They are famously close on a personal level, but for the sake of his sport Bernie Ecclestone wants to see Sebastian Vettel suffer in 2012. The Red Bull driver has won the past two championships on the trot, including last season when the title battle was over long before the finale.
“It wasn’t good. The only person that would say no to that would be Sebastian, but I think everybody else would agree with it,” F1 chief executive Ecclestone told reporters on Thursday.
He had just announced a new connectivity deal for F1 with Indian multinational Tata’s communications subsidiary. The aim is to modernise F1 in that area because, as the 81-year-old puts it, he is “getting old” and was “asleep” to the world’s new digital era. But more immediately important to Ecclestone is a better show in 2012.
“I’m surprised we survived with (the TV ratings) we got right at the end,” said the Briton, referring again to Vettel’s dominance. “We need to see everybody else wake up.”
Another element he hopes is in place this year is a fully-firing Lewis Hamilton, but Ecclestone admitted the 2008 world champion might have to farewell McLaren.
“I think if he doesn’t perform this year, he’ll be looking maybe to move on, and the team may also be looking for him to move on,” he said.
And yet another golden egg for Ecclestone would be a winning Michael Schumacher, but he admitted the seven time world champion might need to sit at the wheel of a Red Bull for that to happen.
“I don’t think Sebastian would mind,” he said. “I’m not saying I don’t want Mark (Webber) around, I’m just saying it would be nice to see him (Schumacher) in the car where you know that if he doesn’t win it’s his fault, not the car.”
Less important, Ecclestone argues, is the rare absence in F1 of a single Italian driver.
“If Ferrari is winning,” he insisted, “it doesn’t make any difference.”
Indeed, there are bigger fish on the F1 supremo’s plate: the thorny issue of Bahrain’s return in 2012, and a looming fight with the teams over the next Concorde Agreement.
On Bahrain, he joked: “Pity I’m not going to be there myself but don’t worry. No, I shall be there, don’t worry.”
As for the teams wanting a bigger share of F1’s revenue pie, Ecclestone answered: “I think they are right. If they don’t ask they are not going to get (it), are they?”
But when asked to rate their chances of success, the Briton replied typically: “Slim to none.”