Bernie Ecclestone largely is responsible for growing Formula One into the global sport it is today. However, the 86-year-old’s reaction to Fernando Alonso’s surprise entry in the Indianapolis 500 makes it clear Liberty Media was right to replace him as CEO.
Ecclestone recently told reporters, had he still been at the helm of F1, he would have tried to stop Alonso from missing the Monaco Grand Prix to race in the Indy 500, according to ESPN. Though he did admit the decision to do so makes sense for the Spanish driver.
“I think it’s probably good for him,” Ecclestone said, via ESPN. “I think if I could have persuaded McLaren not to go I would have done it.”
Liberty forced Ecclestone to step down in January and replaced him with Chase Carey, a move intended to shakeup the culture within the sport. The “F1 Supremo” famously ruled in an autocratic manner during his near 40-year run as CEO, though that’s no longer what the series requires.
Ecclestone making decisions with little regard for other’s opinions helped F1 grow in its infancy, but it’s led to missed opportunities in recent years, such as an under-use of digital media. Though, blocking Alonso’s entry in the IndyCar race arguably would have been the biggest one yet.
Since it was announced Wednesday, the story has dominated the news cycle, and has generated as much excitement for Monaco as it has for the 500. McLaren-Honda wisely decided to have Jenson Button replace Alonso in the F1 race, as the 2009 world champion is one of the more popular drivers among fans.
Alonso admitted former McLaren CEO Ron Dennis — whose leadership style was similar to Ecclestone’s — likely wouldn’t have let him race in the 500, and that’s exactly why Zak Brown was brought on to replace Dennis. Elder statesmen such as Dennis and Ecclestone still retain the belief F1 must operate in a bubble, but as the buzz around Alonso’s attempt at the second leg of the triple crown suggests, that’s not what fans want any more.
Thumbnail photo via Honda