This man needs no
introductions to any reader of my Blog, but his background is enlightening.
Born in Suffolk in
October 1930, the son of a fisherman, Bernie’s great passion was motorcycles
and right after WW2 he set up a motorcycle parts business with a partner, Fred
He got into motor
racing in 1949, competing in the F3 championship. In 1951 he acquired a Cooper
Mk V, raced at Brands Hatch, winning occasionally, but then suffered an
accident, which turned his attention away from competition, towards real
He made a number
of astute and lucrative real estate investments in and around London, but in
1957 returned to motor sport as a manager of drivers. He bought and sold racing
cars, and among others managed German driver Jochen Rindt.
His big move into
Formula One came in 1971, when Bernie was approached by Jack Brabham’s former
partner Ron Tauranac. Ron was looking for a partner to replace Jack, and Bernie
negotiated and acquired the whole Brabham operation for £100,000!
He is famous for
his tough negotiating style, his determination and resolve.
But, my interest
is in how he makes decisions, and the inspiration behind his meticulous sense
of organization, presentation, and process management.
I first met
Bernie, in 1985 when we were introduced by my mate Stirling Moss at the
Australian F1 Grand Prix Ball in Adelaide.
But the main thing
that impressed me that weekend was Bernie’s speed for decision-making, and action.
On Saturday, the Formula One Management team discovered someone had forged
copies of the ‘paper’ GP credentials.
When Bernie discovered this, the entire
set of credentials for teams, media and officials were re-created and re-printed
overnight! That was impressive.
In the following
30 years all my dealings with Bernie have been amicable and honorable. I’ve
always been impressed with his zealous and meticulous attention to detail,
social etiquette, and impeccable manners.
The first time I
asked Bernie if he would provide me with a paddock pass for a Grand Prix, our
mutual friend Alan Woollard (the man who has expertly managed all F1 air
freight for more than 20 years) said to me: “Be sure to write a Thank You
letter, Bernie appreciates good manners. And, by the way, he reads every letter
sent to him.”
the years whenever he provides me with credentials I write a thank you note,
and always receive a cordial reply. And, since 1986 I get a Xmas card every
not to notice how the organization of the paddock areas, officials’ suites and
team hospitality areas has evolved after the past 30 years.
From a ramshackle
collection of facilities, motorhomes, tents and garages, the whole ‘back-end’
is extremely well laid-out, efficient and beautifully-presented.
I asked Bernie
what was the driving force, and he replied: “My problem is, I have a tidy mind." When I asked him about the evolution of the tight security levels for the
credentials, I asked if that first experience in Adelaide was behind it.
“Absolutely, but that wasn’t the first time it had been tried. However, I have
to say your Aussie crims are pretty sharp. The changes have been really
necessary for security.
When I commented
that critics say the whole atmosphere is too sterile, Bernie replied that that
was how he liked it. Clean, well laid out and well organized.
I have asked him
about the competitive state of the sport, to which he replied:
“We have become
too clinical with the Technical and Sporting Regulations. We must relax these.”
for me is Bernie’s work ethic and his sense of organization, and I asked what
was the greatest influence? Bernie told me it stemmed from his great, great
dictionary describes a ‘peripatetic’ person as someone who travels widely, and
works in different places for a short time. That sums up Bernie Ecclestone very
incredible hours, especially as he turns 87 in October, and is constantly ‘on
Bernie has his
critics, and some of the things they complain about may be justified, but I am
unabashedly a supporter. As I said, in my personal dealings he has been
straightforward, gracious and easy to work with.
Formula One will
miss his strong, guiding hand, his insight, instincts and most importantly his
resolve. His determination to get things done is what drives him.
knows? He has so much energy, he may yet surprise us all with some new ideas.
pleasure to know him.