After decades within the sport, it seems as if Bernie Ecclestone’s status as the ‘ringmaster’ of Formula 1 is over. The concept of Formula 1 without Bernie Ecclestone will be alien to many. The impact, be it better or worse, this man from Suffolk has had on one of the wealthiest sports in the world is impossible to ignore. 2017 will be a new era in many respects around the globe for many reasons. F1 will be no exception.
What will Formula 1 Without Bernie Ecclestone Look Like?
Bernie Ecclestone has been involved in F1 for several decades, but perhaps his first major role was with the Brabham team. Ecclestone brought in names including Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and BMW, as Brabham would take numerous race victories and two championships with Piquet. Ecclestone would be a prominent figure during the FISA-FOCA war involving the sport’s governing body and the constructors at the time, with Ecclestone leading the teams. Ecclestone had arguably his most positive impacts on the sport in promoting safety, and in securing TV deals. It was Ecclestone who hired Professor Sid Watkins to attend every race, as it was he who is the reason why F1 became such a global televised sport.
The next few decades would see Ecclestone working close with FIA president Max Mosley as he would continue to have a large role in the commercial side of F1. Over the years, despite the calendar swelling up more and more, he would come under fire for a number of reasons. Not least for the astronomically high prices being charged for hosting grand prix. Ecclestone would also occasionally come out with a suggestion which would produce a lot of scepticism from fans. Perhaps the most famous is his sprinkler solution to improving dull races.
Perhaps this is the first major statement by new owners Liberty Media, who are set to acquire the rights to the commercial side of F1 imminently. Ecclestone is to be replaced by Chase Carey (although Ross Brawn is also set for a major role), who appeared at a number of races in 2016, alongside his now-predecessor. We are yet to see precisely what the plans are under Liberty and Carey, but it seems as if they are not interested in continuing the payments to certain older teams simply for showing up. It is also clear that an upheaval on how F1 uses digital media is to come as well. There also will be opportunities for teams to directly be involved, but again all of this is very much shrouded at the moment.
Change will be coming to F1, but unlike a number of decisions made over recent years, it seems as if no knee-jerk reactions are coming in response to how F1 is at the moment. We have a new formula to look forward to (whether it will actually improve the racing or not is still up for debate until we get to Australia) and Liberty will be paying close attention in the opening races to see where improvements can be made over time.
Of note is the also-imminent announcement of Brawn’s return to F1, but in a senior role within the sport itself. Brawn, who had a vital part in Michael Schumacher’s record-breaking seven championship crowns as well as Jenson Button’s 2009 success with Brawn’s eponymous team, will have a role which has not been disclosed yet, but will almost certainly be working closely with former boss Jean Todt (the current FIA president). Many fans are excited at the prospect of a man who seemingly knows what the sport needs having a top role.
Right now however, we enter a brand new season of F1 with new cars, what will be a story other than “Lewis Hamilton versus Nico Rosberg” and a completely new ring-leader. Better or worse, this will be F1 in 2017, and we should be looking forward to it, whilst acknowledging the role Ecclestone has had over so many decades, as a driver, a team owner and as the commercial rights holder.