Despite allegedly receiving bi-weekly blood transfusions, Bernie Ecclestone appears to be going nowhere fast. Though his grip on F1 appears to be slowly diminishing as with any autocratic regime in decline.
Ecclestone was forced by CVC to apologise in November 2014 following his remarks that the sport’s smallest teams were “beggars” and “idiots”.
The previous month Ecclestone had stated, “I’d rather get to the 70-year-old guy who’s got plenty of cash. So, there’s no point trying to reach these kids because they won’t buy any of the products here and if marketers are aiming at this audience, then maybe they should advertise with Disney.”
The team principals refuted his assertions at the FIA press conference in Austin and explained how they are trying to engage the next generation of F1 fans.
Since then, Ecclestone has lost the German GP at Nurburgring due to the extortionate hosting fees he charges on behalf of CVC, failed in his bid to force a return to the V8 engines and resorted to accusing Toto Wolff and Mercedes of killing Formula One.
Mr. E has self styled himself as F1’s Supremo, yet his ability to control the sport has ironically been weakened with the advent of the F1 strategy group. The teams now have a formal voice on proposals for the sport and with the FIA in most cases refusing to act unless there is unanimity, the commercial rights holder’s one third of the vote in this forum continually fails to push through ideas Bernie would have previously imposed.
The PR machine that works for Ecclestone puts out every couple of months a news item about a possible new GP venue for the future, but the reality is that Ecclestone is struggling to hang on to the races he currently has.
Monza is in it’s final year of contract, and the lack of cash the promoters can raise combined with the new Italian unhelpful tax system means they have no more to offer Bernie in terms of a hosting fee than Nurburgring.
The latest race promoters to voice their displeasure are those who run the Chinese GP. Shanghai has been on the calendar since 2004, though continued falling attendances despite a previous reduction in the hosting fee indicate the race may not survive beyond its current contract, which runs out following the 2017 event.
UBS have in recent times sponsored the race, which usually contributes over $1m to the promoters coffers. This year they withdrew their name and cash from the event.
Yang Yibin from the Chinese race promoters told the Shanghai Daily, “Changes have to be made to the sport. UBS was the title sponsor of last year’s Chinese GP, but they didn’t extend the contract this year, and there must be a reason for it”.
Surprisingly, they are not backing Ecclestone’s calls for change and in fact Yang suggested, “Maybe we can expect something new when we go into the post-Bernie era.”
Clearly unimpressed with Ecclestone’s ability to deliver, Yang sets out the reasons he believes Formula One is dying a death.
“There are various reasons, like one team dominating several seasons and smaller teams finding it hard to challenge the bigger constructors
“The races are not as brilliant as they were a decade ago.”
This kind of public criticism of Formula One’s once indomitable Emperor is becoming more frequent.
The constant negative stream of publicity Formula One attracts year in year out together with Ecclestone’s inability to get things done any more, surely means it has to be a matter of time before CVC seek to replace the F1 chief executive.