The Curious Biography of Bernie Ecclestone

· 14th March 2019
Bernie Ecclestone has many detractors, but he does have the merit of taking Formula One to its highest level. It's clear that his path through this sport has created a considerable amount of controversy and enemies.

Whether you like it or not, Formula One without Bernie Ecclestone would never have been the same. The Englishman has devoted his life to this sport becoming a driver, a fact known by few, although his best role is as a businessman.

Today we’ll go through the extensive and peculiar biography of one of the most well-known celebrities in Formula One.

Bernie Ecclestone’s brief career as a driver

Bernie Ecclestone was born to a modest family. Since an early age, his passion for motorsports was clear, which led him to start earning his own wage at age 16. He thrived economically and managed to buy a car to race in Formula 3. His participation was inconsistent and he performed poorly.

Later on, when he had his own Formula One team, he tried to become an F1 driver but he did not manage to qualify for the race. This would mark the end of his career as a driver although his career as a businessman hadn’t even started.

From team chief to taking control of Formula One

In 1972 Bernie Ecclestone acquired Brabham team and created (along with other constructors) the Formula One Constructors Association, FOCA. This is an association in which constructors took joint decisions and had the leverage to look after their interests.

Bernie Ecclestone was always a business wizard which is how he managed to share the broadcasting rights with all the other teams. This allowed the teams to increase their revenue.

Bernie Ecclestone

Through FOCA he achieved more power, up to the point of becoming one of its most influential figures. Bernie Ecclestone knew how to take advantage of broadcasting rights and maximize Formula One’s potential. Thanks to his talent for business, Formula One is watched worldwide, making it what it is today.

Gradually, as he became more powerful he eventually took control of Formula One. Finally, he became one of its biggest stockholders. Everything that happened in Formula One had to have Ecclestone`s approval. This made him the lord and master of Formula One.

A Life of controversies

If Bernie Ecclestone stands out, for one thing, it’s his controversial character. He has always spoken his mind, shedding light upon his extreme ideology. If this wasn’t enough he’s also been taken to trial for breaking the law more than once.

He’s expressed his public admiration of dictators such as Sadam Hussein and Adolph Hitler. Due to these statements, he’s often been forced to later apologize. He was also put on trial for illegal contributions to the British Labor Party in order to help them reach power.  He’s openly criticized drivers such as Fernando Alonso or Kimi Raikkonen.

If we delve into the newspaper library, one can find several statements made by Bernie Ecclestone during his time in Formula One. Here are some of these controversial phrases that are worth mentioning:

“Women should wear white so they match house appliances.”

“Hitler and Sadam knew how to get things done.”

“They think they have me by the balls, but their hands are too small.”

formula one

Bernie Ecclestone: current life

At the time of writing, Bernie Ecclestone is 87. Given his advanced age, the English businessman has had to delegate much of his work and enjoy a quieter life. He remains one of the main owners of the group that owns Formula One, but he doesn’t hold the Chief Executive Officer position. Since 2017 this position is held by Chase Carey, although Bernie Ecclestone remains emeritus chief and acts as an advisor.

In spite of his old age, Bernie Ecclestone is still related to Formula One. This sport will remain forever his passion, to which he has devoted his entire life and therefore he will always be important to the automotive world.

  • Formula One’s new American owner gives Bernie Ecclestone the heave-ho. (2017). Economist (United Kingdom).
  • Parkes, I., & Freeman, G. (2016). Bernie Ecclestone declares F1’s new qualifying format “pretty crap” - F1 - Autosport.
  • Benson, A. (2016). French Grand Prix to return to F1 calendar - Bernie Ecclestone - BBC Sport.
  • Cooper, A., & Rencken, D. (2017). Bernie Ecclestone: I overcharged new grand prix venues for F1 - F1 - Autosport.