The biggest auto racing news of the year has just unfolded and it’s only January. Dealmaker supreme and F1 head Bernie Ecclestone has finally lost his head, figuratively speaking. After roughly 40 years at Formula 1’s helm, new owner Liberty Media has taken the decision to “ease” Ecclestone out of his all-powerful position.
Ecclestone’s tenure has resulted in Formula 1 becoming one of the world’s greatest and most-watched sporting spectacles, while making him — and many of his associates — fabulously wealthy. First came the sale of the television rights and ultimately, the sale of the rights to the sport. It’s that final transaction that terminated the 86-year old F1 supremo’s reign.
According to the BBC, many of the moves that generated such wealth led, indirectly, to his ouster, including “a skewed prize-money structure … A policy that is threatening to price out much-loved historic races in favor of characterless new ones in countries with questionable regimes … A refusal to engage with digital media…”
While a few of his closest associates will miss Ecclestone, many within the teams and the F1-watching public will applaud the change. Now the question is, will the teams see more of the television revenue, will race fees stabilize and will ticket prices stop their upward march?
The Formula 1 season begins in two months, but it will be a while before we understand what Ecclestone’s departure really means to the sport.