Head of Formula 1, Bernie Eccleston, broke his silence that lasted months and talked in his London office for the first time to journalist Aysegul Ekinci

Head of Formula 1, Bernie Eccleston, broke his silence that lasted months and talked in his London office for the first time to journalist Aysegul Ekinci about the current situation of Formula 1 in Turkey, about what is going on in Turkey and about what happened behind the scenes of the negotiations.

‘ The final word is up to the government’

‘ I’m sad that we can’t be in Turkey’

WhenTurkeywas taken out of Formula 1’s calendar, Big Boss Bernie Eccleston kept silent for months against all the allegations and arguments about him. He finally broke his silence.

Bernie Eccleston openly discussed everything that is happening regardingTurkeyand said: ‘I really likeTurkey. I have no problems in regards toTurkey. No one should either. The racetrack inIstanbulwas great. We had a wonderful time inIstanbul. I love Turkish food.” He also expressed his feelings when he said: ‘I’m sad that we can’t be inTurkey’.

Unlike the speculations, he said that ‘there are no discussions right now with the Turkish governments and the sponsors’ and to my question of ‘What is the latest situation inTurkey? by saying that ‘There is no such thing’ and elaborated on the details. He says that they wish to come back toTurkeyand that Turkish Government has the say the words for Formula 1. This signaled his willingness to the offers made by the Turkish government.

‘They estimated to have 80K to watch the races, where in fact, only 30K watched’

Bernie Eccleston stated that he gets angry at the comments regarding doubling up the numbers in order to have Formula 1 return toTurkeyand said that the demand for the races is much lower than what they expected.

It doesn’t look promising. Can you elaborate on the root of the problem? The speculations are that you initially demanded 13 million dollars but then doubled up the price during the negotiations…

First of all, I will not share the negotiation prices for Formula 1 Turkey with the public. However, it’s not like what they speculate; when we met with the Ministry of Commerce prior to starting Formula 1 Turkey, they estimated that there would be 80 thousand viewers at the races. The revenue from the races would cover the amount of the payment. There was supposed to be subsidies as well. This way, they would reach the amount we requested. But unfortunately only 30 thousand people watched the races. There was a big difference and deficit. What was I supposed to do?

Right now, there isn’t anyone talking to me about this issue. But if they were to contact me and accept my terms, we would restart Formula 1 Turkey right away.

Everyone thinks that I direct Formula 1 as I please

Formula1 is governed by democracy, instead of dictatorship

Bernie Eccleston planted the seeds for Formula 1 back in 1972 when he purchased the Brabham team. He claims that democracy governs Formula 1. ‘Big Boss’ says that ‘The main problem arises from too much democracy’ and adds that the decision regardingTurkeyand other matters does not just come from him.

From what I understand, the decision was based on Turkey not being profitable. What about the racers and teams, what is their take on this matter?

The racers and the teams had a great time inTurkey. All of them would want to come back toTurkey. The final word is up to the Turkish Government now…

40 years ago I couldn’t even imagine that Formula 1 would get this far

Bernie Eccleston, who initiated Formula 1 as a 40 year old businessman, shared his thoughts about Formula 1 for the first time with a journalist. Bernie Eccleston usually keeps his distance from the press, doesn’t like to share his private life but he broke this rule for us and talked about the future of Formula 1.

Could you have imagined that it would get this far when you purchased Brabham Team back in 1972? That Formula 1 would turn into a product of ‘Race, Money & Fame’?

Never !! I bought that team for my own pleasure and for my trips. But when you do business, you can’t predict many of the developments ahead of time.

I really could not have imagined all of this. These things happen on their own. I could not have predicted the current situation back then. It’s the same now. I can’t imagine the future of Formula 1 now.

You really can’t imagine the future of Formula 1?

No. Because it’s not easy to face the current challenges. I’m doing the best that I can. All I want is for Formula 1 to grow and develop.

When we say Formula 1, people automatically think of ‘Fame, Money & Technology’. As the creator of Formula 1, can you describe Formula 1 in your own words?

Formula 1 is a very sophisticated sport. Formula 1 racers are fitter, more athletic and better maintained compared to other athletes. They train with a strict discipline. They are also very strong psychologically. It’s a very special thing to be part of Formula 1.

I would like to continue to be the boss for another 20 years

Bernie Eccleston, who recently celebrated his 81st birthday, answers my questions with sincerity. And after having created the Formula 1 legend, he has no intention of retiring. For Eccleston, Formula 1 is the most importing thing in his life and he says that it is not an easy job. He adds that he is working 24/7.

Bernie Eccleston says that he doesn’t see himself as the boss of Formula 1 and says ‘I simply direct Formula 1’.

Bernie Eccleston, you are 81 years old. You had heart surgery and bypass back in 1999. How much longer will you continue to be the ‘Boss’? When do you think you will retire?

First of all, I don’t see myself as the boss of Formula 1. I simply direct Formula 1. If it were up to me, I would like to continue to direct Formula 1 for another 20 years.

I’m not thinking about retiring at all. I won’t either. I’m fine where I am. There are problems I need solve when I get up in the morning. More problems arise throughout the day, but I never thought about retiring. As I said, maybe in 20 years. I don’t go through a single day without Formula 1 in it. Including holidays.

Where do you get all of this energy?

Never thought of it, but perhaps from the bypass.

It doesn’t matter who becomes the boss of Formula 1 after me

For Bernie Eccleston, Formula 1 is like his child. In fact, according to him, it’s a child that never grows up with a never ending need for attention and care. And he loves his child so deeply that he doesn’t really want to think about what will happen after him. And why is that?

Who would you want to see as the head of Formula 1 after you? Do you have a candidate?

