STU­ART CODLING

“Bernie would not want tough ques­tions”

Motor Sport News - - Gp Extra - AGREE/DIS­AGREE? mn.let­ters@hay­mar­ket.com

The Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix is tra­di­tion­ally where the po­lit­i­cal and com­mer­cial deals for the fol­low­ing sea­son are tied up, which ac­counts for a much busier pad­dock en­vi­ron­ment.

Walk slowly from one end to the other – dodg­ing the ever-present TV crews – and you’ll see flesh be­ing pressed and the cham­pagne flutes be­ing brimmed as the movers and shak­ers strut their stuff.

This year the at­mos­phere was most cu­ri­ous, as if the sport were in com­mer­cial limbo as the teams and stake­hold­ers di­gested the news that For­mula 1 is to change hands for an eye-wa­ter­ing sum. Or maybe it isn’t – there are still some reg­u­la­tory hoops through which to leap. But it’s still close enough to re­al­ity for there to be the sense of the pass­ing of an age. In a word, the at­mos­phere was febrile. Up and down the pad­dock, peo­ple were fac­ing up to the prospect of a fu­ture with­out the man who has shaped F1’s for­tunes for more years than he’d care to men­tion: Bernie Ec­cle­stone. Is F1’s ever­green ‘ring­mas­ter’ about to suc­cumb to the law of the jun­gle and be ex­pelled by an­other big beast?

Tellingly, nei­ther Ec­cle­stone nor the se­nior fig­ures rep­re­sent­ing the in­com­ing and out­go­ing own­ers – Lib­erty Me­dia’s Chase Carey and Don­ald Macken­zie of CVC Cap­i­tal Part­ners – were ex­pected to at­tend the race in Sin­ga­pore. We hear from wellplaced sources that Carey doesn’t want to do any main­stream me­dia-fac­ing work un­til he’s got F1 ter­mi­nol­ogy down pat. He is well aware of how much scru­tiny he will be un­der. Macken­zie is an in­fre­quent vis­i­tor to grands prix, pre­fer­ring the back­room and board­room en­vi­ron­ment, and not some­one who seeks the lime­light.

Bernie is never shy of a photo op­por­tu­nity when he wants to get a point across, but he wouldn’t want to be faced with any awk­ward ques­tions ei­ther.

So what a sur­prise it was when all three of them not only ar­rived in Sin­ga­pore, but then walked down the pad­dock to­gether in peak time in a cal­cu­lated show of unity. Un­for­tu­nately for them, bed­lam en­sued. If the pres­ence of Bernie al­ways trig­gers a Pavlo­vian re­ac­tion in me­dia folk, this man­i­fes­ta­tion of the Holy Trin­ity set in mo­tion a ver­i­ta­ble rolling maul. There were el­bows every­where.

And then, to the pal­pa­ble hor­ror of sea­soned Bernie-watch­ers, the un­think­able: not con­tent with shov­ing at his col­leagues to get the shot, one cam­era­man ac­tu­ally laid a hand on Ec­cle­stone him­self and pro­pelled him un­gently out of his frame – the bet­ter to get an un­ob­structed im­age of Carey and Macken­zie alone.

Is this an artis­tic metaphor for the board­room strug­gles to come?

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