Formula 1: Bernie Ecclestone backs drivers over need for shake-up

McLaren Honda's Jenson Button.
McLaren Honda's Jenson Button.

Formula One’s chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has sided with the drivers who declared the governance of the sport “obsolete” and “ill-structured”.

In an extraordinary letter, signed off by Britain’s Jenson Button and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel on behalf of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA), the grid took aim at the decision-making process which they feel is harming their sport.

But less than 24 hours later, Ecclestone, 85, issued his retort in which he urged CVC, Formula One’s owners, as well as its stakeholders to consider an overhaul to how the sport is ruled.

In a letter seen by the BBC, and which has subsequently appeared on social media, Ecclestone wrote: “It is not always easy to agree with you but you are correct in stating that the decision-making process in the sport is obsolete and ill-structured.

“We must, as you have stated, urge the owners and all the stakeholders of Formula One to consider restructuring its own governance. It is easy to analyse what is wrong, so why not think and come back on this? At least it is better to think before you wish.”

Ecclestone, who composed the response to the drivers at his London office in Prince’s Gate on Thursday morning, then poked fun at the open letter penned by the GPDA.

“I have been in Formula 1 for nearly 50 years in an active role and another 18 involved in some way,” he wrote.

“You state that every individual acts with the very best intentions. I am not sure if this is a misprint. If not, it should read ‘with their very best intentions’.”

Ecclestone’s reply emerged after Sky Sports announced an exclusive contract to broadcast the sport until 2024. The deal which starts in 2019 is thought to be worth in the region of £300million and all but ends the sport’s future on terrestrial television.

In a separate interview, Ecclestone also revealed that the new elimination-style qualifying format which made its disastrous debut in Australia is set to remain for the next race in Bahrain.

Red-faced team bosses agreed to ditch the format, but in yet another embarrassing u-turn, Ecclestone, who was speaking to Autosport, said: “They’re going to do what I proposed, which is leave things as they are for this race in Bahrain.

“After that we will then have a good look and decide whether what was done was the right thing to do, the wrong thing to do, does it need modifying, does it need scrapping?

“This was an FIA idea in the first place, so I’ve said to them we’ll support whatever they think is the right thing to do.

“But as nobody knows what the right thing to do is, we’ve said we’ll stay where we are and have a look after this race.”