Bernie's beautiful game


It's well known that F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone lives for the thrill of the chase through work. According to colleagues he still works 9 till 5 six days a week and although it seemed like Ecclestone was loosening up a little when he bought a stake in football club QPR, it now transpires that he is learning from 'the beautiful game'.

"In the football world they control the salaries," Ecclestone told Chris Sylt recently, adding that "30 years ago Max was with us at the time as our lawyer and we went and saw eminent QCs and put together a transfer programme but the old man Ferrari wouldn't agree with it." But such a scheme, transfer window and all, may not be off the cards. "We should do that," says Ecclestone. He confided in Sylt plenty more suggestions on how to fine tune F1.

"I think we could make the drivers and the teams more accessible to the public," he says. And although his plan to introduce medals to F1 is well known, it hasn't previously been reported that medals have been given out to drivers before. "I actually gave Senna a medal," he says adding "I know if I was a driver, when I retired, I'd rather retire saying I won, if you like, 36 gold medals, than saying I won 4,622 points. It doesn't mean anything."

With the cost cutting measures set to put the teams back on track Ecclestone is looking further down the road. According to F1 industry monitor Formula Money, , the typical team budgets for GP2 are $5m compared to around $400m for a top F1 outfit.

However, next year Ecclestone will be introducing the third tier GP3 and he says its teams will have costs of just $500,000 per season. "It's good because we can see a driver coming in and follow his career with it." But what about the trademark for the word GP1 owned by Ecclestone's private company and long-rumoured to be the name for a rival series to F1? What's its purpose asked Sylt: "we will see," replied Ecclestone with a grin.

He adds that F1 is also starting to reach further down the grass roots "we are doing something with Universal now. Like a show. Superstars Worldwide. You're right, it's easy to do. We should do comics and things," he says in response to Sylt's point that F1 could be made more attractive to children. "If somebody approaches us we would sell them the license to do it," Ecclestone explains adding that a comic, cartoon and movie will probably follow the opening in Dubai next year of the sport's first theme park.

His view on print media is more circumspect: "I never read the magazines that you're talking about. The Autosports and all that... I don't read them."

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Published: 21/01/2009
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