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Ecclestone on F1's "new disease"

NEWS STORY
28/11/2007

In an exclusive interview for Formula1.com, Bernie Ecclestone shares his thoughts on a number of issues, not least the spy sagas that have dominated the sport for much of the summer and beyond.

Asked if spying is F1's "new disease", the former Brabham team owner said: "There has always been spying ever since I have been in Formula One. It is an issue with the structure that we have in this sport. But it is a little bit more complicated than it was.

"In the old days, one guy would employ somebody and they would take the information he brings with him. In a way, it is still happening today. Red Bull employed Adrian Newey. Why did they do that? They took him on board because he's got years of information about what to do and what not to do. I do not imagine he came with any drawings, but he came with all this knowledge in his head.

"We cannot stop that," he added. "If I am running a private hospital, I would employ the best surgeons I could find. If I hear about a guy who had done 30 heart transplants successfully somewhere else, then I am going to employ him, because he has proven that he can do it. You haven't bought anything except knowledge. I cannot tell you to forget everything you have done."

Asked if issue such as the spy saga really fell under the jurisdiction of the FIA, the F1 supremo was adamant: "They should keep out of it. I did tell Ron Dennis, when the whole mess started, to report to the police that there was a case of theft. Tell them that there is an employee in the house who is receiving or purchasing stolen property. If it was dealt in that way we would not have had the problems we faced this year. It should be a matter for the police and the court. They have much better tools to find out the truth."

Looking ahead to the forthcoming investigation into Renault, Ecclestone believes that despite McLaren's claims the case is not as serious as that which dominated the headlines this summer.

"I do not know the extent of what they have done and what they have not done," he admitted. "I think the difference between them and McLaren is that McLaren were getting information over a period of time, rather than somebody stealing a lot of drawings in one go.

In addition to a record $100m fine, McLaren will be under close scrutiny, as the FIA checks to see if the Woking team uses anything even remotely resembling Ferrari IP in its 2008 contender. Could we see the new season start with yet another scandal?

"I hope not," says Ecclestone, "but it could happen. As a photographer I own the copyright of the pictures I take. Whether it can be said that the design of anything is their copyright I do not know. As a designer I would say yes.

"When the information became available to Ron Dennis that something was going on in his company, he should have called Todt and said 'Listen Jean, something funny is going on, let's get together'. They would have met, both would have informed the police, who then would have investigated the matter and we would have known what really happened."

In addition to the spy saga, F1 fans - and indeed Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton - faced the added frustration of having to wait almost a month after the last race of the season (Brazil) before the 2008 title fight was finally decided. This being the result of McLaren's appeal against the decision of the race stewards at Interlagos with regards claims of BMW and Williams using 'cool fuel'.

On a couple of occasions this season decision were reached late at night, when fans and the media had begun to lose interest. Such delays are not good for the sport.

"I do not understand why the stewards need so long to do their job," the Englishman admitted. "We should put a time limit on these matters to be sorted out. I suggest you have an hour to do a protest and then the stewards have an hour to decide about it."

With regards the fact that too many results are now decided in the courtroom, Ecclestone added: "I talk often about the good old days, and probably they weren't good old days. But at least we used to sort these problems out by ourselves. Nowadays every team has got five lawyers, three doctors, two masseurs, a psychologist, and all of them want to work. So if there is the chance to cause trouble, they do cause trouble. Without all these people the teams would not need to do all this and we would have solved the problems internally."

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