F1 Winter Break
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  |  58 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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Joaquín Correa

Well again this is all FIA's or Mosley's fault, they could have chosen Lola or Prodrive but well who knows what goes on in their minds they picked Manor. Now is it fair for all the other 12 teams to agree to change the rules a bit more so little newcomer Manor feels comfortable next year or should just FIA give Manor's entry to Prodrive or some other better funded team?


- Meanwhile, the Brawn GP cars of Jenson Button and Ruebens Barrichello, the ones leading the Drivers and Constructors Championship, are both depressingly and worryingly white and sponsor-free.


I think this really should be pursued and brought to light as the scandal that it is. Donnelly would do nothing without Max's instruction (or, being kind, permission). This is clearly an ethical and legal breach, and may open the door to a challenge to Max's leadership. Talk about bringing the sport into disrepute: start selling investment into a team that legally hasn't earned the right to compete yet. Giving select investors a heads-up like that is akin to insider trading.


I'll have to read the full interview with Ecclestone in The Times, but based on that snippet regarding Hitler, it just goes to show that he (Bernie) has totally lost his marbles and needs to retire to an armchair...finally.
He's an insult to everyone who has an ounce of intelligence.

Craig from Canada

While I agree that dictators can get things done, Bernie cannot be seriously condoning the things that Saddam Hussein or Hitler did. He must have been joking. Please tell me that he was joking...


Bernie has shot himself in the foot but I expect he doesn't care. Does he speak just to wind people up? I'm beginning to wonder if he's beginning to lose his marbles. If I read the quote's with Homer Simpson's Dad voice in my head I think he might be.


I can't think of one dictator who's power hasn't corrupted them, their subordinates, and ultimately trodden on the rights of others who get in the way. Unchallenged authority is illegitimate.

And to suggest Hitler got lost? You have got to be joking Bernie.


Could FOTA be trying to force the new teams out? If the process for selecting new teams is re-run it would surely leave very little time for any newcomer to enter for next year and that would be a real shame. Don't forget Lola and Prodrive were only interested in F1 because of the vastly reduced costs involved.
Could this be a ploy by FOTA to restrict the entry list so that each existing team has a greater share of the prize money?
Another angle to look at is James suggestion in one of his reports last weekend that existing teams could run three cars? By forcing the newcomers out this becomes a very realistic prospect. Or what about the possibility of an organisation like N Tech running a second Ferrari team or Prodrive running a second McLaren team?


It is amazing that in the year 2009 we have a F1 world that is works like this.

Imagine that the English Premier Football League took 50% of the profits out of the game , for an investment fund, and Manchester United got more money than the rest and had a veto over the rules of the game.
Everyone would be crying out that this is Zimbabwe - style crony capitalism. But in the present day F1 this situation is " normal" and accepted by everyone.


I expect those of us who work for big companies have seen the situation where some big muckety-muck leaves for whatever reason and his/her coterie is then unravelled afterwards. If Max really does go, then it will probably be bye-bye also to the likes of Richard Woods and Alan Donnelly.

In the case of the latter, perhaps not a bad thing. This whole "chief steward" or "stewards advisor" business leaves a bad taste. Contrast Spa where Lewis Hamilton said AD was the only person to interview him. Then we all know what happened next. Monaco this year - Felipe repeatedly jumping a chicane to the point he is warned by Rob Smedley. Not even called to the stewards.


I fear that Bernie has completely lost the "PR plot". His comments will surely return to haunt him.
Gerald Ratner lost a business empire due to an inconsidered comment. And he said that as a joke.
Bernie seems intent on giving obituary writers free copy.



Are you saying James that Alan Donnelly has no case to answer?


The teams and manufactures probably spend millions on professional PR to enhance the image of the sport and convey a certain, positive image, and along comes Bernie splashing out his more than questionable personal views on the front page of The Times. Other people get sacked, have to resign or do not get reelected for things like this. This really shows how badly and unprofessionaly the sport is run.

The Flying Finn

I think Bernie might have been refering to Hitler's management of the war situation and expanding germany rather than the holocaust when he made the comment, it is unclear what exactly he was referring to. I do think he has a point with saddam, teliban though, seems like a lot less people were dying there then ... (or we dont know about it?) I think I do generally agree with his point that dictatorial regimes get things done better than democracy, you dont need to worry about elections and things getting undone by the next term, so can better focus on the long run vision. Trouble is that the vision and power gets abused.


Just what a future F1 sponsor wants to read!

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.


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.


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.

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!

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?


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.



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?


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


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?


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.


@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.


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.


Best car, best drivers equals F1
Dump max and Bernie


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.


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.


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.


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!


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?...


Alzheimer's becoming progressive... Won't be long now...


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.


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.


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]


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: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-514808/Why-I-detest-democracy-I-gave-Labour-1m--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.


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


Evidently, according to Pitpass, one team principal was informed of this 'requirement' the day before the FiA published the winners.


