Is this Formula 1’s busiest ‘off-season’ yet? There’s been an overdose of stories in this period: from Mercedes hiring Valtteri Bottas as Nico Rosberg’s replacement, Formula 1’s sale and Bernie Ecclestone being forcibly replaced to Juan Pablo Montoya’s Race of Champions victory on debut and Sebastian Vettel’s single-handled efforts winning Germany their 7th Race of Champion Nations Cup!
In this week’s episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we tell you why Formula 1 would never go the Race of Champions way, even if it is a fun format. We also decode why Max Verstappen may also snub ROC.
Pascal Wehrlein’s crash last year was heart-stopping, but foes it worry Monisha Kaltenborn about her budgets for 2017? The team debates this and a filming fan who may have caught the entire incident on their phone.
Finally, F1’s sale saw the unthinkable but long overdue happen – Bernie Ecclestone’s dismissal. Much like Formula 1 hopes to benefit by bringing Ross Brawn back, we’re sure the sport can benefit much by bringing back the uber talented and mercurial Juan Pablo Montoya.
Listen to all of this and more in this week’s podcast below.
The FIA published its final sporting regulations this week, and following widespread criticism last season that too many penalties were given for on-track incidents, it has tweaked the rules.
Drivers will now only face punishment for incidents if they are “wholly’ to blame for a collision or contact.
The FIA is hoping the measure will alleviate drivers’ fear of punishment which previously often discouraged them from attempting a pass on a rival.
In the event that race director Charlie Whiting should report an incident, stewards will now have the ability to decide independently “whether or not to proceed with an investigation”.
A revised article 38.2 a) states: “It shall be at the discretion of the stewards to decide if any driver involved in an incident should be penalised.
“Unless it is clear to the stewards that a driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for an incident no penalty will be imposed.”
Furthermore, grid penalties will be applied to drivers sanctioned during a race by the stewards but unable to take the penalty because of a retirement.
Five second and ten second penalties, as well as drive-through and stop-and go punishments shall therefore be commuted into grid penalties at the following race.
Bernie Ecclestone’s rise to the top of F1 is a genuine rags to riches story. The son of a fisherman came from a background where he had to fight for everything he had.
He is a natural born negotiator always looking to close a deal on his terms. Even in his schooldays he would trade in whatever was available, be it sweets, cakes or toys and he would always be the main beneficiary.
After leaving school he took a regular job but soon started buying and selling motorcycles and parts and a combination of business acumen and a love for engines took him into the second hand car business where he had a reputation for absolute ruthlessness and a mind as sharp as a razor.
After being tricked by a rival he got his own back some time later by offering the man a ‘Mercedes 230 SL Hardtop’ for an attractive price. The guy paid in cash and Ecclestone duly told him “the hardtop is in the street outside” and that is all there was – no car. You don’t mess with Bernie.
His involvement in motorsport began when a group of enthusiasts turned a disused airfield into a racetrack, now known as Silverstone, and even that was for the business opportunities it created.
He got into Formula One in the days when it was an amateurish affair and he actually managed teams and drivers, including Jochen Rindt who was killed in a crash in 1970 but awarded the world championship posthumously. He bought the Brabham team in 1971 which led to him becoming head of the Formula One Constructors Association with Max Mosley as his legal advisor. In those days television companies paid to cover Formula One on a race-by-race basis because there was no guarantee all the teams would show up.
Ecclestone realised the financial potential of selling the sport as a complete package and got the teams to sign a contract guaranteeing their participation in all races.
He and Mosley ended up on the FIA committee and Ecclestone basically took over the entire commercial side of F1, and it didn’t take him long to amass a personal fortune currently estimated to be £3.1billion. And, by the way, he also made others in the sport rich.
Now, after an astonishing, mostly autocratic, reign that lasted forty years – despite several attempts to get rid of him – Ecclestone’s days as the most powerful man in Formula One are finally over.
In recent years he has never been far away from power struggles and controversy, paying a German court £60m to end a bribery trial and coughing up another hefty sum to swerve a tax avoidance case. But whatever you think of this man – and he has upset many people along the way with controversial remarks about women drivers amongst his worst faux pas – he is responsible for taking the sport, realising its potential as a brand before anybody else, and turning it into a global success story.
The fact Liberty Media has paid £6.4billion to take control is testimony to that. There is absolutely no question that Bernie’s time, and his dictatorial methods, are outdated and that, at the age of 86, he has probably lost touch with the demands of modern motorsport.
Formula One has become predictable, boring, is in need of freshening up and we are going to see the start of that this season.
He has negotiated his final F1 deal but his legacy will live on and it is one that must be respected. Like him, loathe him or fear him, Bernie Ecclestone, will forever, be Mr Formula One.