“I’m proud of the business that I built over the past 40 years and all that I have achieved with Formula 1. I would like to thank all of the promoters, teams, sponsors and television companies that I have worked with.
“I’m very pleased that the business has been acquired by Liberty and that it intends to invest in the future of F1. I am sure that Chase will execute his role in a way that will benefit the sport.”
After 40 years in the sport, Bernie Ecclestone stepped down from his role as a chief executive in the Formula 1 Group and replaced by Chase Carey. Liberty Media signed former Mercedes and Ferrari chief, Ross Brawn, as motorsport managing director. Ross Brawn returns to Formula 1 after three years of absence.
Furthermore, the ex-ESPN executive Sean Bratches will be responsible for the commercial part of the sport.
Bernie Ecclestone played a significant role in the recognition of the sport and it was his decisions which boost the publicity of Formula 1. In the last few years, the British were not as famous as he used to be, and the fans were tired of his decisions and the ideas which he proposed in order to make the sport attractive.
How everything started
Ecclestone’s enrolment with the motorsport started after the World War II, Bernie was driving in the Formula 3 series, but his career as a driver didn’t last for long. After his short career as a driver, he became Stuart Lewis-Evans manager but the British F1 driver died at the 1958 Moroccan Grand Prix.
In the late 1960s, Bernie was the manager of the Austrian Jochen Rindt and a partial owner of Lotus Formula 2 team. Jochen was killed in a crash at the Italian Grand Prix, but he was awarded the championship after his death.
In 1971 Bernie made his first steps as an owner of an F1 team, the British had a talk with Ron Tauranac, the owner of the Brabham team and offered him £100k for the acquisition of the Brabham team. Tauranac accepted the deal and remained in the team as a designer. The Australian didn’t manage to work with Bernie and in 1972 decided to leave the team. Despite some positive results and podium finishes, Ecclestone had to wait until 1981 to celebrate his first Formula 1 title as a team owner. Nelson Piquet won the championship in 1981 and two years later, he became the first driver who won the F1 championship with a turbo-powered car.
During Ecclestone’s final season as an F1 team owner, Brabham scored only eight points. In 1987 made a deal with the Swiss businessman Joachim Luthi and sold Brabham for around $5m.
His role as a Formula 1 Executive
Bernie Ecclestone had a bigger picture for Formula 1 in his mind, as long as he was Brabham’s team owner he also formed the Formula One Constructors Association (a.k.a FOCA). He transformed the F1 from a low publicity motorsport to one of the most competitive and expensive sports.
His basic idea was to increase F1’s exposure on television, at that time the television companies had signed deals with some circuits and even those deals were not permanent. Ecclestone, decided to change that and made deals with the companies and sold the Formula 1 TV rights as a package. Hence, by the 1980s, F1 had become a global sport and almost every race was shown live on TV. A key role in F1’s popularity growth played some famous drivers such as Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna.
In the late 1990s, Bernie Ecclestone made a deal with his friend Max Mosley, who at that time was the president of FIA. This deal led to huge profit for Bernie’s company as he took the control of Formula 1 rights from the teams.
Another deal which shocked the F1 community was in 2000 when Mosley sold F1’s commercial rights to Ecclestone until the end of 2110 for a one-off fee of $360m. This led to a domino, as a German TV company bought the rights to F1 but then collapsed and banks took the assets. Finally, in 2006 the German bank BayernLV sold its 47% stake in F1 to a company known as CVC Capital Partners.
For the last ten years, CVC had F1’s TV rights and Ecclestone was the chief executive of the company, hence no one could stop him as he was the one who was responsible for Formula 1 future.
Bernie Ecclestone was accused of bribery by the German authorities and forced to pay $100m to the German courts in order to buy his innocence.
In the last few years, Ecclestone’s publicity is decreasing, that is happening mainly because the British suggested some ideas which aimed to increase the popularity of F1.
In 2014 he suggested a double-points at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi and at the beginning of 2016 suggested to change the format of the qualification session. Finally, Ecclestone was criticized by the Formula 1 fans because he added countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain in F1’s calendar which secured high fees for CVC.
Even if I personally didn’t like and agree with Bernie’s ideas in the past the past few years I have to admit that Formula 1 would not be the same without him, he raised the price of the product to $8bn.
A new era begins for Formula 1 as Liberty took control of the sport and we have to wait to see what Brawn, Carey and Bratches can do in order to improve the quality of the sport and bring the fans back to the circuits.