In today's world of motor Grand Prix the mix of modern racing cars, cutting edge technology, carbon gas exhaust emissions, a bad economic climate and the environment lobby never letting up, who is there at the helm to manage all this potential mayhem?
Allow me to introduce to you Bernie Ecclestone, born near Bungay, Suffolk, UK in October 1930. In the late 1940's his first business venture was setting up the Compton & Ecclestone motor cycle dealership.
In 1949 he took part in his first Formula 3 series and many of his early races in a Cooper Mk 5 were at his local Brands Hatch circuit. His early racing aspirations came to a sudden halt when a collision on the B.H. circuit literally landed him and his car in the car park outside the track.
The Brands Hatch crash kept Bernie out of car racing for a few years but his business success with other ventures including car auctions allowed him to clinch the assets of the old Connaught Racing team in 1957. This was to be a short lived venture as the death of Vanwall driver Stuart Lewis-Evans, who he managed, led him to walk away from motor racing once again.
1972 saw Ecclestone buy out the Brabham team and here began his long journey to be boss of world motor racing which he succeeded in when he became chief executive of Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA) aided by Max Mosley as his legal advisor.
In 1978 Ecclestone established Formula One Promotions and Administration (FOPA) which was to be the cornerstone of his power and money base; under this arrangement the deal negotiated gave 47% of TV rights to teams, 30% to Federation Internationale de l'automobile (FIA) and 27% to FOPA (aka Ecclestone) and was to run for 25 years until 1997, subsequently another contract was negotiated to run until 2007.
Fast forward to the present and we find that in control of the world body governing motor racing is a 78 year old man, his family life in turmoil and the likelihood of multiple team withdrawals due to the current economic downturn from the organization.
On Friday 5th December the chief executive of Honda motors, Takeo Fukui, who has been with the company since it first entered Formula 1 40 years ago announced their race cars would no longer be competing.
A recent survey reported that the annual F1 budget for Honda was $350 million and that to enable the race team to survive over the last 5 years it had cost the car firm $1.5 billion. Toyota, Japans other F1 team entered the arena in 2002 and have yet to win a race, this at a cost to them of $200 million p.a.
Red Bull racing are in doubt about whether to continue and have yet to make a decision and as they own Toro Rosso there must be a question mark over them too.
The German participation of BMW and Mercedes seems ok for the moment but both teams have orders to reduce their budgets by 50% for the coming year.
As if all the above was not enough let us have a final look a Bernie's personal involvement in aiding a continuous and harmonious industry. He first came under fire in 2004 when he was criticised by the British Racing Drivers Club president, former multi world champion driver Jackie Stewart, for not agreeing terms for the British GP at Silverstone, which temporarily led to that venue being removed from the 2005 calendar, it was later re-instated.
Tensions between Ecclestone and track owners surfaced openly in the U.S.A GP of 2005 when Bernie, who had the power to intervene did not, resulting in 14 of the 20 race drivers refusing to start because of a Michelin tyre issue.
The French and Canadian GP's will for the present not be taking place because of "the unreasonable demands of Ecclestone".
The Silverstone British GP has also been lost as of this year because of Bernie's demands, Flavio Briatore chief exec. of Renault is quoted as saying "nowadays Ecclestone takes 50% of all revenues, but we are supposed to reduce our costs by 50%"
It seems wrong to bring Ecclestone's private life into the equation but we might be tempted to ask if his marriage was already suffering in 2004/5, and as much of his empire is in his wife's name was he then conscious of what he could lose and was he then taking steps to look after himself.
In the current environment the car industry in general is under the microscope for its carbon gas exhaust emissions contributing to global warming and the motor racing sector is leaving its own huge carbon footprint, add all this into the mix with the current economic situation and its no wonder there are huge questions being asked about the future of Formula 1 and its ageing chief executive.
Bill is now retired but as a keen motorist has driven on most continents of the world and has a keen interest in environmental issues, these account for only a couple of his many varied interests. For further info on the Water4gas fuel conversion system please visit..http://www.the-car-hub.co.uk/