Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of the Formula 1 Group, spoke to a group of invited writers and journalists in the paddock at the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix on Saturday, October 24. Subjects reporters asked about at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) ranged from several detailed queries regarding Red Bull’s situation with the lack of an engine supplier yet announced for 2016 — and the risk of their possibly leaving the sport because of it — to recent remarks Ecclestone made in Russia regarding the United States and his thoughts about the sport moving forward in this country.
This writer asked Ecclestone what he thinks the value is, either way, of the United States to the sport of Formula 1. “It’s important,” he said. “That’s why we’re here. We wish we had more races here.”
“The only reason why, history-wise,” he continued, “we left America before, at Watkins Glen, because there was a lovely guy who ran the thing. Terrible memory. Forgot to pay us. We had the same problem at Long Beach.”
Asked by another writer if he would still like a second race in the U.S., Ecclestone replied, “We’d like four races here.”
Another journalist asked about California, which she had heard mentioned before, and wondered where in the state he might like to see a race. “Anywhere where it doesn’t rain,” Ecclestone replied, fittingly on a Saturday when qualifying ended up being postponed to Sunday morning due to an unusual bout of heavy rain in Austin, Texas.
Asked where specifically in California would be ideal to stage a grand prix, he replied, “A few places have come up. Southern California,” he said.
Yet another reporter went back to the U.S. question and reminded Ecclestone of what he had said recently in Russia about the U.S., that he was “not enthusiastic” about America. Would two or three races in the country make him “more enthusiastic” about Formula 1 in the States, the journalist wanted to know. A video of the full Russian interview in question with Sophie Shevardnadze can be accessed at the Sophie Co website.
“It started because we were talking about the necessity for, actually, a dictator which turned into be a leader,” Ecclestone explained. “But you’ve got a good leader, so I was wrong. The public don’t seem to agree with that, but anyway; that’s how it looks. We’ll see when the election comes up.”
Ecclestone, like many people in the public eye, is frequently quoted out of context. Rumors can develop. The press conference Saturday was a good opportunity for journalists to ask the head of Formula 1 what they, and their readers, want to know. Only time will tell if Bernie Ecclestone will engage in this approach more often to share his views.