Update: Respected Formula One journalist James Allen says Ross Brawn will be in charge of “future sporting elements and regulations of F1, shaping the cars and the sport of the future.” Allen says Bernie Ecclestone will stay on for at least a while browbeating organizers and sponsors into paying more and more money. Brawn’s role should as least stabilize the sport. He and Ecclestone have not always had the best working relationship in their past dealings. We now return you to your regular programming, already in progress.
The most fervent wish of millions of Formula One fans has come true. The diminutive dictator, Bernie Ecclestone has been thrown overboard by Liberty Media, the new owners of the sport’s commercial rights. He will be replaced by Ross Brawn, the fellow who bought a Formula One team for $1 and turned it into a world champion. He then cashed out by selling that team to Mercedes Benz. The rest, as they say, is history.
Recognized as one of the pre-eminent engineers in the sport, Brawn can be expected to bring an end to the chaotic management style that became Ecclestone’s trademark. Mr. E, as he is called, theoretically has a 3 year contract with Liberty Media, but this announcement makes it clear he is being kept on for ceremonial purposes only. The future of the sport will be firmly under the control of Brawn.
The story was first reported by Germany’s Auto Bild, which says Brawn’s hiring has already received the blessing of the FIA president Jean Todt. Brawn and Todt were the brain trust that took Ferrari to numerous world championships between 1997 and 2006. Together, they were responsible for the cars that helped Michael Schumacher become the winningest Formula One driver of all time.
After selling his team to Mercedes, Brawn stayed on with the new owners until he decided to “go fishing” after the 2013 season. He was unhappy with the direction Formula One was taking under Ecclestone. He told the Daily Telegraph this summer that he would consider returning to the sport Daily Telegraph if he could help make it a better, more interesting sport again.
One of the issues Brawn will need to deal with is the difficulty drivers have today in passing on track. At last Sunday’s Mexican grand prix, both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo caught up to cars running at the front of the field with a few laps remaining. Clearly, they both were in faster machines. But despite heroic efforts, they were unable to force their way past. The sport’s top drivers all complain bitterly that the current aerodynamic rules make it virtually impossible to pass because turbulence from the car ahead causes a loss of aerodynamic downforce on the car behind.
Ecclestone has jammed a new rules package down the throats of the teams that will increase the importance of aerodynamics even more starting next season. Teams waste hundreds of millions of dollars every year designing their aerodynamic components. That money could be put to much better use designing cars that are meant to race, rather than following each other around sniffing each other’s tailpipes like a pack of dogs in heat.
Ecclestone richly deserves his status as the most hated man in Formula One. At age 85, he is totally unfamiliar with the digital age and thinks people still get their news from reading newspapers. He has been deaf to complaints that many Formula One races are little more than media circuses for authoritarian regimes anxious to improve their standing in the world community. Ecclestone has an annoying habit of threatening to remove racing venues from the calendar if they do not pay exorbitant fees to host the races. If Bernie has a counterpart in literature it would be Ebeneezer Scrooge.
Those Formula One fans who have stuck it out through Ecclestone’s nearly 30 years of bullying and mismanagement are hopeful Ross Brawn will usher in new era of sensible rule making, one that places a premium on entertaining the fans rather than gouging promoters and sponsors. Is that too much to ask?
Source and photo credit: F1 Technical