Don’t know. It won’t matter who becomes the boss after I’m gone. But one thing is sure. The person who comes after me will be different than me. I am very close to my job and I’m constantly in it. I take care of all the details myself. And I don’t have a candidate to replace me.

What about your daughters? Would you want to see them in your place?

I wouldn’t want to see them in my place. I wouldn’t approve of it either. They can’t do it anyway. My daughters are not the type to work 24/7.

Next 10 years will be time of the women

Bernie Eccleston makes people frown with many of his statements and he is portrayed as an anti-women man. During the interview, famous businessman says that he is not like that and adds: ‘What can I do? They don’t get my jokes’.

Would you want to see a woman as the head of Formula 1?

Why not. If it is the right woman. In the next 10 years, 50 percent of the CEO’s of large companies will be women. Women are more giving and more detail-oriented in business.

They are more loyal and more disciplined. Plus, they don’t have big egos like men. They won’t show off just because they have credit cards in their pockets and cars in their driveways. If they are given the opportunity, women would do better jobs than men in business.

So you are not against women. But they say that you are an anti-women man.

A statement I made back in 2005 about a racer girl in Formula 1, was taken the wrong way. What can I do if they don’t understand my jokes. I make jokes most of the time.

But, it is really challenging to race for women. Because they are physically less resistant. And their chances are low when they race against men. Or they need very strong sponsors. It’s tough for them.

I don’t care about anti-aging, I don’t take care of myself

Bernie Eccleston, is quite fit despite his age. The businessman, who answers my questions with care, is obviously going to deal with a lot more during the rest of the day. He has an incredibly dynamism and a sharp intelligence. It’s obvious why he can’t leave Formula 1 into the hands of just anyone. Because he devoted his life to Formula 1. It’s a both way deal. He planted Formula 1 40 years ago, and now, 40 years later, he watches how the product he devoted his life to turned into a worldwide famous phenomenon. And he believes that he still has a lot more to do. For that reason, he wishes to stay alive for another 20 years.

Bernie Eccleston is also one of the most wealthiest man of the world. What is your typical day like?

I get up at 6 in the morning. I follow-up on worldwide developments during the first hours of the day. After breakfast I head to my office. By the time I’m at my office, I’m already aware of what’s going on. By the way, I should confess that I’m not a very social person. I have friends but I don’t like to wonder around a lot. My job and my trips take most of my time.

You are quite fit despite your age. How do you preserve that?

I guess I get my energy from my surgeries. My doctors suggested that I walk at least half an hour a day. But I never adhered to that. I don’t work out, I don’t walk either. Why should I walk when I have a car? It seems stupid to me. I’m also not careful about what I eat or drink. I travel a lot.

I’m forced to eat different food everywhere I go. I’m also not at all involved in that anti-aging stuff. I eat like normal people.

Do you have a message for Formula 1’s Turkish fans?

There isn’t anyone trying to get Formula 1 to return toTurkey. I’m not saying this because I loved being inTurkey, but I really support Formula 1 being inTurkey. Your prime minister is doing great things. He became the voice of that area. He initiated many great improvements.

We don’t have a problem withTurkey. Our terms are clear. I don’t have a message for anyone. I’m only talking about the facts here. Perhaps we can have a new start with new organizers and with the support of the government.

Who is Bernie Eccleston?

Bernie Eccleston is the Chairman and CEO of Formula 1. He was born in a smallvillageofSuffolk. He quit school at the age of 16 in order to work. His interest in motorcycles started at that age. After the end of World War II, he entered the field of motorcycle spare parts and founded his first motorcycle sales agency.

Eccleston had only a few racing experiences and he quit racing after an accident in 1951. When he bought Brabham Team in 1972, it marked a turning point in his business life. He collaborated with many automobile companies during 70’s, when Formula 1 was shaping up. He then witnessed the development of Formula with his partners. Despite going under a heart surgery in 1999, he continued to deal with Formula 1 and Group Companies himself. He was critiqued because of his bold statements. There were discussions regarding whether Formula 1 was an event or a community. Bernie Eccleston having all of his demands accepted made people suggest that Formula 1 was not governed with democracy. In 2007, there were rumors about him buying famous British Soccer Club, Arsenal.

Bernie Eccleston attracted the world’s attention once again, when he married Croatian model Slavica Radic of 1.88m. The couple divorced a few years ago and their daughters Tamara andPetracontinue to be the center of attention of the world’s jet set with their beauty and private lives.

Bernie Eccleston that I got to meet at my interview

Bernie Eccleston, prefers to keep his distance from the media. When he has interviews, he either doesn’t finish the interview or he mostly gets angry and avoids the questions. Perhaps this is why he doesn’t want one-on-one interviews. If you add the fact that journalist constantly put him through hoops to get him to talk, you can imagine that it’s not easy for him. Plus, he is one of those people who doesn’t like to talk about himself. I went to interview him with all these thoughts and questions in my mind, and I was surprised by the straight and clear personality of Formula 1’s ‘Big Boss’.

At his enormous office inLondon, his staff refer to the 81 year old genius as Mr. E. When you see Mr. E., a.k.a. Bernie Eccleston, at the hallway, you are filled with a deep feeling of admiration and respect. He is so devoted to life and to his job, despite his age that you can’t help but admire him. He really listens to you and he is very excited. He never lost that sense of being an amateur. He gets angry at the false news about him but also believes in advertising and promoting. He is devoted with love to the legend he created to the point of saying ‘It doesn’t matter who becomes the head of Formula 1 after me’. After meeting Bernie Eccleston in person, I’m not sure whether Formula 1 will be the same without Bernie Eccleston anymore. You will understand me better when you read the interview.

Aysegul EKINCI/LONDON

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