Formula 1 Insight

Stay Calm, Bernie

Bernie Ecclestone is calling for everyone to remain calm as the recession bites hard at F1. Apparently, we are all panic-stricken and need to wait and see how much effect the economic news will have.

Massa pit stop
Now remember, guys - don't panic!

Funny, that; I do not recall being in too much of a flap before Bernie made his statement. In fact, the sport has been ticking over quietly for some weeks now, the Honda affair having lost its initial shock value and the teams working steadily on their challenges for the 2009 season. Even the news that the Mercedes board has approved their continuing presence in F1, albeit by a small majority, is hardly a sign of panic.

The most worrying point is Bernie's statement itself. After all, we cannot believe a word he says and, if he is advising patience and calm, it seems quite likely that there is good reason to be concerned. It was only recently that the little man was feeling confident enough to tell us of his dream of getting the manufacturers to sign contracts guaranteeing their presence for several years, although why they should do that when he makes clear that the idea would be to "sue the arse off them if they left" is beyond me. Why he should have suddenly retreated from such optimism to a fear that we are all in panic is not clear at all.

I suppose we must face the fact that Bernie does not think before opening his mouth. Over the years we have presumed that he is the consummate businessman and that everything he says has a hidden purpose - he is always beavering away at some brilliant scheme, manipulating our thinking with cleverly-worded statements here and apparently throw-away comments there. That might have been true once but of late I have begun to suspect that he has lost it and is merely reacting in a state of panic himself as his grip on events becomes ever weaker.

The problem is that Bernie has become used to stirring the pot with his asides and is just going through the motions now, clinging desperately to the illusion that he still counts for something in F1. The reality is that he is an employee of the group that holds the commercial rights - his responsibility amounts to maximizing his employer's income and he has no influence over the direction or regulation of the sport at all. Mosley's cool dismissal of Bernie's medals proposal is a clear indicator of where the real power lies.

So the best thing to do with Bernie's latest statement is to ignore it. No one is reacting in panic and the advice to be patient is surely superfluous when given to those who have no option but to wait and see anyway. We might gaze into the future and suggest ways to meet it but that does not mean that we think F1 is doomed. Actually, it is a good sign that we have not given up hope yet.

There is no doubt that F1 fans live in interesting times. On top of technical regulation changes more fundamental than we have seen for years, the Max and Bernie era draws to a close. Dissatisfaction with their rule is mounting and, regardless of Bernie's desire for immortality, age will get them in the end. With a bit of luck, the sport can look forward to a bright new future with a more democratic government and new ways of getting things done. Well, it's a hope, at least...


I think somebody already mentioned this... But, there is an element to all of this that brings to mind the phrase, 'He's the devil that we know.'

I really look forward to the day that Bernie and Max no longer counter each other or are cooperating against the teams, but what if the replacement of either one of those guys is even more duplicitous and less concerned with F1's traditions?

The good news: just 8 weeks until the first race of 2009, and its certain to eclipse the Bernie & Max Show.

Date Added: 02/02/2009

It's true that we have no idea who will take over from the Terrible Two, Marc, but they couldn't be worse, surely? It would be nice to think that F1 could learn from the lessons of the past...

Eight weeks seems a long time right now - may it pass quickly!
Date Added: 02/02/2009

Nick Goodspeed
I think Ecclestone wants panic. If there is panic, he can play Moses and lead the lot into his predatory tentacles. It is a timeless ploy to preach doom, that goes back to the origins of religion.
Date Added: 02/02/2009

That may be true, Nick, but I think Bernie is playing with fire in that case. If he succeeds, there could be a lot more teams leaving the sport.
Date Added: 02/02/2009

But Clive, you do understand that all major automobilie companies (except for Ferari) have plans (or even thought) of leaving Formula 1. Today, we heard news of McLaren, and BMW is thinking of leaving Formula 1, if they won Manufacturers' Championship. Indeed, they are interesting times, that we might are watching a refoundation of Formula One. Not only on teams, but also on new faces.

But unfourtunatly, it's only the long term. The short term is "panic" and "doom"... LOL!
Date Added: 02/02/2009

Steven Roy
Bernie is trying his usual divide and rule tactic. My guess would be the message was aimed at Maranello. Just now all is sweetness anf light at FOTA and so long as the teams are united Bernie's influence is diluted. If he can create panic and Ferrari pull their usual self interest trick and run back to him he has control again.
Date Added: 02/02/2009

Speeder: Rumours, rumours - the fact is that the manufacturers have all been solid in their desire to stay since Honda's departure. I think we can take it that none will be leaving before the end of 2009, at least. Honda may have panicked but I don't see others doing the same.
Date Added: 02/02/2009

Steven: Coming immediately after McLaren and Ferrari have been pronouncing their undying love for each other, Bernie's statement does look like a bit of attempted interference in FOTA's calm. Luca seems pretty determined to stick with it this time, however.
Date Added: 02/02/2009


I believe the context of the quote is lost in this article. Bernie i guess was asked if FOM/CVC will reduce the sanctioning fees to venues in order to reduce ticket proces for race fans in this difficult economic times....for which he replied "we should stay calm and wait and watch"

Translation: Don't expect a reduced sanctioning fees from me as i am still an avaricious little bastard even in this harsh economy. How the race venues will manage their books or the fans will spend is their headache and not mine!
Date Added: 03/02/2009

That is certainly possible, Uppili, although the article appears to relate the request for calm to our reactions to the economic crisis. I don't think ticket prices are causing panic anyway - anger, maybe. As you say, Bernie could help the situation were he to be a little less greedy but that just isn't going to happen!
Date Added: 03/02/2009

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