Wowzers. Liberty have dropped their first bombshell in F1, as the group have ousted Bernie Ecclestone from his role as CEO of the sport.
The 86-year-old has been the sport’s circus-master since 1978, taking F1 into the modern era and turning a largely European audience into a global audience and in turn, building one of the world’s most recognisable brands.
Bernie’s influence on F1 has been hugely positive. Those that suggest that the current state of play and negativity within the paddock is Bernie’s doing are undoubtedly missing the bigger picture.
The biggest issue with the sport today is the broken politics. Contrary to popular opinion, Bernie is not responsible for that. In fact, this nonsensical system has actually served to tie his hands behind his back over the past seasons.
The sport has become a democracy, with teams holding significant decision-making powers. During the reign of Max Mosley as FIA President, teams read the rules that were presented to them. If they liked them, they went racing that season. If they didn’t, they could leave.
Almost invariably, they raced.
That is, admittedly, a simplistic view of a very complicated matrix of political power. However, it is evident that the introduction of the Strategy Group led to a shift in the balance of power. The FIA relinquished a great deal of control and placed it in the hands of the competitors.
With that, Bernie suddenly became powerless to affect the direction of the sport. The teams became the masters of the rule-making process, in not only the Strategy Group, but in the wider F1 Commission.
In reality, I’m convinced we would not have suffered half of Ecclestone’s bizarre ideas for the sport, such as impromptu sprinklers or success ballast, had his words carried any weight. By this point, he had such little influence on key decision making regarding the regulations, that his views were largely irrelevant.
This is a fact that the majority of Ecclestone’s critics are missing. Liberty’s decision is not going to change the sport. Had the Strategy Group been dissolved, that would have made for a bigger storyline as it would have altered the way in which the sport is run. From the outside looking in, Bernie has only been able to shape the calendar and sign the cheques of late.
Sure, Bernie had been in the hotseat for years and fresh influences are always welcome in any field. I’d agree with the majority of on a number of points such as how F1’s fans need to have greater incentives to attend races and face a far less potent sting to their bank balance by ordering tickets.
Bernie Ecclestone hasn’t got everything right, and Chase Carey now has an opportunity to right some of those wrongs. But those that blame Bernie for what they deem to be uninspiring racing are simply wrong.
Ecclestone’s time in F1 should be celebrated. The now “Honorary President” deserves acclaim for making the sport the global juggernaut that it is today.