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.”