Bernie Ecclestone

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Ecclestone would have tried to stop Alonso entering Indy 500

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Ex-Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone says he would have tried to persuade McLaren not to let Fernando Alonso enter the 101st Indianapolis 500 had he still been in charge of the sport.

Ecclestone’s 40-year reign at the helm of F1 came to an end in January following Liberty Media’s acquisition of the sport, with American executive Chase Carey taking over as CEO and chairman.

Ecclestone was given the honorary role of ‘chairman emeritus’, and made his first appearance in the F1 paddock since the takeover in Bahrain on Friday.

The headline news for the Sakhir race weekend was Alonso’s shock entry to the Indy 500, announced by McLaren on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters in the paddock, Ecclestone said he thought the decision was good for Alonso, but admitted that he would have tried to stop it from happening while the Spaniard still raced in F1 if he was still in charge.

“I think it’s probably good for him. I think if I could have persuaded McLaren not to go, I would have done it,” Ecclestone said, as quoted by crash.net.

“I would have said wait until your contract finishes and then you can do what you like but you are in the middle of Formula 1 and you are a Formula 1 driver.

“But I don’t like to see him at the back of the grid anyway.”

Alonso’s entry to the ‘500 acted as evidence of the change in mindset at McLaren in the past six months, with the deal being unimaginable under the team’ former boss, Ron Dennis, who left his role last November.

Alonso was asked on Thursday if the deal had been blessed by Liberty and whether it would have been possible with Ecclestone in charge of F1, but the two-time F1 champion said it was a team decision.

“I don’t think they have a key role in all these decisions, it’s more a team decision,” Alonso said.

“But I think they are also more open than in the past and we can see also all the things we are allowed to do here, a more relaxed environment.

“So it’s a more relaxed environment for Formula 1.”

Ecclestone has a limited input as adviser to F1’s new owners

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SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) Returning to the Formula One paddock for the first time since he stopped running the series, Bernie Ecclestone spoke of his limited input as an adviser to the new owners.

The autocratic Ecclestone moved aside in January after nearly 40 years in charge, when U.S. sports and entertainment firm Liberty Media took over.

Chase Carey replaced him as chief executive; Sean Bratches was hired as the managing director of commercial operations; and former Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn came in as managing director of motorsports.

The 86-year-old Ecclestone was asked to carry on as an honorary chairman, but he says it has not taken up much time.

“This morning I spoke to Chase on one or two issues,” Ecclestone said at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday. “Never met Sean. I met Ross for 10 minutes this year. I knew Ross from the past obviously and I feel sorry for Chase being thrown in the deep end.”

The new owners are tasked with rebuilding F1’s popularity after years of predictable races. Red Bull dominated from 2010-13 and Mercedes has crushing the competition from 2013-16.

“Nothing disrespectful, but there is very little I could have done, or you could do: It’s the racing that’s been bad,” Ecclestone said. “If we have Ferrari going well and Red Bull going well, it would come back again and the public will be interested.”

This year’s championship promises so far to be much more exciting after title fights largely between drivers on the same team. Sebastian Vettel won four straight titles for Red Bull and then Lewis Hamilton won two for Mercedes before losing to his now-retired teammate Nico Rosberg last year.

After two races, Vettel is level on points with Hamilton, but more importantly, Ferrari is challenging Mercedes.

“The racing is better up to now than it was last year,” Ecclestone said.

New rule changes, such as wider tires and improved aerodynamics, have helped bring a buzz back. But Ecclestone cautioned against reading too much into them.

“The tire size was the same five years ago. They say the wider tires are going to be something special. They are the same as they were,” Ecclestone said. “Every year they play around with bits and pieces, stick bits on and take bits off. So we haven’t done a lot to the cars.”

Ecclestone transformed F1 into a multi-billion business. He started in the 1970s primarily negotiating with circuits before taking up a position of power as the commercial rights holder in the 1990s, massively increasing the series’ TV exposure.

“I was running the company to try and make money for the shareholders. It doesn’t seem that’s the thing that’s driving them. He (Carey) wants to get more happy spectators I think.”

But Ecclestone does not envy him.

“I wouldn’t want to be having to deliver to a public company today. I feel sorry for Chase having to do that.”

Ecclestone overlooked social media. The new owners are looking to heavily increase digital coverage.

“It’s interesting, because I didn’t believe in doing that,” he said.

