doesn’t come as any surprise to me that someone like Bernie holds these views.


further to the alllegations that the FIA 3 were picked for political rather than credible reasons, stories are coming out now that it was required of them to chose cosworth as their engine supplier. those that were unwilling to do so (presumably including prodrive and lola) and that wanted manufaturer engines (Mercedes, Renault, and Ferrari were mentioned) did not stand a chance.

the FIA clearly wanted to push their story that they did not need the manufacturers and that F1 could survive without them, as well as getting more compliant teams to push around.

the FIA had one last chance to prove they they could be fair, honest, transparent, and act in the interests of the sport. at a time when their interference and poor governane was being severely questioned, and they were completely under the media spotlight, they still managed to screw this up. it’s almost as if they are truly incapable of doing the correct thing. [mod]


We had friends around on Sunday and the non tennis leaning amongst us (me and one other) discussed F1 and, of course, Eccs’ outburst. She had a slightly different take. that depends on one questionable premise: Bernie hasn’t lost his on reality. Questionable I know, but let’s run with it.

Who might the ‘not very good dictator’ be? Let’s take a leap of faith and suggest he might be thinking of Mosley. That would leave us with the statement:

[Mosley] got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not . . .

In his early years in charge of the FiA Mosley seemed to muddle along without much fuss and even I, a staunch anit-Mosley activist, would agree that he was a vast improvement on Balestra. But, of course, in those days his confident/friend/puppet master was Eccs. They both seemed to do quite well out of sport in those days.

Then Mosley took on different sycophantic advisors and Eccs was nudged aside. The result was the Benetton fire hearing, Indy and all the -gates we’ve been embarrassed by. Hence, my friend said:

“In the end he got lost, so he wasn’t a very good dictator because either he had all these things and knew what was going on and insisted, or he just went along with it . . . so either way he wasn’t a dictator.”

We discussed the anti-democracy rant and she accepted that it was difficult to follow given the praise he heaped on Thatcher.

“Does he realise she was voted in?” was her comment.

Our conclusion – which came in a much shorter time than the tennis match took to decide – was that Eccs was putting the boot into Mosley and his advisors, his descrption in reality being:

A not very good president who has allowed himself to be ruled by others.

Mosley, you should have kept your enemies close and your friends closer.


What is really sad here, we have come so far globally and economically (for going the current $ situation) …that we would stand for and allow an idiocentric human being to be what he is…a leader of ANY business that crosses all racial boundaries and every social structure…

And gee all this form a guy that could not finish collage and started selling motorcycles…no matter what he has done for F1 …the real Bernie has just showed his colors…may the flees of a thousand camels infest your arm pits.


Alzheimer’s becoming progressive… Won’t be long now…


Bernie is showing his age isn’t he….

“They did it better in my day”…. would seem to be the theme as well as a contempt for politically correct behaviour……

The phrase “Past his sell-by date” comes to mind….

And as for the way the new teams have been brought in under what has turned out to be false pretences… this is a theme that is likely to run and run….

Had the likely, and now much higher budgets, been known the list of new teams would not have been as long… that is almost certain … and the financial due diligence may have come to very different conclusions about the candidates…

You seem to be very supportive of Mr Donnelly’s position with Manor James… are you suggesting that there can be smoke (blown in our faces by the anti FIA/ Mosley brigade) but no fire (it’s all made up)…..

Whether the intervention of Mr Donnelly was instrumental or not the perception of what has occurred makes it difficult to duck the claim that Manor had friends in the process ….. or are you of a different mind?…


I think the reference to Hitler:

“In the end he got lost so he wasn’t a very good dictator. Either he knew what was going on and insisted, or he just went along with it — either way he wasn’t a dictator.”

can be read as follows – Towards the end of Hitlers leadership of the Nazis he was lost, knowing that he was going to fail but still insisted on “cracking the whip” and carried on regardless, which ened up with him killing himself rather than face his peers.

Now from that line (or is it just me) can you not see he is actually having a huge dig at someone else he knows along with a direct reference to Nazi undertones.

This is worse than the WWE.

Classic Bernie!


I think that, to a limited extent, I can see where BE was trying to go with this train of thought.

Imagine if FOTA ended up in charge of the sport, deciding everything by committee… it would be a nightmare!

Having said that, there’s a big difference between a dictator and a strong leader. F1 needs the latter. Bernie and Max have done a lot of good for the sport, but everyone’s time passes and they’re becoming embarrassing. However I think a middle road needs to be found between a Max-style figure and a committee.


Politics, everyone gets shot in the foot somehow. Look forward to 2010, should all come into place then the racing politics gets on the way, which is much better. We need to get back into sports soon.


While I did not agree with the rule changes that Max had in mind for next year and beyond, I understand the dismay felt by the new teams that entered the series on the understanding that the changes would actually go into effect.

I’m sure that a considerable amount of time and resources have gone into the new teams’ F1 programs already, and now they are wondering if they can carry on. This problem needs to be addressed now, out of fairness to the teams, and to avoid an exodus of potential and existing sponsors who are also wondering what’s going on.


Best car, best drivers equals F1
Dump max and Bernie


If it looks like a duck, quakes like a duck ,walks like a duck then… You can understand campos spain has 2 GP’s and the profile is going to lifted with ahome team to follow.The same for USGP but a team with no real history completely out of left field, hopefully with max’s departure the truth will come out.


@JP: Ratner was sacked because Ratner didn’t own the company, and wasn’t irreplaceable in the view of those who did. Bernie is in a different position.

@Carsten: in my view, it is positively refreshing to hear a point of view for once, rather than a PR piece. I don’t really care if the big sponsors leave because of it, but then I was in favour of the FIA £40m budget cap.


