Not too long ago I had a chat with the Host of the International Sports Report on TSN 1050 Radio’s Lins O’Connor he asked me if as producer of the show we could get F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone on. I joked we could try but, it was unlikely. Within 48 hours I got an email “Dear Mr. Vakani…” and in short Bernie was up for it. I was so happy to just be referred to as dear, more so in shock we had this chance.
It took nearly a month to match up our schedule with the time zone difference from Toronto, Canada and across the pond, it was well worth it. The interview took place on the same day former Williams test driver Susie Wolff started an initiative for more women in motorsports. I suggested Lins ask Bernie about when we might see female F1 drivers soon, his answer shocked us both. “I doubt it, because if there was somebody that was capable, they wouldn’t be taken seriously anyways. They would never have a car that was capable of competing.”
In light of Danica Patrick having already raced for IndyCar and NASCAR currently, I find it very hard to believe that a F1 team not named Mercedes or Ferrari would pass up on such an opportunity. Not to mention female test drivers are not new to F1. What made this even more unfortunate was that after this interview was recorded Maria Teresa de Filippis died at the age of 89. She was the first female F1 driver. I guess Bernie meant “never again” but it was just an odd statement. He also felt the need to revisit the issue in the unrelated next question. You can listen to that exchange above, it is one of the most bizarre of my career as a sports radio producer and I specialize in bizarre.
Lins has covered F1 for 13 years and knows better than most the need of adding new teams to spice things up. Haas F1 Team should be a welcome edition and you would think the CEO would be thrilled about that but when asked Bernie had bigger fish to fry: “Its not the (teams), the power units is the problem…it isn’t a level playing field. We are in the process of doing something about it.”
It is a relief to hear that this long standing issue might finally get resolved. This past year I fell in love with F1. This was despite Mercedes dominating almost the entire season. On paper you can argue F1 is the least competitive sport in the world. It is as if baseball let one MLB team have all the steroids or at least much better ones and they are entirely legal.
You can listen to the full interview below. During which Bernie calls for no change in champions in 2016. So if you were thinking on betting against Mercedes… save your money. When asked if he is proud of any accomplishments with F1 he goes on to say he is “just doing a job” and has been “lucky.” Bernie also describes the growth of F1 from a “upmarket European championship” to a “genuine world championship.” He denies F1 attempted to move the US Grand Prix and goes on to complement the current track. Interestingly, Bernie claims to not have a favourite circuit, but later agrees with Lins that Montreal ” is popular with me as well”. He also expects “nothing really in particular” for 2016 so brace yourself racing fans!
Thoughts expressed are my own and do not reflect my employer.