There is an entertaining interview with F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone on his own F1.com site today.
It’s a wide ranging discussion, the occasion being his 80th birthday next Thursday (28th October). It’s quite autobiographical, revealing some interesting details, such as his luck as a child not to be killed when a German warplane crashed near him, blowing him 20 metres, but leaving him unscathed.
He is a man who gets things done and is frustrated by people who cannot.
Most of us who work in F1 are fascinated by Ecclestone, how he has managed over such a long period of time to build the scale and reach of the sport via TV and via pushing the sport into new territories, the recent Russian and Indian deals being a case in point. People outside the sport are equally fascinated. A banker I spoke to once, while researching an article, said that if he had been born 200 years ago he would have been a Duke.
I hadn’t realised, until I spoke to Renault F1 team owner and internet entrepreneur Gerard Lopez recently, the extent to which Ecclestone is still always listening to and learning new ideas, in this case Lopez’s suggestions about getting F1 onto mobile phones in Africa.
The interviewer positions Ecclestone as the man who created F1. Increasingly Ferrari are positioning themselves as the backbone of the sport, the ones who created the history (along with McLaren and Williams) and have provided the continuity.
The discussion ends with some coded references to the negotiations over the next Concorde Agreement, due to start in 2013, which are now stepping up in seriousness. Speaking about the 12 team principals, who are sitting across the table from him, he says
“They should probably all see that they run their own businesses properly and not worry about others’. What is good for Formula One is good for everybody involved – teams and companies. Too many people only think about what is good for them. It’s the same with the rules – they only think about what can make them win.”
It is going to be very interesting to see how this negotiation goes. The teams want a larger share of the commercial revenues than the 50% they currently receive. In the past Ecclestone and Max Mosley (in his capacity as FIA president) prevailed because they were able to split Ferrari away from the rest and whoever has Ferrari has the sport. Ferrari ended up with a $100 million windfall and a right of veto over rules.
Last summer in the stand off with Mosley over the budget cap, Ferrari invoked this veto and stood firm with FOTA to the bitter end. Will they stay the course this time or jump ship as they did in the negotiations of 2005? Will FOTA stay together or crumble?
That is a question worth potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.