I have been a true fan of Formula One for a very long time. My exposure to it all started when I was a youth. I had an uncle that went to England to race Formula Fords and build fiberglass moldings for, well, a number of teams, Formula One included if my memory serves me correctly. Of course, this was in the day when cars were still made of aluminum and fiberglass, not carbon fiber – circa 1971 or so.
That year, Bernie Ecclestone became the owner and team manager for the Brabham F1 team. His power in the sport expanded to being the chief executive of the Formula One Constructors Association in 1978, now the President and CEO of Formula One Management. He is, without question, the most powerful man in Formula One.
I have been witness to 40 years of Formula One history. When you stand back and take a look at the big picture, it becomes readily apparent to this F1 aficionado there are four rules that must be obeyed in order to get an F1 event in any locale. Circuit Of The Americas (COTA), please take note.
Rule #1: Formula One is Bernie Ecclestone’s domain. When you think of F1, you also think of Ecclestone. He has put it on the map, has established lucrative TV rights, and has made it one of the top 3 sports in global viewership. There is a reason why they call him a “supremo”,
Rule #2: Don’t mess With Bernie, because F1 is his baby. And sorry, Don’t Mess With Texas doesn’t hold a candle to Don’t Mess With Bernie, especially when it comes to F1. No ifs, ands, or buts. He rules it with an iron fist.
Rule #3: If you ever get a crazy misguided thought that you can negotiate with Bernie, stop and regain your insanity. Do not be so foolish to think so. See Rule #2. He sets the rules and the cost, and you have no other say in the matter, whether you want to believe it or not.
Rule #4: If you want an F1 race, simply do as Bernie says. Or not. Sign his contract, ante up the cash, and do it on his timeline. Ask the organizers of the Canadian Grand Prix, one of the most popular events in the series. It was dropped from the 2009 calendar – until they could reach an agreement with Formula One (i.e. Bernie) to get back on the calendar from 2010 to 2014. Even if all the teams tell you that they want to go there, Bernie calls the shots.
Just look at a recent interview (11/28/2011) with Autoweek, and you will see exactly what I mean:
So you want the guarantees that you're talking about?
They have a contract, which if they want to sign it, they're OK, and if they don't, it's OK as well.
They put out a release on Thanksgiving saying they sent a revised contract to you. It's not normally your style to sign contracts people send back to you, is it?
They're not in a position to do that. Well they are, and they have, but we are not interested.
If the U.S. GP doesn't happen, will you juggle other races around?
It's probably a bit late now. This is what these people don't understand. They're sitting there on their own, thinking about their race, buying something that they can't afford, thinking the world is going to change for them. Which it isn't.
Classic Ecclestone, indeed.
There is a longstanding history of this behavior. It is not that it is good or bad, it is what it is. Accept it, and move forward. It is the way of the F1 world. Let’s make this simple for COTA: do not screw around with Bernie Ecclestone. Do not think you can “negotiate” a business deal with him. He sets his terms, and either you meet them or you don’t. Ecclestone can take his show to any place in the world, any place that is prepared to give him the money to do so. And hard as it is for Texans to believe, there are plenty of places chomping at the bit to have a Formula One race.
Ecclestone gave COTA an extension of sorts. The deadline had been November 30; it is now December 7, and I for one will be keeping my fingers crossed until then. With that said, I really hope that the deal gets completed. Austin will benefit from it in more ways than we can imagine, and it will put us on the map globally in ways that we have never done before.
For a timeline of this dispute, click here.
Photo credits: PresidenBertho