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Bernie Ecclestone’s crystal ball

NEWS STORY
17/06/2013

If ever there was a statement which is tough to deny it is that Formula One’s boss Bernie Ecclestone has been around a while and is in the know. The 82 year-old has been running F1 for nearly 40 years and perhaps has more control now than ever before. There are few few things going on in F1 which he doesn’t know about and in itself this is no secret. It has led to the creation of many myths about Ecclestone which is not a great surprise given that the F1 paddock is one of the most gossip-filled environments in sport. However, all it takes is a bit of thought to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Last month, following the news that Honda will be returning to F1 in 2015, Ecclestone told Pitpass’ business editor Christian Sylt that he “would be surprised if we don’t see BMW again.” The German manufacturer pulled out of F1 in 2009 and sold its team to Peter Sauber after only winning one race. So what did Ecclestone mean? One thing that’s for sure is that he chose his words carefully.

Ecclestone didn’t say that BMW will return to F1 and he certainly didn’t say they will return to F1 any time soon. He just said that he would be surprised if they don’t come back.

Despite the clarity of the comment, and the fact that Ecclestone is indisputably in the know, he was quickly dismissed on internet forums by armchair sceptics who have little understanding of how the business of F1 really operates. They then seized on the fact that BMW responded by saying that “there is no reason to alter” its decision to leave F1. The denial is of course meaningless because, as Pitpass pointed out just over a year and a half ago Honda said the very same thing about rumours that it would return to F1 by supplying engines to McLaren.

The sceptics’ argument is firmly rooted in conspiracy theory and it suggests that when Ecclestone made the claim about BMW we should look in the opposite direction, particularly since it was immediately denied by manufacturer. They also claim that Ecclestone has been giving an airing to all sorts of his old ideas recently: customer cars, the new V6 engines being too expensive and buying an American race promoter to get a race in the right place. According to the sceptics, these are all designed to distract attention away from the goings-on in Germany where Ecclestone is being investigated over whether he paid a bribe in connection with the sale of F1 in 2006 to its current owner the private equity firm CVC.

Anyone who really knows Ecclestone is well aware that it is in fact highly unlikely that he would bother with these sort of games. He has a team of the sharpest legal minds in Germany working away behind the scenes to plead his case to the prosecutors and the judge. It is they after all who will decide his fate, not the media.

The proof of the pudding is that the same sceptics have been suggesting for the past few years that almost anything Ecclestone says must in reality be designed to distract attention from the situation in Germany. This is despite the fact that it is only over the past month that charges have allegedly been filed against him.

The sceptics have blinkered themselves so much that they openly (and foolishly) admit that normally when Ecclestone says something like this they tend to look in the opposite direction. So what are they missing? Well, in September last year Ecclestone said that it “ is possible other manufacturers could come in over the next few years” and lo-and-behold that is exactly what will happen. His prediction has already proven to be accurate so, despite the sceptics’ claims, it clearly wasn’t said to distract from the situation in Germany. Whatever next?

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