Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Administration, does not have the time or the patience to mince words. He likes to shoot straight. That’s most of the time.
However, having fielded queries from journalists across the world for over five decades, the 80-year-old Englishman has also developed a knack for sidestepping the odd uncomfortable poser.
HT caught up with the man who was in the Capital for a few hours on Thursday morning.
F1 has had some trouble in the more recent markets that it has ventured into. Are you concerned about its expansion to India?
I don’t think we’ve been having too much trouble. In China, the race attracted around 1,60,000 people, I believe. As far as Turkey is concerned, it was our decision to cancel the race.
We were the promoters of the event and it wasn’t the sort of event that we wanted really. There are so many events on the calendar and so many people looking to hold races, we have to be careful about which ones we keep and which ones we lose.
Are you concerned about F1 moving too far away from its predominantly European fan base?
Well, it’s a world championship. It’s good that we are in every part of the world.
We don’t have an event in Africa as yet, but as soon as we get that sorted out we will have an event there as well.
What is your take on the current discord between the two Indian F1 drivers (Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok) and Vijay Mallya?
Well, it’s all very new to both the Indian drivers and they need to get a bit more established in F1. I hope that they find a good home and that Vijay will be able to look after them.
What’s your opinion on the 17 F1 circuit owners that have voiced their displeasure on the new engines proposed for 2014?
The fact is that F1 is unique and has a lot of glamour about it. The noise plays a huge role in that and is quite magical, and there is concern that we’re going to lose that. Whether the current V6 engine, which is being proposed, will be a racing engine and produce a good enough sound, we will have to wait and see.
You used to be a racing driver yourself once. At what point did you decide that being behind the wheel isn’t for you?
I had a fairly big accident at which point I said to myself that maybe I should be doing something else. So I went ahead and bought myself a racing team (Brabham F1).
What do you find to be more stressful? Being a team owner or running the F1 group of companies?
Well, it’s difficult for us (F1 group) to know instantly whether we’re successful or not. If it (F1) keeps on growing the way it is, I’ll be very happy. But at least with a race team you know after every race how good or bad you are doing.
You’ve had some disagreements with the current FIA president Jean Todt. How do you think he’s done so far?
We’ve only disagreed about this engine business really. Overall, I don’t know really, he’s been doing lots of things, but he really doesn’t need to be involved in F1. He’s got a lot of other things besides F1. He’s doing a lot of things with road safety, which is good and that he should keep on doing.
Based on what you have seen of motor sports in India, how soon do you expect to see an Indian F1 race winning driver?
Now that we actually have an F1 race here in India I think we can expect to see a few new Indian drivers. As far as their chances in F1 are concerned, it’s really a case of them being in the right team at the right time.