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Ecclestone recruiting Cowell and Fuller?

NEWS STORY
01/04/2011

As the FIA and FOTA, the teams' alliance, look at ways to spice up the action on track, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is said to be on the verge of announcing a move aimed at seriously broadening the sport's appeal.

We understand that Ecclestone has invited English duo Simon Cowell and Simon Fuller to help him in his quest to move Formula One out of its sporting niche and into the wider entertainment market.

Cowell, a music executive, television producer and entrepreneur, is the man behind the X Factor and Got Talent franchises and according to the New Statesman was one of the "World's 50 most influential figures" in 2010.

Fuller, an artist manager, television producer and creator of the Idol franchise, is also the co-creator and executive producer of the reality show So You Think You Can Dance and other US and European TV shows.

Having managed the Spice Girls at the peak of their success, his roster of artistes and sportspersons includes David and Victoria Beckham, Annie Lennox, Andy Murray, Michael Caine, Jennifer Lopez and, as announced only a couple of weeks ago, Lewis Hamilton. Interestingly, Lewis' girlfriend, pop star Nicole Scherzinger, is to be a judge on the forthcoming series of the US version of The X Factor. In 2007, Time magazine named Fuller one of the "100 most influential people in the world".

While Formula One has increased its fan base in recent years, Ecclestone wants to see the sport broaden its appeal, cutting back on the technical/purist side of things and instead promoting the glamour, danger and celebrity side of the sport.

Only recently, Ecclestone told Pitpass business editor Chris Sylt: "We are in showbusiness.

"(Maybe that's the) wrong word to use," he continued, "we are in the entertainment business. We are supposed to entertain."

While he is not known for taking the opinions of others on board, Ecclestone is said to be highly impressed with the way Fuller and Cowell have built their empires, therefore, if anyone can convince the F1 supremo what direction the sport should be taking it is they.

Cowell, in particular has attended a number of races, once telling the BBC; "I like the model of what Bernie Ecclestone has done. The Singapore race is as good as the French race is as good as the English race." Fuller, on the other hand, was called in by the Honda F1 Team to give it a "youth orientated buzz", a move which resulted in the infamous MyEarthDream saga.

While Ecclestone has toyed with the idea of medals and even artificially wet races, it is understood that Fuller and Cowell have already suggested that races are too long and consequently casual fans soon lose interest.

This could mean Ecclestone changing the race weekend format, a move already proposed by some sections of the paddock who believe that race weekends should be reduced to two days of action. While the length of a Grand Prix could be reduced, the most likely scenario is that the event would comprise two races, one on Sunday morning and the other in the afternoon.

Cowell and Fuller's contacts in the music and entertainment business could provide the answer in terms of what would fill the gap between the two races while their expertise in terms of reality TV could see the sport introduced to a much wider mainstream audience away from GP weekends and during the off-season.

We understand that there has already been talk of races on Saturday when teams would enter their third/reserve drivers, only scoring Constructors' Championship points, while it should not be forgotten that a couple of years back there was talk of celebrity races involving two-seaters.

As it happens, Paul Stoddart was in Melbourne with a couple of his two-seaters last week, the former Minardi boss enjoying a brief chat with Glen Crompton.

According to Crompton, a possible scenario, which would definitely appeal to Ecclestone, and the two Simons have the contacts, could see twelve two-seaters line up on the grid for a celebrity race at each round. Each car would 'race' in the colours of one of the championship teams and would be driven by one of its drivers with a celebrity sitting in the back. Such an event would probably guarantee the sport more global coverage than a regular round of the championship.

It's all pie in the sky at the moment, but while purists will shudder at the thought, Ecclestone, CVC and the teams will surely listen to any suggestion that Messrs Cowell and Fuller might make. After all, they have track records.


Update: Readers with a violent disposition and whose wives, partners, friends, pets, homes, TVs, iPhones, mobiles or PCs could suffer as a result of this story are advised to check the date before letting rip - and blame editor Chris Balfe.

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