In conversation - Bernie Ecclestone & Fernando Alonso 23 Jun 2010
One is the man who made Formula One racing the global force that it is today. The other is the most successful driver of the modern era. Together they know the sport inside out - and both are uniquely qualified to provide an insight into the enigma that is Ferrari. Fernando Alonso has fulfilled his ambition of driving for the Scuderia after securing two world titles elsewhere, while Bernie Ecclestone admits Ferrari is one element of Formula One that you just cant put a value on...
Q: Bernie, Fernando, what makes you so sure that the Ferrari-Alonso combination will bring the same success as Ferrari-Schumacher?
Fernando Alonso: I dont know. I just hope it will. I have the impression that the people enjoy this very combination worldwide. Especially in Spain and Italy the vibe is very enthusiastic and this makes me very proud. The rumours that we would join forces had already been there for years anyway.
Bernie Ecclestone: Still there is a big difference between Michael and Fernando. When Michael was with Ferrari he barely had any rivals. The usual procedure in these years was that Michael got pole and won the race. But take a look at Fernandos opponents today: both Red Bull pilots, both McLaren pilots and Fernando can get pole position and win the race. The competition is far bigger, so you cannot really compare the two situations.
Q: Bernie, even though you have many competitive racing drivers around, you personally said that were you still a team principal, you would go for the combination of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel
BE: This is totally correct.
Q: Are there any specific reasons?
BE: Of course there are. I personally think that Sebastian has the class to win a world championship, which Fernando has already proven. It is a matter of quality. In my opinion both of them would be an ideal line-up as they would complement each other. Am I right Fernando? Sebastian would not have any issues with you. What about yourself?
FA: Right, I would not have any problems with Sebastian.
BE: This is what I am saying. Both of them would treat each other with respect, regardless of being the biggest opponents.
Q: Employing both of them would not come cheap. Would you put that much money on the table Bernie?
BE: Of course I would.
Q: Fernando, when was the crucial meeting with Ferrari, the one that made you certain that your dream of driving for this team would come true?
FA: When I left McLaren at the end of 2007 it was already in my head that I wanted to be a Ferrari driver at some point of time. This was my goal. I did not exactly have my best time at McLaren. The history of Formula One shows clearly that Ferrari and McLaren are the strongest teams. To make my career perfect I knew that I had to go to Ferrari. At the beginning it was just a dream, but last summer the critical meetings were put in place to make this dream come true. After that everything went really quickly and I did not let this incredible opportunity pass me by.
Q: We can see that you are feeling quite comfortable in the red overalls
FA: This is absolutely true. They fit just like a glove! The Italian and Spanish mentalities are much alike - and also the lifestyle. And both of us have the same passion for racing. You could say that two have come together who have belonged together for a long time.
Q: Bernie, you have followed Fernandos career since the beginning - his first season at Minardi, his season with McLaren, his years and successes with Flavio Briatore and Renault. Being CEO of the Formula One Group, you must have been ecstatic to hear that Ferrari had committed to Fernando
BE: Yes, especially because Fernando is very much a typical Ferrari pilot. He is a fighter with a lions heart and has a passion for competing and racing. This simply fits.
FA: Thats right. It also makes me very proud to be part of Ferraris history and its drivers. But I also feel a big responsibility being a Ferrari pilot. Ferrari has the biggest fan base all over the globe, and this is unbelievable. I also know that I have to deliver the performance - but I am absolutely ready to do so.
Q: What is it that makes Ferrari so special?
FA: For example, the huge passion to work for Ferrari. You can feel it in every single person working for the company. All of them love Ferrari. If you visit the headquarters in Maranello you can literally feel and inhale this passion. All of them love it to be in the factory at 8am. All of them enjoy seeing a Ferrari on the street, as we all know that we have contributed to this very passion.
BE: And lets be frank, there is no driver on the grid who does not have the dream of being a Ferrari driver at some point in time. And I am sure about this, as Ferrari transmits this very special vibe. But for sure, the pressure on the drivers is much bigger than anywhere else. Fernando you can agree to this. Of course you wanted to win at Renault, too, but the passion driving for Ferrari, the immense pressure to deliver the performance - isnt this exactly what a driver wants to experience once in his career?
FA: Exactly. I love this pressure. I love the feeling to absolutely deliver the performance. I love it to start the race as the favourite. This is why it was particularly difficult for me in the last two seasons at Renault. To know after qualifying that you are at best eighth or ninth is not really my thing. This is why I prefer being in this situation now. The bigger the pressure is, the more people expect from me - and the more comfortable I feel.
Q: Bernie, you have sharp business acumen. Why is Ferrari so special for you?
BE: There will always be two things that will never lose their value: Formula One as a product, and Ferrari as a brand. Without wanting to step on anyones toes, I have to say the rest comes and goes and in the end it doesnt matter. This is somewhat inexplicable and has a certain tragic touch to it, but in the end it is exactly like this.
Q: Fernando, you said you wanted to finish your career with Ferrari. That would imply that you are in there for the long haul
FA: Yes, I hope so. This is at least my goal. I want to bring the performance, always give the maximum and triumph in the end, as long and as often as possible.