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Ron Dennis in bitter attack on Ecclestone
Bernie the book
McLaren executive chairman Ron Dennis has accused Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone of stealing the sport from the teams in Susan Watkins’ biography entitled “Bernie”.

Watkins spent nine years chronicling “Bernie” and got unprecedented access to the inner world of the Formula 1 supremo while interviewing some of the key players in Formula 1.

Dennis took over as McLaren team principal in 1981 and since then guided the team into the F1 power house that it is today. Along the way he oversaw F1 world titles won by Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Häkkinen and Lewis Hamilton.

Watkins, whose husband is the legendary Sid Watkins the F1 doctor who revolutionized grand prix medical conditions at circuits, quotes Dennis in her book making some strong allegations about Ecclestone.

Dennis said, “Bernie effectively stole Formula 1 from us. He stole it by concealing from the teams the significant increases that were coming to them as a result of better television contracts. He used this commercial benefit to persuade the teams to accept a contract that eliminated them from the passing of rights as had previously existed.”

Dennis added, “The way [Ecclestone] swerved the situation, I mean some people would say it was brilliant, but in essence it was pretty deceitful because the teams were trying to say ‘hold on Bernie we own these rights.”

“Everybody I know who has ever had any dealings with Bernie feels that, at the end of the day, you’ve been taken to a point beyond what I would call the comfort zone. When you reflect on a deal with Bernie you feel that he’s managed to squeeze that extra five per cent out of you to create the rub but you never feel that warmth of a fair deal,” said Dennis.

The McLaren boss concludes, “I wish he’d be a little more appreciative of the extensive contribution that all the teams have made to building Formula 1. He’s always done a wonderful job of orchestrating but I don’t think he’s ever appreciated, properly, that a great conductor can only be there if he has great musicians, and I think the role of the teams has been that of musicians.”

Ecclestone puts this down to sour grapes and retorted, “If Ron really believed that I stole F1 then he should have called the police.”

It has been reported that Watkins’ book was originally intended to be an official biography of Ecclestone but subsequently, before being published, became unofficial.

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