Bernie Ecclestone

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Jones claims he was paid to fake illness, miss 1985 South African GP

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1980 Formula 1 world champion Alan Jones has revealed in a new autobiography that he was paid to fake illness and miss the 1985 South African Grand Prix in order to avoid sparking controversy with chief sponsor Beatrice.

The 1985 grand prix at Kyalami was staged in the height of apartheid in South Africa, prompting a number of manufacturers and teams to boycott the race in protest. Jones raced for Haas Lola at the time, the team enjoying backing from American company Beatrice Foods.

“US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson had said that if a Beatrice car raced in South Africa he was going to get all of the black workers – thousands of them – at Beatrice around the US to go on strike,” Jones wrote in an extract of his autobiography published by news.com.au.

“Beatrice couldn’t be seen to be backing down to an individual like him, but if they didn’t back down there was a chance of the strike.”

The solution? An idea thought up by F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone in the days leading up to the race.

“During the Friday I was summoned to see Bernie Ecclestone in his penthouse. Not sure what I had done this time, I fronted up. As I went in the door Bernie said, ‘How do you feel?’ Standard greeting, although he had a look in his eye, I gave him a standard reply, ‘Pretty good, thanks,'” Jones wrote.

“‘What do you think your chances are of winning the race tomorrow?’ he asked.

“Again, I felt no need to be subtle: ‘Bernie, I think you know the answer to that question. If I start now, probably pretty good.’

“‘Well, I’ve got a bit of an idea. If you pull up sick and can’t run again this weekend, we’ll give you first-place prize money. Go home and visit Australia.’

“‘If the driver falls crook and can’t drive, then the Beatrice car doesn’t race. It’s a force majeure. Jesse Jackson can’t get on his soapbox and say, ‘I forced that company to withdraw,’ and he also couldn’t call a strike because the car didn’t race,’ [Ecclestone said].

“The idea was that I would wait until Saturday morning when everyone went to the circuit. I would quietly check out, and jump on a plane to Harare to get home (because Qantas wouldn’t fly to South Africa).

“And so, on the Saturday morning I was gone. I just didn’t turn up. They had the car out ready to go, when they were told, ‘AJ’s been struck down by a virus and we are not racing.’

“I made a miraculous recovery for the Australian Grand Prix, which was just as well.”

Minus Jones, the race went ahead with 20 races, with Nigel Mansell leading Williams to a one-two finish.

F1 did not return to South Africa until the end of apartheid, the next grand prix taking place at Kyalami in 1992.

Carey wants ‘spirit of partnership’ in F1, moving away from ‘divide and conquer’ style

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Formula 1 CEO and chairman Chase Carey says that Liberty Media wants to create a greater “spirit of partnership” between stakeholders in the sport, moving away from former ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone’s “divide and conquer” style.

Liberty completed its $8 billion takeover of F1 in January, ending Ecclestone’s 40-year reign when Carey took over the day-to-day running of the sport. Ecclestone was given the honorary role of ‘chairman emeritus’, and plans to attend around half of the grands prix this year.

Speaking to Press Association, Carey expressed his frustration over the opportunities missed under Ecclestone, before outlining that Liberty plans to be more proactive when making changes that focus on short-term thinking.

“There are an array of things that weren’t done that needed to be done. We felt it was a sport that for the last five or six years had really not been managed to its full potential or taken advantage of what was here,” Carey said.

“All of us make mistakes and nobody is perfect. Bernie took a business from decades ago and sold it for eight billion dollars. He deserves all the credit in the world for what he has done. But in today’s world you need to market a sport. We were not marketing the sport.

“When you have someone so identified with the sport for such a long period of time there is always going to be some degree of complexity. I will do what I think is right.

“Bernie’s style was divide and conquer, to keep everything very close, but we want it to be a spirit of partnership in that we compete on the track.

“The teams, the promoters, Formula 1 and the FIA all have a shared vision of where we want the sport to go and building it in a way that is healthy for everybody.”

Carey went on to stress Liberty’s focus on short-term changes, hinting that some alterations could take place at the Spanish Grand Prix next weekend.

“It has been three months and we have been very clear that one of the things the sport has not been served well by is a continued short-term focus, and what we are going to do next week,” Carey said.

“We care more about where the sport is going to be three years from now than three months from now. Bernie was always very focused on the short term, and our focus is on building long-term value.

“Some of the decisions that were made needed to have a better process to think through. The current engine, for example, ended up being too complicated, too expensive, and lost some of the sound that added to the mystique of the sport.

“We will do things and some things take time. You are not going to have a new engine in two months because if you tried to do that you are going to do more harm than good.

“We want to make sure we have the tools to manage the business as opposed to throwing things out there so somebody has a media story.”

Malaysia planning ‘long break’ from hosting F1 after 2017

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Malaysia is planning to take a “long break” from hosting Formula 1 after deciding to end its grand prix contract early over spiralling costs, according to Sepang International Circuit chief Razlan Razali.

After previously expressing concern over the future of the race, officials at Sepang announced earlier this month that the 2017 grand prix would be the last in Malaysia, ending its contract one year early by mutual agreement with F1’s new owner, Liberty Media.

Speaking to AFP, Razali said that the increasingly unbalanced economic forecast for hosting the race made the decision to drop it a simple one, and that a return will not be considered for some time.

“Since 2014 the numbers don’t add up anymore, so it was quite an easy decision to not host Formula 1 anymore,. It was not difficult at all to be honest,” Razali said.

“Right now we are firm in our decision to take a long break. We are looking at a seven to 10-year break.”

Razali also expressed his distaste at ex-F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone’s recent admission that he overcharged tracks to host grands prix, believing it made Malaysia “look like idiots”.

“For [Ecclestone] to come out with that statement, we can’t help but feel suckered by him in some ways and quite disappointed,” Razali said.

“We thought we have a relationship. But I guess the reality is there are no loyalties in this business, it is all about dollars and cents.

“So with that statement, yes, it upsets us in a way.”

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.”