Ever since Liberty Media bought Formula One and moved former Dark Lord of Cars Bernie Ecclestone aside to a “Chairman Emeritus” role, Ecclestone keeps popping up headlines with sad tales about how he doesn’t get a say in F1's direction anymore, and gets no respect. He wants us to feel sorry for him, but I’m not buying it.
Ecclestone is a shrewd businessman who no doubt played a huge role in making F1 the international behemoth it is today. In his later years, however, he had such a reputation for being manipulative that any comment of his we featured was immediately written off by some as merely Bernie playing mind games.
That’s the critical lens through which I inevitably read Ecclestone’s comments about being left out of F1, such as his latest remarks to the Daily Mail:
I can’t do anything. Even the staff have been told they shouldn’t talk to me. They want to get rid of the Bernie era: “Let’s get rid of Bernie’s history.” They always say the same thing. They probably think it makes me happy but it doesn’t: “He has done a super job and a fantastic job but we have to move on,” and they may be right. We don’t know whether they are or not. A lot of the things, I would have done if I could.
Do you feel that empathy for an old man suddenly foisted from the position he held for a large chunk of his adult life? Ecclestone makes this all feel very sad and tragic in his words, but that’s exactly what he wants us to feel.
Ecclestone really cranks up the Feel-Sorry-O-Meter when he talks about how surprised he was to be ousted from a decision-making role, continuing to the Daily Mail:
Was I annoyed when Liberty asked me to step down? No. The way I look at it, if somebody buys a car, they want to drive it. I was a little disappointed because I was asked before they took over, would I stay here for three years if they took over and I said, provided I was fit and competent, yes, I would.
So I was a bit surprised the day after they completed the deal that I was asked to stand down because Chase wanted to be chief executive. Chase did that face to face.
Look, Bernie, you had a good run, but it was too long of a run, and now F1 is in this really odd place where the cars are hard to pass and the series still isn’t quite sure how to handle social media.
Anyone who rules a major racing series like F1 for years upon end has to love control, and it’s pretty obvious to me that the Bernie Pity Tour is a clever way to try getting some of that control back in his hands.
It’s time for both F1 and Ecclestone to shake things up. That means it’s time for Ecclestone to stop angling to get his old job back, and go enjoy something new.