Last Friday, Bernie Ecclestone once again set the international motorsport community alight, and it certainly wasn’t with his smile. No, as ever, he opened his mouth in an interview (this time with The Times) and a line of audaciously appalling prose flowed forth like water.
“In a lot of ways, terrible to say this I suppose, but apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was in the way that he could command a lot of people, able to get things done.
“In the end he got lost, so he wasn’t a very good dictator because either he had all these things and knew what was going on and insisted, or he just went along with it . . . so either way he wasn’t a dictator.”
He also went on to say that “[Democracy] hasn’t done a lot of good for many countries — including [Britain].” But he wasn’t done yet; in case anyone had missed out on being offended, he went on to add:
“Politicians are too worried about elections,” he said. “We did a terrible thing when we supported the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. He was the only one who could control that country. [The Taliban] was the same. We move into countries and we have no idea of the culture. The Americans probably thought Bosnia was a town in Miami. There are people starving in Africa and we sit back and do nothing but we get involved in things we should leave alone.
“I prefer strong leaders. Margaret Thatcher made decisions on the run and got the job done. She was the one who built this country up slowly. We’ve let it go down again. All these guys, Gordon and Tony, are trying to please everybody all the time.
“Max would do a super job. He’s a good leader with people. I don’t think his background would be a problem.”
Got all that? Processed it fully? Good. This interview, of course, has done exactly what I’m guessing Bernie intended it to do. It’s taken almost all possible attention away from the Manor Grand Prix/Alan Donnelly fiasco and placed it squarely back in the “there’s that fool Bernie, shooting his evil eagle beak off again” camp.
Sure, what he said was inane and offensive and inflammatory, but I don’t think you get where he’s gotten in life without knowing how to attract and divert public attention and scrutiny exactly where you want it to go. We’d do well to pay attention to what happens in the coming weeks over the actual controversy that’s important and could affect F1 as we now know it, rather than this cynical attempt at distraction.
The point is, he’s not telling us anything new. We’ve all seen this play before. Something actually important within the realm of F1 happens, and Bernie distracts us with another completely insensitive commentary on some decidedly un-PC matter. Or several, if the thing he’s trying to pull our attention away from is of large enough concern. If that’s any sort of measuring stick to go by, this thing with Manor must be absolutely huge. Watch for it.