The melody on his cell phone was a ringtone from the famous western The Good, the bad and the ugly directed by Sergio Leone. He apologized before the call, he did the same after he ended the conversation. Bernie Ecclestone, the ‘big boss of Formula 1’ as they like to call him. Few know, he drove a Formula 1 car. He entered the 1958 Monaco and British Grand Prix, but failed to qualify. He spoke of these races as he did about numerous other things.
What kind of memories do you have about the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix?
It’s a funny thing, but I’m having difficulties remembering the details of that race. You have to realise I’ve been to numerous races since then and it’s impossible to remember them all. I think the race was won by the Frenchmen Maurice Trintignant and if I’m not mistaken, it was a rainy race. His win was a big surprise, nobody thought he could drive that well and win. But I honestly don’t remember my racing adventures at that race. I think Trintignant’s win was the only one in his Formula 1 career. Maybe this is a reason why I remembered the race.
What about the British Grand Prix the same year?
The memories are pale. Of course, I remember other drivers from those two races. I knew the before mentioned Trintignant, the only female representative Maria Theresa de Filippis, I raced against Peter Collins, Roy Salvadori was a good friend of mine and so on.
Do you ever get together and talk about the ‘good old days’?
We should worry about tomorrow, not yesterday.
How do you personally see the return of the Austrian race in 2014?
The Austrian Grand Prix returns to the calendar after 10 years. I’m surprised that the public received the news with such excitement, personally I’m very pleased. I visited the venue this year and I have to say that they did a wonderful job.
Is it important of having a town of over 1 million inhabitants near a Grand Prix venue and how much does a new race affect the logistics of the FOM?
We like to be near cities such as Milan at Monza, but it’s not necessary. We have quite a few new venues next year, besides the race in Russia also the Mexican Grand Prix. That’s why we have to be, at least when we talk about logistics, well prepared and work hard. This is mainly because we come up with certain problems with the old races, let alone new ones. Don’t forget, we have six jumbo jets and it’s not easy.
Does the staff differ or is it the same at every race?
The staff is the same. The cameramen, the director of the race, all of these people – and there about 250 of them – travel to every Grand Prix on the calendar. The organisation of the staff has a huge importance. A part of the staff is responsible for novelties. In Monza a thermo vision of the tyres on Formula 1 cars was used for the first time. We constantly try to give something more to our viewers.
How many cameras are destroyed per season, is their placement around the track important for a good broadcast?
We have to replace lots of cameras. Either because of the accidents of Formula 1 cars on which they are bound, either because of material degradation, new technology and so on. It’s not all honey and milk as one might think. We have a lot more cameras then we used to have, let’s say in the 1995 and 1996 season, but we have to think about the safety of the cameramen when we talk about placing them on the certain parts of the track.
How would you personally protect the workers near the track?
We know that one of our cameramen got hit by Mark Webber’s flying wheel in Nurburgring and that a piece of Force India flew off not far from the photographers at the Belgian Grand Prix. The most dangerous thing is having your back turned to the upcoming danger. We have to work round and see what we can do, thoroughly consider all the possibilities.
Do you think the turbo engines next year are a prequel to a turbo diesel ere?
It’s well known I’m not in favour of the rule change concerning engines. The guys are here to race and I think that with the 1.6-liter engines there’s going to be less of it. I have no idea, though, if the turbo engines are a ‘preview’ to a turbo diesel ere like we now have at the 24 hour Le Mans race. Just like, I have no idea, if Formula 1 will ever use diesel powered engines.