Ecclestone blames teams for turning F1 into a ‘crap product’

Bernie Ecclestone (L) speaks with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff during practice for the 2015 Formula One Canadian Grand Prix on June 6.

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

Bernie Ecclestone says he is struggling to sell a "crap product" to the public in the new era of Formula One.

The F1 supremo has said consistently that the ‘power unit’ regulations are a major reason for the decline in popularity of the sport he has ruled for decades.

"I was talking to some engineers the other day and I told them that I was always pretty good at selling used cars, and I still am," Ecclestone, 84, is quoted in an interview published in French by the AFP news agency.

"But I told them they have given me a crap product to sell," he insisted.

F1 legend Alain Prost said recently that the sport’s biggest problem is that the overly complex rules of today were designed by those very same engineers.

"Absolutely. 100 percent," Ecclestone agreed.

"If I was running a team, I would not let one of my staff tell me how I should do it."

The problem, however, is that Ecclestone is no longer the benevolent ‘dictator,’ and F1 rules are devised in consultation and agreement with the teams.

"The problem is they (the teams) don’t know what they want," Ecclestone insisted. "They don’t have a clue. It’s good for them to have dreams, to have their meetings, but if they have ideas, they have to implement them.

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"They talk about customer cars, but when you come to the question of how to do it, there is a problem. So it will never happen," he said.

As far as Ecclestone is concerned, however, the issue of ‘selling’ F1 to the public is simple.

"All people want is to be entertained," he said. "We are, first and foremost, an entertainment company. But today, when Lewis (Hamilton) starts a race, we already know he will win by 20 seconds."

Finally, Ecclestone played down the risk of an investigation into the governance of Formula One, insisting: "I still have not heard from the European Union."

He says the smallest teams should run their teams better rather than "complain."

"I had a team for 18 years," said the Briton. "I financed it myself and I didn’t expect someone else to give me money.

"Those guys (the small teams) would be in the same situation they are now in Formula One if they were doing anything else. They are not able to manage their companies," Ecclestone charged.

FIA President Jean Todt’s immediate predecessor at the head of Formula One’s governing body, Max Mosley, believes that F1 might benefit from the greater involvement of Todt.

While Frenchman Todt keeps a low profile, some insiders now look back fondly to the more turbulent Mosley-led days, predicting that the now 75-year-old Briton would have fiercely intervened in order to sort F1’s current problems.

Others think the problem is more generational, with the 84-year-old F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone no longer suited to his top job.

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"I’m not sure if we need a generational change at the top of F1," Mosley told the Italian broadcaster Sky.

"Bernie does a great job at least from a financial point of view, but I do believe the basic structure of F1 is wrong, with the top teams very rich and the others in distress and yet they are forced to find shared solutions.

"But Bernie is unable to mediate by himself and, personally, I think the Federation (FIA) should intervene," said Mosley.

"Perhaps Jean Todt thinks they should solve the problems amongst themselves," he added.

"I think Jean is doing a great job in terms of road safety," Mosley continued. "I have not spoken to him recently, but I think he is concentrating more on that than on F1.

"I understand his point of view," he added. "He regards the team principals as adults, with Ecclestone in charge and able to solve their problems without interference.

"I thought differently, but I cannot say that he is wrong," Mosley said.

As for the sport’s problems now, Mosley refuses to blame the often-maligned ‘power unit’ regulations but thinks basic errors were made in the implementation of the new era.

"I agree with the hybrids in F1," said the Briton, "but I think the fundamental error was to not put a cap on spending."

Mosley said manufacturers should be forced by regulation to supply their engines to teams for "3 to 4 million euros per year."

"That is already a lot of money," he said, "and if you are not willing to do that then you should not have access to F1.

"The mistake was to allow manufacturers to offload the costs of the research and development of these engines to the small teams, because those costs will be amortized with the transfer to road car production," Mosley argued.

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