A first lady of F1? Ecclestone hints at who could be his future replacement

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In 2005, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone created a furor when, in a discussion of Danica Patrick’s fourth-place finish at that year’s Indianapolis 500, he said: “You know, I’ve got one of these wonderful ideas that women should all be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances.”

Fast-forward almost a decade later, and now the British billionaire has indicated that the sport could use a woman’s touch once his reign comes to an end.

Sacha Woodward-Hill, currently the chief legal officer of the Formula One Group, has been part of the Group since 1996 and holds many directorships in various F1-related companies.

She was a critical guide for Ecclestone through his recent bribery trial in Germany, and Ecclestone appears to think that she could eventually become the first lady of F1.

“The people [at the F1 Group] would be able to easily follow through what we have put in place,” Ecclestone said to reporters from his offices in London this week. “Perhaps if I controlled the board, I would probably say it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a woman being the chief executive. If I died, there are enough people in the company who could continue running it the way we have set things up.”

A BBC report on the subject carries another quote from Ecclestone on Woodward-Hill: “She’d be a safe pair of hands…We found her a long time ago. She’s been working with me for a long time – 15 years I think – so she knows the way I work, she’s very trustworthy. She doesn’t just know what to do, she knows what not to do.”

A post-Bernie era appeared to loom larger this year in the wake of his trial as well as a financial crisis among F1’s smaller teams that knocked Caterham and Marussia off the grid.

Meanwhile, F1 owner CVC Capital Partners has put forward a possible new F1 chairman in Paul Walsh, formerly the chief executive of beverage giant Diageo. The current chairman, Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, has been dealing with health issues.

However, Ecclestone insists that he’s still the big boss and that he’ll keep at it as long as he feels he can contribute.

“I’m in a good position with people who trust me, rely on me, I shake hands with them and they don’t need a contract. They know that’s it, the end of it,” he said to the press in London. “It takes an awful long time to develop that sort of reputation, and whoever does what I do it will take an awful long time for them to achieve that.”