In recent years, issues were regularly raised about the top-heavy distribution of wealth in the series and fears raised about the future of famed races such as the Italian Grand Prix and the German GP – which has struggled to host races – in the face of rising track fees.

With hindsight, Ecclestone accepts he could have done things better.

“I charged them too much for what we provided so I feel a bit responsible,” he said. “Nothing to do with Liberty, and it went on my watch. We didn’t deliver the show that we charged them for.”

Sao Paulo to sell Interlagos F1 track, Bernie Ecclestone may bid

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The mayor of Sao Paulo has confirmed the city will sell off the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace at Interlagos, the circuit that hosts Brazil’s annual Formula 1 race.

Interlagos has welcomed F1 since 1990, but concerns were raised about the future of the race last fall amid a lack of progress in planned development work.

The track issued a statement last year saying it wanted a five-year extension for its Brazilian Grand Prix contract, which is due to expire in 2020.

Speaking to Reuters, Sao Paulo major Joao Doria confirmed the city was aiming to privatize the track as part of a bid to ease financial uncertainty being faced in the region following a heavy national recession.

“The privatization of the track is the guarantee of the continuity of Formula 1,” Doria said.

“I understand that Formula 1 is important but with private money, not public money.

“It’s perfectly possible for it to keep running with private money as a private track.”

One possible buyer could be ex-F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone, whose 40-year reign of the sport came to a close in January following Liberty Media’s acquisition of the series.

Ecclestone has previously expressed an interest in buying tracks, such as the Nürburgring in Germany, and has close ties with Brazil through his wife, Fabiana, as well as owning a ranch in the country.

The 86-year-old confirmed he is considering an offer for Interlagos, telling Reuters: “I haven’t [said] ‘yes, I’m going to buy’ or ‘no, I ain’t going to buy’. We’ll wait and see.”

“He showed interest. He’s going to participate in the auction for the track,” Doria added.

“I have the impression that international funds are going to take part as well.

“I have no doubt that we will sell the Interlagos track, and sell it well.”

This year’s Brazilian Grand Prix will act as the penultimate round of the 2017 F1 season, taking place on November 12.

Horner hopes Liberty uses Ecclestone ‘constructively’ in F1 management

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Red Bull Racing chief Christian Horner believes that Formula 1’s new owner, Liberty Media, should continue to work with former CEO Bernie Ecclestone in a constructive manner to help grow the sport.

Liberty completed its takeover of F1 back in January, with Ecclestone losing his position as CEO and receiving the honorary title of ‘chairman emeritus’.

American executive Chase Carey has taken over the day-to-day running of F1, but Ecclestone is still set to attend around half of the grands prix on the 2017 calendar.

Last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix marked the first race in several decades that Ecclestone was not in overall charge of, and was regarded as being the start of a new era for F1.

However, Horner believes that Ecclestone’s knowledge and influence within F1 means that he should still play an integral role in the sport’s management, and that Liberty should work with the 86-year-old accordingly.

“What Bernie’s done for Formula 1 has been amazing. The sport is what it is today because of what he created,” Horner said.

“I think in the role that he has, he’s still going to be in a position to contribute, he still has a huge amount of historical knowledge, respect and relationships around the world and I think that harnessed and used in the right way is an asset to Formula 1.

“I’m sure he’ll be at some forthcoming events and yeah, I think hopefully the new owners can use him constructively and beneficially to build on the good work that’s already been done.”

Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene echoed Horner’s thoughts, saying the strong base which Ecclestone put F1 on must be respected and recognized.

“I think that Bernie deserves all our respect because if we are here and if the sport grows it is thanks to him,” Arrivabene said.

“I think that the new group that is owning Formula 1 is here to make this sport grow even more so there is no future without the good historical base.

“If we have a good historical base then I think the new owners are looking forward to continue to grow and that’s thanks to Bernie for everything he’s done and now we need to look forward.”

Ecclestone is due to make his first appearance back in the F1 paddock over the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend on April 14-16.

Formula 1 2017 preview: Offseason recap

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The gap between the end of the 2016 Formula 1 season and the start of the 2017 campaign perhaps feels like the least ‘offseason-y’ offseason of recent times.

Since the checkered flag dropped in Abu Dhabi and Nico Rosberg claimed his maiden drivers’ title, a huge amount has happened.

So here’s a run-down of all that has happened over the winter.

