Ecclestone still has a place in F1, say teams

Lewis Hamilton during the first practice session in Melbourne yesterday. He was 0.547sec quicker than Sebastian Vettel in the lead-up to the season's first race.
Lewis Hamilton during the first practice session in Melbourne yesterday. He was 0.547sec quicker than Sebastian Vettel in the lead-up to the season's first race.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

MELBOURNE • Team principals said yesterday former powerbroker Bernie Ecclestone still has a role to play in Formula One, following the high-profile takeover of the sport by Liberty Media.

Ecclestone's time as the colourful ringmaster of Formula One was effectively finished in January, when US-based Liberty Media completed its takeover of motor sport's most prestigious brand in a deal valued at about US$8 billion (S$11.19 billion).

There have been complaints that under the 86-year-old Ecclestone, F1 failed to move with the times, and the new ownership saw him shunted into an advisory role as "chairman emeritus".

But team principals in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix, which kicks off the new F1 season tomorrow, said he still has a place in glitzy global sport.

"What Bernie's done for Formula One has been amazing," Red Bull chief Christian Horner told a press conference. "The sport is what it is today because of what he created. I think in the role that he has, he's still going to be in a position to contribute.

"He still has a huge amount of historical knowledge, respect and relationships around the world and I think that harnessed and used in the right way is an asset to Formula One," he said, adding he hoped the new owners can use Ecclestone "constructively".

Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene said: "Bernie deserves all our respect because if we are here, and if the sport grows, it is thanks to him."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2017, with the headline 'Ecclestone still has a place in F1, say teams'. Print Edition | Subscribe