JANUARY 5, 2009

Stewart on the offensive

Sir Jackie Stewart has started the New Year with an unveiled attack on Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley, arguing that the two need to leave Formula 1 in order for the sport to move on. Talking to The Times newspaper, Stewart said that "the era of big change is now essential because the sport has grown larger than either the governors or the commercial-rights holders. And that's just a fact. It has taken too long to achieve the things it should have achieved years ago and that other sports have long ago matured to, and other sports have prepared themselves more fully for the opportunities that have come their way."

Stewart says that Ecclestone rules F1 "and nobody is up for taking on a battle with him. Bernie has such power and influence that he could suffocate almost any performer who would dare to suggest that there must be change." He also questions whether there is a succession plan as Ecclestone is 78.

"That is wrong," he says. "The commercial reality has to be recognised ... and there has be continuity that the ageing process makes necessary."

Stewart says that Ecclestone and Mosley rule in an authoritarian manner and are like "Siamese twins" but he says that "they haven't looked after the house properly and the foundations are built on just this two-man working relationship. This has evoked concern and apprehension on the part of those involved in the sport. When Max Mosley had the scandal erupt around him, how many team principals or owners spoke out? None. Why, you may ask? When McLaren were, according to some, victimised how many of the other teams thought, 'That could be us, we must stand behind them.' Who did? In fear of repercussions, nobody did."

Stewart also says that the finances of the sport need to be re-examined.

"Nothing is coming back into the sport," he says. "The financial distribution of Formula 1 appears to have been sorted out by two people who have directed it in whichever way they have seen fit. Although this has been a significant benefit in some ways, it has also hurt the sport because the balance of contribution within Formula 1 is absolutely untenable. The teams have got all the capital investment, yet they get no more than 50% of the revenues. The next largest capital investment is by the racetracks who currently receive little or nothing from the revenues apart from what they get for bums on seats. Hardly any of them receive anything from TV revenues or the circuit advertising or the title sponsorship or the commercial hospitality. How can they reinvest when they have little or no income outside of spectator attendance fees?"

Stewart also says that it is "ridiculous" that there is no Grand Prix in North America.

The former World Champion also attacked Mosley, who has never a big fan of the Scot.

"I think Max should remove himself from the FIA completely and from motorsport and the motor industry," Stewart says. "The FIA should replace him with somebody not from within its organisation or even within motorsport. They should go out and headhunt a CEO who is going to rebuild the structure in line with modern practice to satisfy the investors in the sport and to give the FIA total transparency. The scandal created the opportunity for a new structure to be born. That opportunity has been overtaken by one man's insistence on remaining, which would have been impossible had it been an Olympic committee, the Football Association or a publicly held company. How can we accept that in a sport so dependent on multinational corporations and even governments for its revenues and which also requires a totally transparent and independent rule-making body?"

Stewart's comments will not go down well with those on the receiving end.