Formula Bernie

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Formula Bernie

Mensaje  max_pole el Dom Nov 16, 2008 1:48 pm

London: Bernie Ecclestone sits in the same wooden benchseat in the smart pub round the corner from his plushy London headquarters that he has occupied several times a week for lunch over the last 18 years.

This says much about the double-billionaire and the most powerful figure in Formula One but it is a puzzle to all but those in his inner circle .

Why, with his connections and vast fortune, would he choose these comparatively humble surroundings for his one-hour break from the daily 12-hour rigours of running Grand Prix racing?

It's a comfort zone, that's why. And familiarity of surroundings is crucial to Ecclestone's peace of mind.

He bustles, mobile jammed against his ear, into the Knightsbridge pub with its clientele of movers and shakers, young and old, mostly men from the city, to mix with them all and exchange pleasantries.



And it is here, without minders or bodyguards, where the real Bernie Ecclestone exists - far removed from the frowningly stern-faced and rarely smiling figure, often featured so sullenly on TV's grid shots, bestriding F1 in his kingly role.

For a man whose feet rarely touch the ground, such are the worldwide demands on the time he is only too happy to give to his sport, he is remarkably down to earth.

Ninety minutes spent one-to-one with him over lunch reveals two truths - his deadpan sense of humour, rarely picked up by outsiders, and his unstinting devotion to a duty that has rendered vast riches to many, himself included.

The teetotaller sits at his usual spartan table and sips a glass of iced water to celebrate his 78th birthday.

So when will he quit and surrender his attention to his toweringly lovely wife Slavica,his vast fortune, the luxury hotel he bought in Gstaad, Switzerland, his vast motor-yacht or to whizz around the world in either of his two private jets, one a 50-seater?

"Never....never....never," he says, "the first day I won't be going into work is the day they will be lowering me into my grave. And that won't be for a long time to come. I feel as fit as a fiddle."

Heart by-pass

That is despite a quadruple heart by-pass four years ago when, only at his wife insistence, he took time off for the life-saving procedure.

Ecclestone tugs open the top of his shirt and displays the scar that he said reminds him that it is always worth listening to somebody else when they have good advice to offer.

It is an admission which would surprise those who believe he is immovable.

He said: "It's a crucial lesson I have learned. It is always worth listening when you value the opinion of people you can trust."

His opinions on F1 matters are rarely tested and that is why it is the world's richest sport watched by hundreds of millions around the globe.

"I have made my judgements and lived or perished by them. I have moved our sport into areas some people thought would never work.

"Bahrain is one and a fantastic success story that is and there is Abu Dhabi to come at the end of next year. When Bahrain approached me I was more than happy, and ready, to give them the go-ahead.

"They spent US$150m and it took six months to complete the project. But what they have is an exciting state-of-the-art set-up that is great for spectators, teams and VIPs alike.

"It will be the same, I am certain, with the Abu Dhabi project. I must confess my conditions of contract are pretty strict but we are running a fantastic sport that demands the best of everything.

"We are showbiz par-excellence, first and foremost, and I insist that the venues are world-class. And when you work out the massive advantages in tourism and global recognition for whatever region a race is set the returns for the outlay are fabulous value for money."

He charges between US$20m and $40m to licence a venue for a Grand Prix and then monopolises the round-the-track advertising.

Last year the Bahrain race was a sell-out with 42,000 spectators and it generated more than US$500 for the kingdom.

Promoter Martin Whitaker, a long-time friends of Ecclestone's and one-time F1 employee, ran the Bahrain event.

Going global

He said: "Bernie does everything right. Sport is going more and more global and with TV sparking even more interest it is important to make sure the show, and its stage, is spot-on.

"Like us Abu Dhabi will benefit from the massive economic impact that F1 brings. We feel we are lucky to have been included on the calendar when you weigh up the number of countries all desperate to run a race."

Ecclestone added: "I can't believe there isn't a country in the world that doesn't want a Grand Prix. If you could see the list of request I have in my office you'd hardly believe it. It is mind-boggling."

Korea, Russia and India are in the running for Bernie's blessing. And he would like to extend the 17-race programme to around 20.

Ecclestone said he had no doubts about the ability of Abu Dhabi to organise and run a Grand Prix.

"Not in the slightest," he said, "we've been talking a lot and the great thing about the situation with them, like Bahrain, is that nothing is too much trouble.

"They get on with the job and they are ready, willing and able to put in all the effort needed to carry on the good work just as I want it to be."

Ecclestone charges a country up to $40m for the right to host a Grand Prix and he monopolises the round-the-track advertising.

"A menudo me he tenido que comer mis palabras y he descubierto que eran una dieta equilibrada". Winston Churchill.

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