“Bernie has a group, I call them ‘Bernie’s people,’ who work for and with him and are primed to step in, if necessary,” he replied. “Formula One is in good hands.”
Of that, I have no doubt — although no one will ever really know until the time arrives.
But the recent signing of the new Concorde Agreement — the document under which F1 operates — takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. I think it’s set up so that it doesn’t matter who replaces Bernie, or who the president of the FIA is at a given time, etc. In fact, I suggest this agreement is really a succession plan that will take F1 into the future whether Ecclestone is around or not. It’s designed, I think, to take a lot of the focus — and pressure — off him
Which is a good thing. We all — participants, governors and fans, of which I am one — owe more to Bernie Ecclestone than we realize.
In the 1970s, he took a sport that had no commercial value and was made up of a bunch of grease monkeys and vagabond young guys who were probably sorry they’d missed the Second World War because it would have been so much fun to fly those fighter jets and turned it into the magnificent spectacle (and money-pit conglomerate) that it is today.
His “side deals” with the car owners — of which there have been many — guaranteed that they would all fall into line when he cracked the whip. And that, of course, was one of the major fears that many had about the future stability of the sport once he wasn’t around to keep teams and people in line.
The new Concorde Agreement eliminates much of that concern.
As GP Week magazine editor Kate Walker writes on the motorsport website Crash.net: “The latest iteration of the Concorde Agreement . . . gives the FIA more power when it comes to shaping F1. The creation of a new F1 Strategy Commission will change the way the sport is governed, and splits the sport's interested parties into three groups: the FIA, FOM (Formula One Management), and the teams (six will represent the rest). . . . For the first time, the FIA will sit at the negotiating table with as much power as the commercial rights holder.”
There is lots more in that agreement but the preceding paragraph pretty much sums it up. In short: Bernie doesn’t have to do it all any more. Which probably explains how happy he looks in that Getty Images photo showing him squeezing hands with Jean Todt.
Bernie’s 82. That’s not old – my hero, Wallie Branston, was national sales manager for Subaru Canada when he was 82 – but it’s an age when negative things can start happening. I saw Ecclestone at the Canadian Grand Prix in June and he still moves like a cat and has the stature and composure of a man who’s truly in charge. The only hint that not everything’s okay is an almost-permanently closed right eye as the result of a vicious beating he survived when attacked outside his house in London in 2011. Otherwise, you wouldn’t know he is as old as he is.
And that he still likes to run the show, let there be no doubt. He received a succession of guests in his “compound” all weekend — all prepared to bow down before the King.
But just like any other person who starts out with nothing and builds an empire, Ecclestone wants to pass on his creation to the next generation. And that’s why I think the Concorde Agreement, 2013, will prove to be his legacy.
WEEKEND RACING (and other notebook jottings):
For the first time in ages, Canadian rally ace Antoine L’Estage will be without long-time co-driver/navigator Nathalie Richard when he saddles up his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X for this weekend’s Pacific Forest Rally in British Columbia.
With rare exceptions, Richard has been at L’Estage’s side since 2006 when he won his five North American championships (2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012), his five Canadian titles (2006, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012), one Rally America title (2010) and 40 overall rally victories in Canada and the U.S.
Say peanut butter and you get jam, Halifax and you get Nova Scotia, L’Estage and you get Richard. It will take some time to get used to the change.
British co-driver Craig Parry will travel with L’Estage this weekend. . . .
Everybody is back in action this weekend. IndyCar returns from a month off (I hope they fix that) with a double-header through the city streets of Houston, Tex. James Hinchcliffe’s Go Daddy-sponsored car will be painted pink to promote breast-cancer awareness, as will Danica Patrick’s NASCAR Sprint Cup car for their race Sunday at Kansas Speedway. Speaking of Hinch, he still doesn't have a signed deal for 2014 although he's reportedly close on a couple of deals. . . .
Formula One is in Korea. Nobody cares about this Grand Prix so it’s a mystery why it’s even on the calendar. I suggest this will be the last Korean GP. Meantime, in journalism’s never-ending quest to discover why Sebastian Vettel is winning all the races (it might have something to do with the best driver having the best car, but who am I to judge?), Italy’s Autosprint magazine has revealed that while Red Bull is not using some kind of illegal traction control, it does have a clever engine mapping system that “mimics the behavior of exhaust-blown diffusers” that the FIA has clamped down on. I guess that must be it.. . .
Brad Keselowski has signed a new contract with Penske Racing that goes through the 2017 season . . .
NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Nelson Piquet Jr. has been put on probation indefinitely and ordered to take sensitivity training after he Tweeted a gay slur about another driver . . .
Rookie driver David Ostella of Maple was the Platinum Cup winner of the 2013 Ultra 94 GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin (say that fast five times). Besides the championship, Ostella, an Indy Lights veteran, won the use of a new Porsche 911 Carrera for a year, the keys to which were presented to him this week by Alexander Pollich, president and CEO of Porsche Cars Canada Ltd.
Said Pollich: “The level of the event and the caliber of the drivers was evident and echoed the brand’s commitment to motorsport. Congratulations to David Ostella for his outstanding season in the series.” . . .
Now, although I am not a fan of the timing of this race, the road course layout for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis IndyCar race at the Speedway next May 8-10 looks to be more interesting than the course they had for the F1 races there years ago.
According to Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co. that owns the facility: “The Grand Prix of Indianapolis is all about elevating the month of May, the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series with more thrilling content for our loyal supporters and new fans. This will be a very different event than the ’500′ and will be one of three major weekends of excitement at IMS in May, all leading into the 98th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25.”
ABC will televise the race two weeks ahead of its 50th consecutive Indy 500 telecast. The race will feature a standing start and will run clockwise, the opposite of the 500. . . .
The final race of the 2013 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series season, the Pinty’s 250 at Kawartha Speedway, will be the subject of a 90-minute special being telecast on Sunday (Oct. 6) at 5:30 p.m. on TSN2. It will be repeated Monday (Oct. 7) on TSN2 at 8:30 p.m. and is scheduled to be on the full TSN network Wednesday (Oct. 9) at 1:30 p.m. . . . .
Kirk Jeffries of Westerville, Ohio, won the Ontario Topless Sprints finale at Pittsburgh Penn Motor Speedway last weekend and Joey Irwin of Davison, Mich., was crowned 2013 champion. The non-wing series only had one rainout all reason and averaged 17 cars per event with 69 in total starting one or more races.
Interested in racing with the club? Or investigating a sponsorship opportunity? Contact Ken Bayliss at [email protected]
- NORRIS McDONALD