I’d like to begin this letter by saying how much I admire what you have done in the sport of F1. You have made it into one of the most successful businesses on the planet, and made yourself tremendously rich in the process. You have brought F1 to new audiences and new arenas that would never have seen it otherwise, and used your talent for business to make the sport more accessible, and even, one might say, greater.
It is with some jealousy that I look back on your sale of F1’s commercial rights to CVC (which earned you some petty cash) and the way you still managed to retain control. You have weasled your way out of a number of scrapes, always managing to emerge on top and with some much-needed humour. You have rejected the worst excesses of the teams, and taken no nonsense from them. You have been a fantastic figurehead for the sport.
But now, Bernie, I feel it’s time for you to leave. F1 is moving on. The FIA is changing. Ari Vatanen will probably be the President of the FIA by October, and nobody knows what kind of a president he will be, but he is unlikely to want the same relationship with you as had his predecessor. Meanwhile the sport is changing too. The teams are showing that the sport you have helped create is effectively now theirs. You won’t be able to take on the strengthened teams without Max to back you up.
The icing on the cake of this sentiment has been your remarks this week. I know you didn’t mean as much as was read into them, but they were unacceptable things to say. At the very least they were a bit anachronistic-sounding, and it’ll be very difficult to shed that image now. With the history that you have in the sport, and the way things are going, it might just be time to hang up your pitpass.
You’re 78 now, Bernie. Isn’t it time to go and sit on that yacht, and just watch the sport as the fan I know you really are, without having to worry about it? I know that if I were you, I’d apologise a bit, appoint a nice strong successor, try and get a bit of a send-off and go and relax. The alternative is trying to hang on to gradually diminshing power, while people attack and then ridicule you for the things you say. Which are getting a bit sillier, the older you get.
Finally I’d like to thank you for what you’ve done in the sport that I love. But there are optimum moments to leave, and the right time for you is around now.
A concerned friend.