Ecclestone: Ron Dennis ‘belongs in Formula 1’

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The official Formula 1 site has up a joint interview with Bernie Ecclestone and Lewis Hamilton, the first time to two have ever been interviewed together, according to F1. And, I have to admit… it isn’t too bad.

The duo cover a fair amount, but what jumped right out at me was this exchange:

Q: Your former team boss Ron Dennis was in Bahrain. Is his presence a support?

LH: In terms of the racing it doesn’t make any difference, but I am always happy when he’s present, because I have a very close relationship with him. I admire what he has achieved in his career and what he has done for the team. Without him I wouldn’t be here.

BE: I think that he should attend more races too. He belongs in Formula One.

We all made note of Ron’s return at Bahrain, coming as it did during the first race of the post-Max Mosley FIA. It is interesting, if not surprising, to see Bernie so clearly support Ron’s having a place in F1.

But Bernie’s about the show and the bottom-line, and he must understand that without interesting personalities F1 will be, literally, poorer. I just have to wonder if we can start wondering about Flavio Briatore.

Probably the goofiest moment, and one made for a eye-grabbing headline along the lines of “Hamilton considered Ecclestone as new manager” is this:

Q: How many phone calls from prospective managers did you get after you announced that your father is to concentrate on his own business affairs?

LH: Bernie, may I tell them about your call?

BE: Sure. I tried to call him saying that I was in search of a job, but he didn’t pick up the phone.

LH: When I checked my voicemail, there he was – Bernie telling me that he was looking for a job!

Q: And what was your reply?

LH: That I will eventually call back…

BE: So obviously I wasn’t good enough!

LH: Honestly, I have received a lot of applications but I’m not in a hurry to decide. I am with a fantastic team, with many competent people, so at the moment I have no need for a manager.

BE: A driver doesn’t need a manager. Gerhard Berger is the prime example of that. He managed himself and was making more money than anybody else at the time he was racing. I am sure he made better deals for himself than he would have done with a manager at his side.

LH: Well, it’s good to know that at the moment I’m not in any contractual negotiations.

The most substantive moment comes toward the interview’s end:

Q: Before the season started you said that Hamilton and Vettel would fight it out for the title. Do you still stand by that prediction?

BE: After one race you cannot say who will win – except that it probably will not be Virgin.

LH: Never say never!

BE: In this case I can. I don’t think that the new teams will raise their performance significantly over the season.

LH: Well, I also have to admit that the gap between the new teams and the established ones is quite significant. But on the other hand, it’s good to see new teams enter Formula One. It’s good for our sport.

Bernie continues to bad-mouth the new teams. I can’t get his angle on this because I think the new teams offer one of the best potential storylines of the season. And good stories mean more interest, and more interest means more money. If one of the new teams starting scoring points and maybe edging up toward a podium, I think that would be a huge boost to the sport. [You have to figure that Michael Schumacher battling for the championship, especially against one of the Ferrari drivers, would be the best thing that could happen.]

Perhaps Bernie is trying to lower expectations so points-scoring by the new teams becomes a big headline. I don’t know. But I do know it wouldn’t raise my interest as a prospective new team owner. What, I’d spend all this money just to be bad-mouthed by Bernie? Thanks, but no thanks.

His statement does give a great opening for either Richard Branson or Tony Fernandes to answer back.

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