Former Formula One tyrant-in-chief Bernie Ecclestone was pivotal to its growth in the 1970s, but his later years as CEO got wacky, ruthless and all kinds of bad. F1’s new owners knocked him into a lower role in January and Ecclestone is already making it known that he hates the way they’re running things.
Ecclestone, 86, told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that F1’s new owner, Liberty Media, is doing “things [he] would never do or never would have done” while in charge. One of the things Ecclestone hates so sincerely about Liberty Media’s approach is the emphasis on social media, which has absolutely been one of the best parts about its reign early on.
But not to Ecclestone. He said the company is running F1 “like a Starbucks.”
Um, Bernie. Unless Liberty Media starts mandating unicorn cars for certain race weekends, this show isn’t being run like a Starbucks. That would probably never happen anyway, since at least a few of the macho men of F1 are allergic to pink.
The thing is, Ecclestone is so in the dark about what’s best for the sport in 2017 that he doesn’t realize how beneficial it’s been for F1 to improve its presence on the Internet. Almost immediately after Liberty Media took over and put Ecclestone in a “Chairman Emeritus” role, the presence of F1 and its teams on social media shot up.
Let’s first remember the days of Ecclestone being in charge, when he did things like personally ban F1 champion Lewis Hamilton from using Snapchat in the paddock. Hamilton Snapped anyway. Rebel.
The social media presence of F1 during Ecclestone’s time in charge was also sad at best, and you couldn’t find video footage of F1 events on the Internet to save your life. If someone did happen to post a bootleg version of the footage online, F1 at least knew how to work the internet well enough to take it down ASAP.
That was all the way up until the end of last year, as crazy as it seems—the removed video linked above was from October. But then Liberty Media came and ushered F1 into the modern world.
After Liberty Media took control, the commercial rights holder for F1 contacted teams in February to let them know shooting short, social media-style video footage in the garage would be OK during the series’ test session at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. It was like F1 emerged from the darkness. Fans following testing used to have to wait around for results and a few photos from sessions, they now see things that were going on as they happened.
Then, the new owner got to work on the backlog of Internet lousiness the old era of F1 left behind by putting all of its best moments on YouTube.
We could finally relive famous F1 moments whenever we wanted rather than trying to find a terrible recording of a television broadcast on YouTube and hoping it wouldn’t be taken down. We also get to see some we likely never knew existed.
The point is, this has been a renaissance for F1—kind of like when Ecclestone stepped in more than four decades ago and made the sport an international business powerhouse. Ecclestone not liking F1’s move into social media shows just how out of touch he’s become, but that happens with age and general stubbornness.
But hey, Bernie, there’s one advantage to this “social media” thing you hate so much: You can #TBT to back when you were in charge.
(Just kidding time travel is a lie.)