We should be planning for life post-Bernie, says Ferrari boss
NO one individual can replace Bernie Ecclestone at the helm of Formula One and teams must start planning for a very different future after the 83-year-old eventually leaves the stage, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has said.
The Italian, who has been in the sport since the mid-1970s, wants to invite team principals to a meeting at Ferrari's Maranello factory in January to discuss where Formula One is heading and what should be done.
“We are arriving a little bit at the end of a very, very important cycle and era of Formula One,” the 66-year-old said.
Ecclestone is facing a series of legal battles linked to a deal that brought private equity firm CVC on board as the largest shareholder eight years ago.
The billionaire Briton has no plans to stand down but what happens if he is no longer capable of running the sport or dies is an unanswered question that is becoming increasingly asked.
Ecclestone runs the commercial side of the $1billion sport very much as a fiefdom, with no designated successor and an unwillingness to delegate.
Montezemolo raised the possibility of teams, contracted until 2020, one day setting up their own company and repeated a familiar warning that Ferrari could leave if Formula One's owners used the sport solely to make money.
“We have to discuss, because at the end of the day this is our business,” said Montezemolo. “I think that after Bernie, who is unique, it's necessary to approach a different governance for the sport.”
Montezemolo said that while the Briton was “for many reasons not in the best moment of his life” he would not be the one to take advantage of those difficulties and indeed hoped Ecclestone would be around for some time to come.
“While Bernie is here, Bernie knows and Bernie is intelligent,” he said. “Sometimes he is too conservative but he's Bernie.
“I will never accept that instead of Bernie we find a one man show...We have to create a group of governance in which you have a CEO, and then you have one in charge of motor racing.”
Ecclestone recently pointed to Red Bull principal Christian Horner, who is only 40 years old, as a possible successor but Montezemolo said that was out of the question.
“We need managers, we need people that know the money, that know television, the marketing, a lot of things,” he said.
The Ferrari chief also feels that Formula One's decision to award double points at the last race of the season could be scrapped after next year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, if not before. Montezemolo said that he was no fan of the controversial rule change that has got fans up in arms and been branded “absurd” by Red Bull's world champion Sebastian Vettel.
“I am not enthusiastic about it, because for me it looks too artificial. We will see,” he declared.
Montezemolo said Ferrari had not vetoed the measure when it came to a vote because they felt it was not an important enough issue to warrant such action. However, it would be discussed further.
“I think the best way to find out may be to do one year as a test,” he said.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali indicated the double points decision was far from definite.
“I think, considering what is the situation, it would be not wrong to reconsider it,” he said. “That means you are listening to all the interested parties.”
Montezemolo cited the example of qualifying, which had an unpopular and short-lived phase of each driver performing a solo lap against the clock, as an example of the sport getting it wrong and having to backtrack. – Reuters
LUCA DI MONTEZEMOLO