November 27 – Nico Rosberg clinches his maiden F1 world title in Abu Dhabi, finishing second in the race to win the championship by five points. Felipe Massa makes what was planned to be his final F1 start.

December 2 – Rosberg announces his immediate retirement from F1 in a press conference ahead of the FIA gala in Vienna, Austria.

December 11 – Hamilton and Wolff enjoy an “amazing” meeting regarding plans for the 2017 season. Hamilton says Mercedes will have “the strongest partnership” to defend its titles. BBC Sport reports that Valtteri Bottas is Mercedes’ prime target and has already tabled an offer for the Finn.

December 15 – Mercedes confirms that it will make no announcement regarding Rosberg’s replacement until January 3 at the earliest. Claire Williams says that Williams was open to letting Bottas leave, relying it could find a suitable replacement.

December 20 – Reports suggest that Massa has agreed to come out of retirement and return to Williams for 2017, paving the way for Bottas to leave the team.

December 30 – Massa posts on Instagram that he is back “training hard” in America.

January 3 – The earliest date for an announcement from Mercedes passes.

January 6 – Manor – the team Wehrlein raced for last year – enters administration, raising doubts over the team’s future and place on the 2017 grid.

January 10 – Mercedes confirms Paddy Lowe will leave the team after three years.

January 15 – Claire Williams says she expects to make an announcement about Bottas’ future within a week.

January 16 – Pascal Wehrlein is officially announced by Sauber; photos of Bottas in Mercedes team gear leak online; Williams confirms Massa will return; finally, Bottas is announced officially at Mercedes.

January 19 – Mercedes signs British youngster George Russell to its junior program.

January 20 – Liberty Media offers shares to F1 teams ahead of takeover.

January 22 – Pascal Wehrlein pulls out of the Race of Champions’ second day through injury.

January 23 – Liberty Media completes its takeover of F1, ousting CEO Bernie Ecclestone and ending his 40-year rein at the helm of the sport. Chase Carey becomes CEO, appointing Sean Bratches and Ross Brawn into top roles.

January 26 – Renault names BP/Castrol as new fuel and lubricants supplier.

January 27 – Manor confirms it will close after failing to find a buyer, costing over 200 jobs.

February 4 – Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne calls on Liberty to make F1 more entertaining.

February 7 – McLaren confirms that racing CEO Jost Capito has left the team after just five months.

February 9 – McLaren team manager Dave Redding confirms he will move to Williams.

February 10 – BP/Castrol also becomes McLaren’s new fuel and lubricants partner; Ferrari forced to postpone a private Pirelli test after Sebastian Vettel suffers a crash.

February 16 – Mercedes announces that ex-Ferrari man James Allison will become its new technical director; the FIA responds to “malicious” reports regarding the sale of F1; McLaren marketing chief Ekrem Sami leaves the team; Dirk de Beer becomes Williams’ new aero chief.

February 17 – Williams releases renders of its new car, the FW40.

February 20 – Sauber presents C36 car, celebrating 25 years in F1.

February 21 – Renault reveals R.S.17, targets top five finish in the championship.

February 22 – British youngster Lando Norris joins McLaren’s junior program; Force India reveals VJM10 car for 2017.

February 23 – Mercedes unveils 2017 F1 car, completes filming day.

February 24 – McLaren and Ferrari unveil their cars. McLaren’s takes the most note for a bright orange livery.

February 26 – Red Bull, Haas and Toro Rosso reveal their 2017 runners.

February 27 – Pre-season testing begins in Barcelona.

February 28 – Sauber appoints Tatiana Calderon as its new development driver.

March 2 – The first test ends with Valtteri Bottas as the fastest driver. Williams and McLaren endure difficult runs, while Mercedes and Ferrari steal a march on the field.

March 4 – McLaren denies there are any fundamental issues with the Honda power unit.

March 7 – Test two begins.

March 8 – Fernando Alonso blasts Honda, says its power unit has “no reliability” and “no power”.

March 9 – The FIA announces that GP2 will be known as Formula 2 from 2017.

March 10 – Pre-season testing comes to a close. Kimi Raikkonen ends as the quickest driver for Ferrari; 1964 world champion John Surtees dies at the age of 83.

March 16 – Paddy Lowe joins Williams as chief technical officer, having left his role at Mercedes earlier in the winter; Mika Hakkinen becomes McLaren ambassador; reports suggest McLaren has approached Mercedes regarding an engine supply.

March 18 – Manor’s remaining F1 assets are listed for auction.