With the start of a new World Championship just days away, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone is expecting the unexpected this season.
New technical regulations have already had a major impact on preseason testing and could very well jumble the sport’s established pecking order beginning with this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.
It’s a prospect that Ecclestone appears to be looking forward to.
“I hope every race is going to be like a wet race – unpredictable is the word,” the British billionaire told Reuters yesterday.
Certainly, the crown jewel of Ecclestone’s empire could use a competitive shake-up following four straight years of dominance from champion Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing.
The German’s romp to his fourth consecutive world title – in which he won 13 races and closed the year on a nine-race win streak – seemed to also have a noticeable effect on F1’s global TV ratings, which fell about 10 percent (Ecclestone himself said last fall that Vettel’s success wasn’t eroding the viewership).
But with Vettel and Red Bull (along with engine supplier Renault) having struggled mightily in winter tests at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain and in Bahrain, the title would appear to truly be up for grabs even if Red Bull manages to turn the corner following the early season races.
And should it indeed be a free-for-all, that could mean better business for F1 – and, of course, Ecclestone.
Speaking of business, Ecclestone also told Reuters that he should be able to keep running the sport even though he’ll have to face a bribery trial next month.
“We will attend as and when we have to, a couple of days a week,” he said about the situation. “We’ll be able to deal with that internally.”
Last week, Ecclestone said he was now searching for his successor. He is charged with allegations that he bribed a German banker that was linked to the sale of F1 rights.
Ecclestone has maintained that he was blackmailed by the banker, Gerhard Gribowsky, who had allegedly threatened to report him to British tax authorities. Gribowsky has since been sent to prison.