Sounds to me like a coded message to Max – Everyone has a sell by date..

Carsten. Have you really thought about what you’ve written? Love him, loathe him, agree or disagree with his viewpoints there is surely no denying that Bernie does add colour to an increasingly drabb and pc world. I wish there were more like him.


Uhhh can Bernie say that? Was the only sound on the interview crickets chirping for minutes after that? I get what he is saying and all, but that isn’t the place. Academic discussion about that very topic often can turn lively auditorium silent if someone strikes the wrong note on the topic. To expect that the public can discern the Hitler who may or may not have had a utilitarianly useful governing style from the Hitler who perpetrated the holocaust is asking too much.

Also, I don’t understand what he was getting at. “In the end”? is he referring to the last year of the war? The entire war and events leading to it? Or is he perpetuating the myth of the German economic miracle of the 1930’s? Which btw, was about as sustainable as our recent US credit bubble. Anyway you cut it, it shows that Bernie is very out of touch with both our times, and with historical perspective?


Yes Bernie, dictators do get things done. The question is though – what do they get done, and to whose benefit?


James, off topic but I hear ITV are covering the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Will you or Steve Rider be presenting it, seeing as though you’re both still on the ITV team?


Ecclestone would certainly say anything outrageous that would grab a headline, just to get the damned coverage !

But there has always been an underlying theme to whatever he says and that theme is generally favourable to autocratic regimes and the kind of people who run them. And the message is that he likes ruthless powerful men who, as he so charmingly puts it ‘get things done’ !

So forget the death camps, the torture chambers, the intolerance of any race other than your own, if you ‘get things done’ in Bernie’s book, your an OK guy …..

And this guy run’s F1.


Brown eyed girl

This saddens and disgusts me.
I have a sceptical view of bernie anyway as first and foremost he is a buisnessman and that’s often been clear that money takes priority over what’s sometimes best for the sport. (The relationship with the british grand prix over the past decade for one thing)

However my first poit would be how utterly hypocritical this is after bernies reaction to the news of the world-mosley scandle. He was on of the first to say that the allegation of nazi overtones made mosley position untenable due to relationships with countries who would find it offencive. Considering bernie has just said hitler wasn’t a bad bloke and got things done but was a bit silly and got mislayed in the overall plan, did some silly things. Saddam hussien kept iraq in order didn’t he?

It doesn’t surprise me that bernie is a fan of dictators, seeing as he has a strangle hold on the commercial rights to f1 as well as substantial, if not an inappropriate, influence over wide aspect of f1 governance and policy. but this really is too far and an idication of meglomania.

As someone who has campaigned on human rights issues and abuses (and is a huge f1 fan) I find his language utterly deplorable. Saddam ruled by kidnapping, torturing and killing the opposition. Not just the opposition, anyone who spoke freely was likely to be a marked individual. Infact forget any need for an offnce, many were rounded up and tortured and if they were lucky kept in inhuman prisons indefinately and secretly so their family didn’t know of their wareabouts. I say lucky as the rest were taken to mass shallow unmarked graves and killed. He was a part of mass murder and genocide (the kurds)
Yes bernie he dictated his peoples lives, many lived in fear, misery and poverty whilst he had palaces covered in gold.

I doubt I need to explain how bernies impression of hitler is an understatemate and misguided or niave at best.

Shame shame shame on him! And James I believe he has some serious questions to answer so perhaps you could put them to him?

Glen Quagmire

sometimes you just need someone to tell it like it is, ie call a cleaner a cleaner, not a “hygiene maintenance engineer”, PR written, company mumbo jumbo just confuses people, wastes time and leaves a result which could have been better. Plus it doesn’t help having people just waiting to find something offensive, or take it too literally!


Bernie’s views are bonkers. Iraq has a long and chequered history, the worst part of which is the last 20+ years under Saddam’s rule.

As for Hitler, we’re lucky he made some poor decisions when he stopped listening to his Generals around 1941/42 and decided he could do better. Instead of invading Russia on time, he decided to put down an uprising in Greece which delayed the Russian invasion 6 weeks. If they’d invaded 6 weeks earlier they’d have arrived outside Moscow (even after the bizarre diversion south to Kiev) before winter and would have taken Moscow easily. As it was they still got to within 5 miles of Moscow.

Without the Russian front to contend with the Allies D-Day invasion would most likely have not succeeded and Europe would be different, and most likely most of us reading this blog would never have been born.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is a fascinating (if hard) read about Hitler and his creation after the first world war and what they did and how they turned on their former allies when it suited them (for example, The early Nazi party used homosexuals extensively to enforce their gang thuggery, then purged the whole lot one night in the early 30s).

You can admire Hitler’s single mindedness, but if you admire what he did, I think you’re more than a few sandwiches short of a picnic. How Bernie can praise him, I know not.

I don’t understand how this interview can in any way, be positive PR for F1, FOM, or CVC, unless he really believes that bad publicity is good publicity.


Perhaps those who doubt the links between Manor and Donnelly, or more specifically Graeme Lowdon and Alan Donnelly should look at the history of a company called J2C, a company which went bust, but not until Lowden (the money behind Manor) and a certain Alan Donnelly made huge profits, in Donnellys case a reported half a million pounds return on a stake of twelve hundred pounds.

The teams are right to air their suspicions about Donnellys involvement with Manor, something smells rather badly about the whole issue.

Richard Milnes

Wow, thanks for posting this, James. I’ve always thought Bernie is totally loathsome, but this adds a whole new dimension. Of course, he’s stupid and ignorant, so probably it would be a waste of breath, but maybe next time you see him, you could gently explain to him that Hitler did indeed know “what was going on”, and that David Irving and other admirers of Max’s dad aren’t really reputable historians. As for his views on Iraq, words fail me.

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