Exclusive Bernie Ecclestone Q&A: The F1 boss on tyres, calendars and his future
Nothing is off topic as the Sky pundit sits down with the 82-year-old
By William Esler. Last Updated: 07/09/13 6:08pm
Martin Brundle caught up with F1 President Bernie Ecclestone to discuss a host of issues surrounding the sport.
Martin Brundle quizzes Bernie Ecclestone on tyres, the 2014 calendar court cases and his future.
Martin Brundle: There is talk of Michelin coming in - how can that work?
Bernie Ecclestone: "Who is talking about Michelin coming in?"
MB: It has been in the media and there are reports they have prepared a tyre.
BE: "They have contacted us and they have contacted all the teams and what they have said is that if they are needed they are ready to return to Formula 1.
"There are a few conditions if they came in for 2014 or 2015...they want a different type of tyre - a lower profile tyre - which would look like a bicycle tyre on a Formula 1 car, so I am very much against it.
"We have a long-term contract with Pirelli, all the teams have now signed a six-year contract with Pirelli - so it appears that they are happy otherwise they wouldn't have signed the contract."
MB: There is a lot of talk about potential driver movements. Kimi Raikkonen is one, as the circus master, you wanted him to go Red Bull I'd imagine?
BE: "I think that is where he would fit in, to be honest with you."
MB: Were you able to lobby and push for that?
BE: "No, I think you can't because the boss of Red Bull is the one that decided what he wanted to do. He started Toro Rosso a long, long time ago and spent a lot of money supporting Toro Rosso to bring on new drivers and they have a new driver who they believe is the type of driver they want and is competitive, so that is what they have done."
MB: What do you think will happen with Kimi then - will he stay at Lotus, could he go to Ferrari?
BE: "I suppose Fernando [Alonso] says he is unhappy there. So maybe if he goes to Marussia or Caterham or something like that. I can't see where he is going to go otherwise."
MB: We hear a lot of talk about Lotus and Sauber struggling to pay their bills - maybe there are only two or three teams in F1 that are viable at the moment! Is it true? Is there a lot of peril out there? Are you concerned?
BE: "They get enough money from us to run a very competitive team, but they spend too much. It is as simple as that. I have seen all this in the past - Frank [Williams] used to be borrowing a little bit of money from me every month, but always paid it back on time, through and through to where his team are today."
MB: But if you try to have a number that they can spend - a budget cap -you have the likes of Ferrari with their car factory and Red Bull with Red Bull Technology and two teams - they are just going to move the money around and you can't ever audit that surely.
BE: "The only way I believe it could ever work is if you say this is the maximum amount you can spend on Formula 1. Spend it on whatever you want to spend it on but that is it. The amount they spend on their motorhomes or if they have ten jets is separate - but it is the amount that it takes to race."
MB: The 2014 calendar provisionally came out with 21 races on it...
BE: "But where did it come from? It didn't come from me."
MB: You do the deals, New Jersey isn't on it, but they were making a lot of positive noises in Canada that it was going to happen.
BE: "They have been making a lot of positive noises since they started the contract. We have a contract with New Jersey and I hope they can honour the contract."
MB: So this 21 race calendar including Mexico, Austria is confirmed, Sochi should be completed in time - that is speculative would you say?
BE: "We have 22 actually."
MB: 22? That is a lot of races - do you think the teams can do that?
BE: "If I was a team owner, I wouldn't be too happy."
MB: Haven't they made an agreement with you to limit it to 20 races?
MB: Well how can there be 22 then if there is a limit of 20?
BE: "We'll have to talk about it, won't we."
MB: At the FIA, David Ward has announced he is going to challenge John Todt for the presidency. What does it mean to you? What does it mean to F1?
BE: "Well nothing. Really and truly the president is the president of the FIA and it doesn't really make a difference who the president is."
MB: There is a quite a lot of turmoil at the minute. There is no Concorde Agreement that binds the teams, to the championship, to the FIA.
BE: "Correct. The Concorde Agreement has always been this mysterious document that contains all the finances - which we already have done with the teams. We have made an agreement with the FIA, the only other thing that would be in the Concorde Agreement is the sporting and technical regulations."
MB: So it doesn't concern you if this famous Concorde Agreement doesn't exist? Is it a problem?
BE: "No. It will."
Is there a timeframe to that?
MB: Finally we are reading about the issues in Germany and the court case that is going on there. What is the status with that?
BE: "No idea. Quiet at the moment, peaceful."
MB: Does it bother you? Is it a threat to F1? Is it a threat to you?
BE: "It depends what the outcome of the case is."
MB: Do you lose sleep over that or is it something you have under control?
BE: "No. We have another one coming up maybe before the other case in England where someone is suing for a massive amount."
MB: Is that water off a ducks back for you?
BE: "I deal with things when I have to deal with them."
MB: Nothing happens in F1 without you around. Do you think about succession or is it not really your problem?
BE: "What will actually happen I think is that when I am not here Formula 1 is going to be run in a much more corporate way. I'm more entrepreneurial, but things will be corporate."
MB: Don't you sort of want to hand it to someone?
BE: "Yeah, yeah if I could find someone that I could handover to I'd be delighted. They are either going to be really super and I wouldn't want to work with them, or they are going to be really lousy and I wouldn't want to work with them. They need to wait until I am not there and someone can sort out the right person or persons."