It’s possible I’ve underestimated Bernie Ecclestone.
When Formula One’s governing body announced plans to make the sport more environmentally friendly, we all rolled around the floor in hysterics.
Except Bernie. He was spewing. Cut the noise to a mere orchestra of vuvuzelas? Limit each vehicle to ‘just’ 100 kilograms of fuel per race?
“A total farce,” spat Bernie. “Totally absurd.”
So I marked him down as sport’s equivalent of dirty coal.
But it’s becoming apparent to me that he might be something else altogether. He may in fact be an environmental mastermind in disguise.
It’s OK, I can wait till you stop laughing.
I mean, how else do— oh, sorry, still laughing?
As I was saying, how else do you explain his lack of action in the face of the current financial crisis dogging Formula One?
Twenty-two cars lined up for the first race of the season in Australia in March. With two teams, Caterham and Marussia, going bust last month, we’re down to 18 cars. That’s already the smallest grid in a decade.
Bernie says it may be as low as 14 next year. “If we lose another two teams that is what will happen,” he points out, highlighting his Rainman-like grasp of maths.
It could get down even lower for the last race of this season, with three teams threatening a boycott if they don’t get more money.
Channelling his inner Catherine Tate, Bernie ain’t bovvered.
“People say F1 is in crisis,” he says. “Absolute nonsense. We’ve had a couple of teams in crisis. People come and people go.”
In other words, it’s only a flesh wound.
Now you could argue that Bernie has his head in the sand or up his bum or somewhere else where his brain is deprived of sufficient oxygen to make rational decisions.
these are the actions of an emerging Greenpeace poster boy. Think about it. It’s genius, really. Make the sport so expensive that no one can afford to enter it, thereby sending it into oblivion and saving the planet.
Then there’s Bernie’s suggestion that each team should put three cars on the grid next year, adding another $40 million or thereabouts to their annual costs. Brilliant! An even faster track to bankruptcy.
The International Motoring Federation isn’t quite ready to go down the tree hugging route though. It’s all for preserving Formula One and willing to consider “any initiative that will help reduce costs in order to ensure the survival of the existing grid or attract potential new entrants”.
Heeding that call, Caterham has turned to crowd funding (yes, crowd funding) to raise the two million plus quid it needs just to compete in one race.
It’s a circus and the ringmaster is not amused.
“We don’t want begging bowls,” Bernie sniffed. “If people can’t afford to be in Formula One, they have to find something else to do.”
Spoken like a true environmentalist.