Stewart slams Mosley and Ecclestone
Sir Jackie Stewart, speaking to The London Times at his house in the Chilterns, says “The era of big change in F1 is now essential because the sport has grown larger than either the governors or the commercial-rights holders. And that's just a fact,” says Stewart. “It has taken too long to achieve the things it should have achieved years ago and that other sports have long ago matured to, and other sports have prepared themselves more fully for the opportunities that have come their way.”
In Stewart's view, Ecclestone, who has become a multibillionaire as Formula One's impresario, has become far too powerful, even if he played a key role in making the sport what it is today. “But having done it, he now rules and nobody is up for taking on a battle with him. Bernie has such power and influence that he could suffocate almost any performer who would dare to suggest that there must be change,” he says.
What is more, Stewart believes, there is no proper succession in place for when Ecclestone, who is 78 and has said that he will never retire, finally goes. “I don't think Bernie can bring people in to help him in a transition phase,” he says. “He has been so used to total control that if you look at his structure you have to ask yourself 'is there a successor?' and you would say 'no'. That is wrong. The commercial reality has to be recognized ... and there has be continuity that the ageing process makes necessary.”
Ecclestone, the promoter, is much too close to Mosley, the regulator, in Stewart's view. The Scot has never bought into the notion that the two most powerful men in motorsport fell out over the scandal last year surrounding Mosley's private life, which prompted widespread calls for the FIA president to stand down.
Stewart believes that they rule in an authoritarian manner over Formula One. He says that the process of decision-making is almost impossible to “read” from outside, and remarked that Ecclestone and Mosley are so close and indivisible that they are like “Siamese twins”. “They haven't looked after the house properly and the foundations are built on just this two-man working relationship,” he says. “This has evoked concern and apprehension on the part of those involved in the sport. When Max Mosley had the scandal erupt around him, how many team principals or owners spoke out? None.
“Why, you may ask? When McLaren were, according to some, victimized [the team were fined $100million, now about £69million, by the FIA in late 2007 for allegedly cheating] - how many of the other teams thought, 'That could be us, we must stand behind them.' Who did? In fear of repercussions, nobody did. I was one of the few people who spoke out on both issues.
“I have no commercial ramifications surrounding my continuing involvement in the sport but, if there was something that did pop up or that was researched on me, I am sure it would be used. Now that is not a democratic organization.”
Too much power, no succession plan, an authoritarian style, but the biggest charge against Ecclestone, Stewart argues, is the amount of money that he has taken out of Formula One. For years, Stewart believes he has enjoyed so much of the revenues that not only are the teams struggling to keep going but the circuits, too. At the same time, there has been little or no reinvestment in the facilities offered or in the future of motor racing, such as funding to help up-and-coming drivers.
“Nothing is coming back into the sport,” Stewart says, echoing the views of Luca di Montezemolo, the Ferrari president, who criticized Ecclestone last month on the same issue. “The financial distribution of Formula One appears to have been sorted out by two people who have directed it in whichever way they have seen fit. Although this has been a significant benefit in some ways, it has also hurt the sport because the balance of contribution within Formula One is absolutely untenable.
“The teams have got all the capital investment, yet they get no more than 50 per cent of the revenues. The next largest capital investment is by the racetracks who currently receive little or nothing from the revenues apart from what they get for bums on seats. Hardly any of them receive anything from TV revenues or the circuit advertising or the title sponsorship or the commercial hospitality. How can they reinvest when they have little or no income outside of spectator attendance fees?”
Stewart has other gripes with Ecclestone. He believes it to be “ridiculous” that there will be no grand prix in North America this year, after Ecclestone cancelled successively Indianapolis and Montreal, given the importance of that market to the big car manufacturers, oil and fuel producers and tire manufacturers. And he dismissed Ecclestone's recent call for a medal-based scoring system to replace points in Formula One as nonsensical and inappropriate for a professional sport.
Then came the thorny issue of Mosley, a subject that Stewart dealt with over lunch in the conservatory. The FIA president has no time for Stewart and outraged many in motor racing and beyond in September 2007 by ridiculing the profoundly dyslexic Scot as a “certified half-wit” who dressed like a “music hall artist” and who never has a chance to listen because he never stops talking, remarks for which Mosley has not apologized.
Stewart, for his part, still believes, as he did when the scandal over Mosley first broke, that his arch-critic should resign, and not only that. “I think Max should remove himself from the FIA completely and from motorsport and the motor industry,” he says. “The FIA should replace him with somebody not from within its organization or even within motorsport. They should go out and headhunt a CEO who is going to rebuild the structure in line with modern practice to satisfy the investors in the sport and to give the FIA total transparency.”
Stewart believes that the huge fine meted out to McLaren would not have happened had Mosley not been in charge and he finds it incredible that Mosley and almost all the senior figures in the FIA are, at least in nominal terms, unpaid, part-time amateurs. Yet they preside over the most capital-intensive and professional sport in the world.
Some have applauded Mosley for having the guts to stay on. Not Stewart. “The scandal created the opportunity for a new structure to be born,” he says. “That opportunity has been overtaken by one man's insistence on remaining, which would have been impossible had it been an Olympic committee, the Football Association or a publicly held company. How can we accept that in a sport so dependent on multinational corporations and even governments for its revenues and which also requires a totally transparent and independent rule-making body?”
Stewart may be getting older and he is dismissed by some, among them Mosley, as an irrelevant voice from the past, but the views of the tenacious Scot on the need for radical reform in Formula One ring true for many silent supporters. The question is how long will it take for his new world order to come into being? London Times