Bernie Ecclestone will step down from the board of the company that controls Formula One, according to reports. The 83-year old has been at the helm of Formula One commercially four the past four decades.
Ecclestone is due to go on trial this year in Germany on charges of bribery relating to the sale of shares in Formula One to CVC capital in 2005. It is alleged that Ecclestone paid a $44 million bribe to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, who is currently serving a jail sentence for having accepted the payment.
Although he will no longer be a director of F1’s holding company, Ecclestone will continue to run the sport, but with additional supervision from the board. If he is acquitted of the charges, Ecclestone can be expected to have his membership of the board reinstated.
There has been speculation for some time as to who will take over the running of Formula One when Ecclestone retires. Although he is 83 years old, Ecclestone has never expressed an intention to retire, but his advancing age makes it inevitable that his place at the helm of the sport will have to be taken by someone else in the not-too-distant future.
If Ecclestone is convicted and jailed, his successor will have to be chosen sooner than perhaps anticipated. Ecclestone has always maintained his innocence in the face of these bribery charges, but the court might disagree with him.
Lewis Hamilton has a dog. Gasp. Such drama. How supremely irresponsible. The rest of his life is so sensible, it’s appalling that he would do something as risky as keep a dog as a pet. At least that’s what some of the world’s media would have us believe.
Hamilton’s bulldog, Roscoe, has become a feature of the F1 paddock this season. It’s been considered newsworthy that a dog could receive a paddock pass from Bernie Ecclestone – such is the general public’s apparent appetite for meaningless column inches.
More recently, however, the dog has been blamed for Hamilton’s supposed lack of performance on the track. Former driver turned commentator, John Watson, reckons Roscoe is distracting Hamilton from the business of delivering results. Watson told the Daily Express, “Lewis has to decide if he wants to be an F1 driver or a hip-hop star.”
Watson claims to know an awful lot about being a successful F1 driver, but in this context it is worth comparing his F1 record to that of Lewis Hamilton. Watson won 5 out of his 154 races and finished a career-best 3rd in the 1982 World Championship for McLaren. Hamilton has won 21 out of his 116 races thus far and won the World Championship in 2008 at just his second attempt. If either man is to take advice from the other on how to be successful in F1, it should be Watson who gets the lecture.
Who cares that Hamilton has a dog at the track? And frankly, what difference does it make? Having a dog at the track is to Hamilton much the same as having plants and photos in an office is to an accountant. He’s just making himself more comfortable in his working environment.
With all the completely unnecessary press coverage of his pet, Hamilton has reason to be secretly satisfied. There is clearly nothing much to write about in his personal life, and that is invariably a good thing for a professional sportsman.
Formula 1 is becoming increasingly global. In the last decade or so the sport has expanded heavily into Asia and the Emirates, and moved away from its European roots. There are now F1 races in China, Korea, India and Abu Dhabi, to name but a few. In 2012, Formula 1 returns to the USA, with a race in Austin, Texas. In 2013, there will be a race in New Jersey. 2014 sees a first race in Russia. With all of the new circuits in the last few years, Formula 1 is now represented on almost every continent.
But where is Africa on the F1 calendar? Until 1993, there was a South African Grand Prix at Kyalami. Before that, there was a Moroccan Grand Prix in the fifties. Africa is now not represented at all.
There has been talk over the last 18 months about a return to South Africa. Bernie Ecclestone commented after the 2010 FIFA World Cup that South Africa was ready for F1. Possible venues include Kyalami (which has been used for international bike racing recently), a street circuit in Cape Town, and a possible purpose-built circuit in Durban.
The local racing scene in South Africa is quite small, compared to what is happening in Europe, and needs an injection of funding and energy to become world-class. A purpose-bult circuit would provide year-round opportunities for local racing to develop.
A street circuit, by comparison, would only be used for racing once a year, but would have the added benefit of bringing racing to the city streets. Racing at a purpose-built venue is often invisible to members of the public who are not already racing fanatics. Racing through the streets exposes the general public to a spectacle that they might otherwise not see at all.
Whichever curcuit option is chosen, Formula 1 would be good for South Africa, and South Africa would be good for Formula 1. South Africa is excited about Formula 1. South Africa has shown with the 2010 FIFA World Cup that it is a country capable of putting on a great show for the world. It is time for Formula 1 to return to South Africa.