It’s not hard to see why people take what Formula 1’s commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone says at face value. He holds the purse strings of a championship that reportedly generates around $1.5 billion dollars in revenue every year. He also decides where races are held and where they aren’t. So on Friday, when he was quoted as saying that India can hope to host two F1 races within the next decade, a lot of people gave him their attention.
Speaking to a group of reporters at the Buddh International Circuit on Saturday, however, his tune had changed. “Not at the moment,” said Ecclestone, asked about the possibility of a second race in India. “Let’s get this one established, build up the audience and then think about expanding.”
Backtracking is a fairly common modus operandi for a man who seems to know exactly how to stir up some publicity. A famous example is his comment about former Indycar racer Danica Patrick. When asked in 2005 whether Patrick was good enough to race in F1, Ecclestone famously said that women “should be dressed in white like all domestic appliances”. No one could believe he said it, but the hype and publicity surrounding the comment was enormous, achieving Ecclestone’s goal of remaining the centre of attention one way or another.
Another recent issue Ecclestone has whipped up controversy about is the impending regulation changes in 2014 that call for 1.6-litre, turbocharged V-6 engines to replace the current 2.4-litre, V-8 engines. The diminutive Briton, who turns 82 today, raised the possibility of the new engine regulations being scrapped altogether.
When asked to comment on his reported displeasure of the new powerplant, Ecclestone seemed far more subdued and resigned to the idea of change. “We’re used to these engines (current),” he said. “Maybe, we’ll get used to the new ones.”
Asked by HT if a similar situation as 2006 could arise where the outgoing generation of engines was allowed to run alongside the new ones, Ecclestone replied with a firm “no”. “The rules should be the same for everyone,” he said. “What we want is a system in which it is not needed to spend more money than a certain amount to be competitive.”
The one subject on which Ecclestone did maintain consistency, however, was that of Narain Karthikeyan and Force India. “Yes”, without hesitation was his reply to whether Karthikeyan should be behind the wheel of a Force India car.
“Lots of these drivers are much quicker than they look but it’s up to their cars,” said Ecclestone. “For example, if Michael Schumacher was in a Red Bull, he’s a different Michael to the one you see now.” The ball for that, though, was in Vijay Mallya’s court as far as Ecclestone was concerned.