This week (during a dearth of F1 news), Bernie has done it officially with an “exclusive” interview at the F1 website. (I think that is somehow akin to having an “exclusive” interview with your company’s CEO because he had to use the employee bathroom while the executive ones were being refurbished.)
Here are the highlights:
Q: Bernie, there are hundreds of stories about you and still people find it hard to work out who you are. Who is Bernie Ecclestone?
Bernie Ecclestone: An ex-used car dealer. (laughs)
Q: But there must have a moment when you realized that you were smarter than your surroundings, that you could see opportunities quicker than mostâ€¦
BE: You donâ€™t think about these things. You are in business and you do whatever you think is right. I donâ€™t think that an artist would suddenly think, â€˜well, from today on, I am an artistâ€™. A painter starts to paint without knowing if he will be famous some day. That grows. Itâ€™s as simple as that.
Wow, it took all of two questions to introduce Bernie’s backside to a thousand rays of sunshine. Well done, F1 site!
Q: Your racing career was a short-lived one. Was it disappointing when you realised you werenâ€™t good enough? It seems to be the only thing you have struggled withâ€¦
BE: It was not a case of not being as good as I wanted to be. It was a case of how much effort you put into it. I was running a business, and running that business was more important than racing. So I concentrated on running a business and not on racing. Thatâ€™s why I stopped.
Q: Did you ever have a role model?
BE: No. Because you can never say that you want to be like somebody else. Otherwise I would say I would like to be like Robert Redford. But these things donâ€™t happen.
Seriously, that is some serious butt kissing. I hope everyone is taking notes.
Oh, and little know fact: Robert Redford? Only 51 inches tall. True fact.
Q: Is there a difference between Formula One racingâ€™s Bernie Ecclestone and Bernie Ecclestone, the human being?
BE: I hope I am a human being in Formula One. So the answer is no.
OK… so anyone want to bet if they follow up that answer with the question we all want asked: “Well, you *hope* you’re a human, but we know you are a greedy, life-sucking troll. So, the answer is more, ‘Yes,’ correct?”
Yeah… don’t take that bet. Here’s the next question:
Q: Have you followed any guiding principles over the years?
BE: I have never had any intention to plan anything. Things happen and I try to do the best with whatâ€™s available. Probably thatâ€™s a natural gift – one that many people have.
Q: But there are not many people around who have achieved what you haveâ€¦
BE: Iâ€™ve been lucky.
Q: Is it really only luck? Some say you make your own luckâ€¦
BE: What you have to do, when an opportunity is there, is to take it. A lot of people stumble through life saying â€˜I could have done thisâ€™ and â€˜I could have done thatâ€™. I took opportunities.
I think he meant to say: “I took opportunities and crushed hundreds of people who got in my way. So, sure, you could say I’ve been lucky.”
OK, yes, I’m having a little fun at Bernie’s expense. Can you blame me? You can? OK… tell me if you can blame me after you read this:
Q: Can you say what these three things mean to you – money, power and success? Letâ€™s start with moneyâ€¦
BE: It means zero to me.
BE: Zero. I just do what I think I have to do. If you send me to do a job, I would do the best that I could for you. Is that being successful?
Hello, credibility? Here’s the window. You’re free to go.
Q: But wherever you go there is a limousine waiting and a police escort – the attributes of a successful man. Are there moments when it dawns on you just how successful you are?
BE: Ah, the police escortâ€¦ I think they just want to make sure that I get there.
OK, that answer I buy.
Q: Can you remember a situation where you really felt you had been touched by luck?
BE: I cannot remember. It has happened to me so often. Ah, one thing I do remember was during the war and I was out picking potatoes to make some money when a German warplane went down just metres from where I was. The impact picked me up and blew me metres away – but that was it – I didnâ€™t even have minor injuries! That was luck! And this luck had nothing to do with me. I had no ego, I was not successful – I was just bloody lucky. Obviously, a lot of people must feel that they were unlucky on that dayâ€¦ (laughs)
Wow. He is truly a maniacal, evil genius. And a lucky one, at that.
What follow is a series of, I think, fairly uninteresting questions. And then this comes:
Q: There are still many who believe your biggest motivation is moneyâ€¦
BE: I have never done anything for money. Money is a by-product of what I do. From the early days onwards. I had a very successful business when I was 20 years-old. What motivated me even then was to do good deals – not to make money. Money comes out of good deals, which people donâ€™t understand. I donâ€™t think that you will find anyone who is more than comfortably off doing what he does just to make more money.
I’m trying to decide if he really is able to separate these two things: a good deal from making money. I can’t believe he thinks people will buy that. But then again, I suppose it is clear he doesn’t car what people think.
Finally, Bernie looks to the future:
Q: Do you have any vision of where Formula One racing could go in the next decade?
BE: No. I am worried about next year! Anyone who starts telling you today what is going to happen in three years is wrong. Otherwise we wouldnâ€™t have the problems we are just going through.
Q: There is a notion in the paddock that it still takes 12 team principals to make one Bernie Ecclestone. What do you think when you hear something like that?
BE: We will see! (laughs) They should probably all see that they run their own businesses properly and not worry about othersâ€™. What is good for Formula One is good for everybody involved – teams and companies. Too many people only think about what is good for them. Itâ€™s the same with the rules – they only think about what can make them win.
Q: Is it all about ego?
BE: I wouldnâ€™t call it ego but stupidity. They should think about the whole global side of it. All the teams are very competitive and want to win, which I support completely, but they need to want to win on level terms and not try to get a big advantage. If they get an advantage because somebody designs a better car or they have a better driver or strategy, then super. But they should not try to devise things so that they can go in knowing that they have an advantage. Lots of them would like to go in and have a little bit of a bigger engine than the others, which is not really the way to go.
If I’m not wrong, I think Bernie is saying: “Red Bull’s engines are down on power.”
OK, we’re nearly done. Last, and least, is the question we all keep asking ourselves:
Q: Do you have any idea about who will come after you?
BE: I have no idea. They should probably look out for another used car dealer!
And with that, I’m going to have a drink. And maybe give Nascar another go.