Bernie Ecclestone at 80 - a tribute 28 Oct 2010
On Thursday October 28, Formula One Group CEO Bernie Ecclestone celebrates his 80th birthday. La Gazzetta dello Sports Pino Allievi, one of F1 racings most respected journalists, and one who has followed the sport since the 1960s, witnessing the changes since Mr Ecclestones arrival, pays tribute...
ECCLESTONE IS 80 YEARS OLD TODAY. HE HAS CREATED - AND MADE RICH - MODERN FORMULA ONE
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BERNIE. I DONT WANT PARTIES, HE SAYS, BUT THE RACING WORLD CELEBRATES WITH HIM.
Happy birthday Bernie. He will celebrate in low-key fashion with his girlfriend Fabiana.
Bernie, inappropriately labelled the Godfather, the boss and various other things, when he merely distributes money to the constructors. He has a wide range of friends: people from the first generation, when he used to sell cars, and from the time when he was quietly starting out in Formula One.
How things went from there is very well known. Formula one would probably have disappeared had Bernie not been there since the mid 1960s - to turn F1 into an organised sport, to collect what little money there was around at the time, and to slowly increase the money coming into the sport. Group C sportcars attracted more people than the F1 Grands Prix back then. Bernie had the killer instinct - he cast all other motorsport series into the shade, brought huge amounts of money into his Formula One, and created one of the richest sporting phenomenon.
Saviour: the best, eager, devilish. Luca di Montezemolo often reminds Bernie of how excessive he is in his demands. But you must not forget how Ecclestone has always financed the teams in need, and he how does it in a very discreet way. And he does the same with some of the circuits that are close to bankruptcy - it is Bernie who covers the financial problems with the banks. Ecclestone, with the same discretion, helps people who are in difficulties. He has also assisted families of mechanics who have had problems.
Above all, he has made all the team owners extremely rich, with one or two exceptions.
Its an image far removed from the one that people who, without knowing him, dare to speak negatively of him.
Yes, Bernie is no saint - he is a tough manager and doesnt make concessions - but he has a heart.
Follies: in seemingly tireless fashion, Ecclestone has continually broadened the spectrum of the championship: the crazy (at the time people said it was crazy) Singapore night race; the journey to the streets of Valencia; the first Grand Prix in the Middle East; Abu Dhabi; the race in China with the strong yuan; the discovery of South Korea; and next year we will have India and then Russia.
Bernie has discovered a way to anticipate in which part of the planet the economy is booming. And if that was not enough he took Formula One to Hungary in 1986, when we still had the iron curtain. He got paid for it as well - and a lot.
Creative: at 80 years old, Bernie is still at heart the youngest of the team principals sitting on the pit wall, the most creative, still the most capable of generating resources. And he is the only one in love with motor racing, the only real racer. We should feel free to criticize him when he makes a mistake, but lets hope for all our sakes that he will be here to celebrate his 100th birthday: as relaxed and happy as today, merciless when needed, but above all unique. He is indispensable.