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The long sleeves of Bernie Ecclestone

NEWS STORY
07/02/2008

With business news in F1 currently quiet as the sport builds up to the start of the season Pitpass contributor Christian Sylt was recently reading back through the big stories of the past few months when one stray word caught his eye. After two, three and four double takes, he still couldn't quite believe it. Not only does the story in question quote F1's ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone making an error about his beloved sport but it is an error concerning nothing less than its name.

The story in question appeared in the UK newspaper The Mirror in December, and its author describes in detail a cosy meeting he had in a Knightsbridge pub with Bernie and Flavio Briatore . The topic of conversation was not F1 but football and in particular the duo's acquisition of London club QPR. Bernie makes a motor racing comparison to explain how he wants to accelerate the team's standing and says "At QPR, we're in Formula Renault at the moment. Next, we want to move up to GP2 and then GP1."

Granted, Bernie was not talking on his familiar territory of F1 but making a blunder about the name of the sport that he has run for over 30 years seems too hard to believe.

Could Bernie really have made a mistake over the name of F1 or had he maybe been misquoted Sylt thought for a fleeting moment. Then he remembered that Bernie's private company Formula One Promotions and Administration has a trademark for the word GP1 as well as logos for GP2 Series and GP3.

In fact, in mid-2005 GP1 was rumoured to have been be the name of a racing series which Bernie could have set up if the car manufacturers had started their own series or if he had been ousted by the banks which owned F1 at the time. The carmakers' series of course never got off the starting grid and after CVC bought the F1 Group for $1.7 billion at the end of 2005 Bernie was kept on as its chief executive with one share in the business to his name.

So unless Bernie was misquoted it seems he was confusing the name of CVC's flagship motor racing series with a brand he owns himself. He may be 77 but having banked around $3.9 billion from F1 for his family trust Bernie clearly has one of the sharpest minds in sport. It therefore raises the question of whether Ecclestone and CVC have yet another weapon up their long sleeves, like perhaps wheeling out a GP1 series or even re-branding F1 itself.

Then again, maybe he was so overcome with emotion at being the owner of a new football club that he actually did fluff his lines.

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