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Exclusive Interview with Bernie Ecclestone 11 Mar 2010

Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One Management's CEO, Sakhir, Bahrain, 11 March 2010. Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One Management's CEO, with Ron Dennis and Mansour Ojeh, Sakhir, Bahrain, 11 March 2010. Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One Management's CEO, with Ron Dennis, Sakhir, Bahrain, 11 March 2010.

Formula One fans are in for a treat this season. With 12 teams, 24 drivers and four world champions on the grid, it promises to be the most thrilling championship in years. The sport is clearly in rude health, and so it’s no surprise that Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One Management’s CEO, is upbeat ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix…

Q: There are 12 teams on the grid this season - more than we’ve had for a few years. What does it tell you about the state of Formula One racing?
Bernie Ecclestone:
Yes, that is an impressive number. It proves that Formula One is a strong brand, that people believe in its commercial viability, and that sponsors know they will get their brand promoted globally when they team up with us. It’s still the best win-win-win situation thinkable. If it wasn’t the case, nobody would invest a penny. And with such a gripping season ahead of us, the return on investment will be better than ever.

Q: One slot on the grid will stay empty. Why is that? Stefan GP could have easily stepped in…
BE:
Absolutely. But it was difficult because the other people had an entry and kept saying that they were going to be here, that there is no problem and everything is fine. As they had an entry we could not say sorry we don’t believe you. I said that, and got a lot of criticism. I said that, and it turned out to be the truth. Unfortunately it was not possible to get Stefan GP in at the last minute. You need to do such things a bit more sensibly.

Q: There are three new teams on the grid. Will all three still be here at the end of the season?
BE:
Yes, I hope so.

Q: This year, Formula One racing will visit a new destination in South Korea. What other new places will we be visiting over the next few years?
BE:
Well, I am sure we will get ahead with Russia. India, as you know, we will be there and there are one or two other places that we are interested in. When we speak about the Formula One world championship, we are aware that Africa is missing. We had talks a couple of years ago and almost reached a deal, but at the moment they are so wound up with the football World Cup, there was not much point in talking.

Q: The financial situation for some teams seems to be a bit difficult. What advice would you give them, and how would you run a team under such conditions?
BE:
Well, we are speaking about a globally difficult situation and naturally that doesn’t spare us. But I would say that the route to go is to spend what you’ve got, rather than spend what you are trying to get or trying to borrow.

Q: There will be four world champions on the grid. But you’re touting somebody else for the title. Why?
BE:
Sebastian (Vettel) should have won the championship last year. So he is competitive , the team looks good, he looks in good shape, so I hope he doesn’t let me down this year! But in the end I’d like four or five to win. I just think that it should be his turn.

Q: The start of a new season is always a good time to look ahead. Where would you like Formula One racing to be in five years?
BE:
We keep improving a little bit all the time. We are getting now to a position where the costs are a little bit more realistic. People aren’t wasting money any longer. The manufacturers wasted money. They didn’t spend it, they wasted it unnecessarily. They still should be with us. If they had been managed properly, they would be still with us now. I’d like to see them come back. I’d love to see Toyota and BMW back.