GREATER NOIDA: Bernie Ecclestone turned 82 on Saturday but the charismatic billionaire boss of Formula One Management (FOM) shows no signs of slowing down. The man’s sense of humour, for one, certainly hasn’t taken a beating. Just before sitting down for a chat, he issuing a warning to keep the hands off the fruit on the table: it’s recession after all! Ecclestone admitted that he is in love with India, likening it to a “girl you fall in love with but don’t know why”. Excerpts…
As compared to 2011, the ticket sales for this year’s race have been fairly slow. Are you concerned by the drop in interest this time around?
This happens everywhere around the world. In the first year a lot of people are interested and intrigued, in the second year there is a dip and then it picks up again. When you talk about some of the other circuits, England for example, Silverstone has massive crowds of 1,20,000 because British GP has been going on for 100 years. Crowds build up at a circuit when it hosts more and more races.
Are you looking at another Grand Prix in this country? What future do you see for Indian GP beyond the first five years of the contract?
India doesn’t require another GP at the moment. Let’s get this established first. We’re definitely willing to extend the contract beyond five years. However, in saying that, if we haven’t seen the kind of crowds we want by the fourth year, then we have to have a good look at it. It is a very expensive sport.
You have been to India many times before and this is one of the rare races which sees your presence throughout the weekend. What is it that you like about India?
I like it here in India, I am happy here. I don’t exactly know what I like about India. I guess it’s like a girl you fall in love with but you don’t know why.
Do you still think Narain Karthikeyan should be behind the wheel of a Sahara Force India car?
It would be better to have a driver from the home country in a race. I think Narain should be driving a Force India but you have to talk to Vijay and see what he says. I believe if we saw Michael (Schumacher) in a Red Bull, he would have been a different Michael.
Korean GP organizers renegotiated their deal with the FOM. Do you see a similar thing happening in India with the hosting fees, keeping in mind the current economic climate?
We took the TV rights from Korean GP organizers this year, which they could not sell. For the Indian GP organizers, the hosting fees will only increase a little bit every year.
You turn 82 today. What are your plans on your birthday?
I plan to ignore my birthday. It happens every year but as you get older you want to forget it as soon as possible!
Most of the motorsports and domestic racing in India takes place down south. Do you see any of those place becoming the next F1 destination?
We had, in fact, considered Bangalore the first time before settling for Delhi. Let’s get this getting working properly first and then we’ll have a look.
Asia is currently at par with Europe when it comes to number of F1 races in the world. Was it a conscious effort to look at Asia as an F1 destination?
I was the one who decided to move to this part of the world a long time ago, and China specifically. It is a lovely place to visit. There is a crazy system in Europe, which is slowly but surely destroying Europe. My point was to head East.
Do you think that Ferrari is making a political statement here in India by supporting their naval officers?
The Italian Navy have been supporters of Ferrari for a long time. I don’t think their intention is to cause trouble. I don’t think it will tarnish the image of F1. It is about supporting someone who has supported you in the past.
Some of the independent teams are not happy with the engine regulations that will kick in from 2014. Are you looking at a budget cap for all teams from possibly 2014?
We are definitely looking at a budget cap. We are trying to work out a regulation to work to ensure cars can’t spend more than a certain amount. The cap will include everything, even driver retainers. But at the moment it’s my idea. Only about 50% of the people support me on this. Teams with smaller budgets will like to see those regulations.
Source: Times of India