MARCH 25, 2017
Ecclestone hopes for strong Ferrari in Australia
Bernie Ecclestone is not in Melbourne, but from a distance he made clear his fingers are crossed for a strong Ferrari in the 2017 season opener.
"I really hope they will be strong," said the former F1 supremo, who according to La Gazzetta dello Sport is currently in Brazil, the native country of his current wife.
Ecclestone, 86, did not always make the long trip to Melbourne, but his absence is being felt this weekend as the era with his successors in place begins.
"I'm fine. There's no problem," he told correspondent Andrea Cremonesi when asked how he is dealing with the start of F1's push into the future without him.
"The new owners have a different idea of how the sport should be run, and they have every liberty to implement it. I wish them all the best," said Ecclestone.
"I don't see myself as a retiree," he added. "I'm not outside formula one as I'm still an advisor or honorary president."
But he doesn't have an active role, either, although he is willing to offer Liberty some early advice.
"It's necessary to work closely with the race organisers," he said. "The grands prix have to be promoted better. And formula one has to be more affordable. The ticket prices have to go down."
It's a slightly odd admission from Ecclestone, who was notorious for driving race fees sky-high. He also admitted he is no fan of successor Ross Brawn's idea of a non-world championship race to trial new race formats.
"We've talked about it before and I haven't changed -- today's format works," he insists. "Modern formula one is the result of the journey it has been on."
Ecclestone always said he didn't think Brawn had a role at the top of F1, and now he adds: "Brawn was a key part of Benetton and Ferrari winning, but that was a different thing to now.
"Let's see the facts before we judge him," he added.
Finally, Ecclestone returned to the theme that one of the best things for F1 right now is if Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel fought for and won the 2017 title.
"It's true that at the time I wanted Alonso and then Vettel to be at Ferrari," he said. "Because I know how important it is for the sport that Ferrari is competitive."
But he denies that he pushed for the 2017 rule changes to attack Mercedes' position of dominance.
"The rules weren't made for or against anyone," Ecclestone insisted. "Mercedes has dominated because they did their job better than the others.
"Now let's see how things look in Australia."