In Buddhism, you would come back as a "lesser" lifeform, not a crippled human. So you can't associate that view with Buddhism.



I am partially disabled and I've got to say I'd rather be as I am than Glen Hoddle if that's the sort of stuff he believes.

One wonders what deadful things he had done in his former life.


As they say here, "what drugs was he on, or what drugs does he need to be on?" Bernie has a right to say what he wants, but did he even attempt to consider that LOTS of people would not get the joke -- if it was a joke? Poor form.

And ironic, given Max's family history. Maybe he was trying to send Max up in flames and get him to leave sooner rather than later, to protect the CVC investment if Max continues hostilities with FOTA and causes them to reactivate their breakaway plans.


I do agree that we should not have got involved with Iraq and Afghanistan


Come on Luca, at least have the guts to sign in under your real name....


"Plus it doesn’t help having people just waiting to find something offensive, or take it too literally!"

At least here we do not have a button added to every single post inviting anyone to complain about it, as there is on the bbc site. I did in fact complain about the button being present, but their politically enhanced minds could not comprehend the complaint.

Iraq was like many dictatorships all over the world that housed fervently feuding sects, wherever we (GB), or France or Spain have given independence to former colonies, wars have broken out as the controlling influence has been removed. Different religions co-existed amicably together for long periods under the rule of a dictator, invader or a strong ruler. Once the policeman has gone they start fighting each other.

The Germans of course like to have strong authority and rules. I was amazed my first time in Frankfurt; on the U Bhann there are no ticket barriers or ticket controls, I asked about it and was told "It its the rule that you must buy a ticket" "But suppose you don't?" They didn't understand, this was not a considered option for them, everyone must buy a ticket.
Mind you they seemed very tolerant of English idiots driving vans up the tramway when lost. (I now have foolproof tip to find the Messe by road, as given by two Brummie lads, "Spiral inwards aiming for the pointy thing" also always order two beers)


Considering F1 has major german sponsors in Allianz & DHL with BMW and Mercedes Benz competing, it was'nt the best comment BE could make in the run up to the German GP. Bernie just keeps giving sponsors a reason to walk away! For those people who don't think it matters, look at the amount of german and arab backing, the teams and F1 get.


Paul, thanks for the background information in your other response. As it is unsubstantiated we are not going to post it now, but we will certainly look into it.


Agreed Carsten, and to be honest after closely following F1 for more than 20 years, this fan has a very sour taste in his mouth.
I for one do not want to line Bernie's pockets with any $$ if watching F1 adds to his bank balance whatsoever.

FOTA, now is the time for change. Bernie and Max need to go. You should be in charge.


I'm in total agreement with you Carsten, it also perfectly illustrates the sheer hypocrisy, when we have stewards objecting to the length of a drivers hair or unkempt appearance, and yet BE spews this kind of bile to anyone willing to listen.


In 1999 Glen Hoddle gave an interview to the Times in which it was inferred Hoddle believed the disabled were being punished for sins in a former life. Prime Minister Tony Blair & Tony Banks (Sports Minister) both heavily criticised him (the PM for christs sake!) & the FA sacked him even though - and I'm not advocating such a view - what he spoke of surely was Karma & forms an integral part of Buddhism etc. I can't see any such rationale behind Bernies comments though.


Indeed. It seems Bernie is not so much on self-destruct mode as F1 destruct. The dig about dictators getting things done (like Mugabwe?) could be seen as ridiculing Luca's comment but only if the dreaded 'H' word hadn't been used. The Mosley family tree has been referred to often over recent years and the connection can't have escaped our Eccs. And let's face it, Hitler is hardly synonymous with success. His thousand year Reich hardly got out of its first decade.

Either this is some ploy by Bernie, the subtleties of which escape me and by some distance, or else the interviewers caught him on an off day. Like brain-off day.

But again it's F1 that suffers. Vickery came back from the dead against the Beast today in an unlikely show of strength (Lions test for those unfamiliar with the sport of Kings and Queens) but I can't help feeling that for F1 it will be a much longer, and somewhat harder, road back to success.


You are so correct ....this is the start of the end.


Absolutely. Regardless of the source & any supposed agenda (bear in mind, Alan has not denied the email is his) surely there is still a case to answer. The public didn't turn a blind eye to the Telegraphs daily exposing of MP expenses because they thought the DT were looking to increase sales.

Incidentally I posted (an outlandish?) suggestion in the comments of an article last month that Manor were chosen because of the association between Max & Nick Wirth and whaddya know!

Boston F1 Fan

"Refreshing"? If the most successful car this season hasn't been able to attract sponsors, what does that say about the other teams?


its a tactic.
think just how much more advertising on that car is gonna be worth when the whole FOTA > Mosely thing is properly sorted out, and a Brawn driver is confirmed as world champion...
Branson knew it, thats why he wasn't willing to cough for full sponsorship


I'm not sure "depressing" or "worrying" are the words I would choose. "Refreshing" might be one such.

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