Few people in life have seen and as done as much in motorsport than Bernie Ecclestone.
Now at the grand age of 83 he still trots about taking the show he helped create to many amazing countries around the world.
Now though as a previous escapade could catch up with him and perhaps showing a tendency of being behind with the times mean most people see him as the old-timer that won’t go away.
Of course Ecclestone still has a key role to play in F1 as he continues to take F1 to new far out places (or in the case of Korea – far, far out places) and ensures that everyone gets where they need to be.
Sure he’s made a few enemies and some of his decisions have been more controversial than others but overall Formula 1 would be nothing like it is today without Bernie.
It’s also fair to say that over his four decade tenure Ecclestone has never been afraid to speak his mind.
From the arguments that almost led to the end of the British Grand Prix in the 2000′s, to the dropping of circuits like Imola and Magny-Cours which had been mainstays on the F1 schedule, right up to now where the sport is about to embark on a ‘greener’, more road relevant era.
Sadly on that last issue Bernie can’t seem to make his mind up, for a while he has been firmly against the new V6 turbo engines and the greater emphasis on fuel economy.
Last week at Jerez he berated the FIA and teams declaring the lack of running and poor reliability seen by some as a “farce” and sniped “if they wanted to race like this they should go to Le Mans.”
Ecclestone’s concerns echoed those felt by a lot of fans initially that after the roar of the V8′s, these new 1.6L V6 turbo’s with their lower revs and quieter noise would not be as good a spectacle.
“People want noise — something special, that’s what F1 is all about, now we have quiet engines and nobody on the track,” he said when talking about the testing troubles.
Now as fans adjust to the new V6 noise, the problem Ecclestone has is a greater number of people, who were skeptical before, are changing their own opinions and are embracing the new era.
There does still remain a good proportion of fans who need to be convinced about the noise aspect, so as a result the argument does – just about – exist, but how long will it be, when we start hearing these cars pelting around race tracks around the globe, before any worries about the new engines evaporate?
It is perhaps inevitable that some fans may be so against the changes that they switch off and don’t even give the new style F1 a chance, but what happens if in Australia the first V6 powered race in years turns out to be an absolute belter?
This brings me on to the next part of his initial argument, the potential for unreliability.
Who says that a great race has to be just about cars overtaking each other, it is perhaps the most important aspect for some people, but for others the thought of driving a car right on the edge of what technology can allow is what makes F1 attractive.
Naturally the thought of a race with only 5 cars finishing as engine blow up, transmissions fail etc. is not a particularly happy one, you want to see extreme cars but don’t want to see most under a cloud of steam, but this element has not been in F1 for a while as the V8′s were limited to 18,000rpm and as such driving a car well within it’s known limits is not extreme.
OK so these new V6 engines might only rev to 15,000rpm but for these new pounding hearts that is the maximum they could go, the old V8′s use to rev upto 19,000 plus before the cap was introduced.
These units also have to mix maximum power with good fuel economy, well when I say good, it’s still pretty hopeless for a normal car but compared to previous formulas it’s pretty incredible.
To make up for the smaller engine capacity the former KERS, which was pretty amazing technology in itself, has gone super-sized becoming simply ERS with double the output for nearly five times the amount of time of the previous unit.
The ability to capture wasted energy and convert it into the power of a high-spec hatchback simply by itself is astonishing.
Perhaps then it was these thoughts that have led Ecclestone to complete a U-turn on his thoughts of the new V6 era.
“It is timely developments like these that keep Formula One at the forefront of sustainable and relevant technology,” Ecclestone is quoted as saying.
“One thing I am sure of is that this coming season will not only offer a heightened level of unpredictability but renewed excitement and fierce competition,” he added.
Rather sadly however you have to think that other factors are at play when it comes to this apparent ‘change of heart’.
The report of which his quotes come also indicate a drop in TV viewers in 2013 as Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull romped to another world championship.
You also have to think, that as the first test suggests that Red Bull dominance may not occur again in 2014, it was simply a PR exercise to try and get back those who abandoned the F1 ship last year.
On one hand Ecclestone’s two apparent quotes at both ends of the spectrum underline what a massive year this is for Formula 1, on the other hand it also shows how far Ecclestone will go to try and raise what could be a sinking ship.
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