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Bernie Ecclestone: "It isn't proper to treat F-1 like a fast-food restaurant"
11/17/2017 - 13h09
FROM SÃO PAULO
Mr. Bernie Ecclestone's routine had always been the same whenever he'd come attend the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix. But things in São Paulo were different this last time around, now that the businessman is no longer the powerful man behind the event.
He sold FOM (Formula One Management), which owns Formula 1, to American company Liberty Media for US$ 8 billion (approximately R$ 26 billion), and was caught off guard after having been removed from his position as company president back in January.
The 87-year-old businessman was given a high position on the company's board, but he says they never listen to him. It had been agreed that Ecclestone would hold his position as FOM president for another 3 years.
"I'd always treated F-1 as if it were a 3-star Michelin restaurant [three stars is the highest rating offered to restaurants by the French guide-book]. It isn't proper to treat F-1 like a fast-food restaurant", Mr. Ecclestone told Folha.
The businessman criticized Brazil, a country where he owns a coffee plantation. Back in 2016 his Brazilian mother-in-law was kidnapped.
"Everyone in Brazil appears to be corrupt. You need someone like [Russian president] Putin. He'd fix everything", the businessman said.
Do you feel that you were tricked after the deal to keep you in charge of F-1 was broken?
If I felt I had been tricked, I would have done something about it. This is the sort of thing that happens in life. I sold my business, but I still have a high position at the company. I suppose I am a counselor of sorts. Perhaps they didn't know how to ask me to stand down, so their way of doing that was giving me a superior position. Chase Carey - the current president of FOM - wanted to take my place. I told him: "You bought the car, now drive it".
Is there anything you would like to say to the people at Liberty Media, but haven't had the opportunity yet?
You may not want to publish this. They need to wake up. I have nothing against them. I feel sorry for them. It's almost like giving a dentist a doctor's job. I'd always treated F-1 as if it were a 3-star Michelin restaurant. It isn't proper to treat F-1 like a fast-food restaurant. That's the US standard. It's far below F-1's. Everyone who has been involved in F-1 for the last 40 years expects a higher standard.
Would you ever agree to return?
After being in charge for 40 years, I wouldn't like to go back and have to ask the owners how to proceed, as if I were a hitman. It's as if you were hired to kill someone and then you started wondering: what should I do now?
Do you think you were disrespected?
If my work there hadn't been any good, they wouldn't have bought the company. I was surprised [about having been dismissed].
At one point you said that you had helped Ferrari win. What did you mean when you said that?
If there was anything I could do to help Ferrari, then I'd do it. Mr. [Enzo] Ferrari helped me a lot.
What kind of help?
Nothing that would have been detrimental to others. And if it had been, I wouldn't tell you. The other teams know that they depend on Ferrari.
Are there any risks that the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix will come to an end?
The contract ends in 2020. It's hard to say what will happen afterwards. In order to keep the Brazilian Grand Prix in São Paulo, the city will have to spend money. Mayor João Doria is trying to sell the racetrack. He'd better sell it to someone who is prepared. There are two things Formula 1 needs: pilots who are either world champions or successful. And Ferrari. That's what keeps Formula 1 alive. There aren't any fantastic Brazilian pilots anymore.
Why did you sell Formula 1?
We thought it was the right time. Maybe we were mistaken. I have no regrets.
How have you been spending the US$ 8 billion or so that you earned from the transaction?
We went shopping today. We're going to spend more time in Switzerland. I want to expand our hotel, Gstaad.
You are married to a Brazilian. Have you been following the news in Brazil?
It's hard to stay informed. Something new happens every day. It feels like everyone in Brazil is corrupt. The way the media portrays it, it seems like a political dispute.
What does Brazil need?
Brazil absolutely needs someone like [Russian president Vladimir] Putin. He'd fix everything.
Translated by THOMAS MATHEWSON