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My feet are on the ground and I don’t fly off: BernieAt 82, it’s still business as usual for the boss

- A TELEGRAPH EXCLUSIVE

Greater Noida: Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 boss, rarely gives interviews. On Saturday evening, however, he spared time for The Telegraph at the Buddh International Circuit.

The interview took place in his private lounge there.

Ecclestone, incidentally, turned 82 on Sunday. Grinning, he’d declined to be wished in advance. “Let me first make it,” he’d quipped.

The following are excerpts

Q Most describe you as colourful. How would you describe yourself?

A Very ordinary... I actually try and lead an ordinary life... My feet are on the ground and I don’t fly off. I don’t try to impress people and I don’t like it when people try to impress me.

But F1 is all about glitz and glamour...

That’s not for me. The glitz and glamour are, well, part of the business. But that’s it.

Are you someone with strong likes and dislikes?

I don’t have strong likes and dislikes. I take life as it is.

But are you more comfortable with certain people?

I like people who deliver... I employ people who deliver. After all, one gets paid to do a job. I don’t mind people making mistakes, as long as they’ve tried their hardest.

There was a move to make a movie on you. Why did you say no?

Because I’m a private person. Forget the image I may have, I’m a private person.

Recently, there have been reports that a hunt is on for a replacement if criminal charges are slapped on you in Germany. How do you react to such news?

No, no... For purposes of our IPO, potential investors need to know what if... It’s normal (for an IPO), I’ve been told.

You’re synonymous with F1. Are you conscious of what you mean for the sport?

No.

Is it?

Yes.

Have you looked up to or been inspired by somebody?

Mr Enzo Ferrari... Colin Chapman from Lotus... Then, I’ve met so many other people for whom I have so much respect... However, it’s difficult to name one or two.

What makes good administrators?

Dedication. You’ve got to be honest... Don’t cheat anybody.

Your take on Monisha Kaltenborn becoming the first woman Team Principal in F1...

I’m sure she will do well... But I don’t see any other lady getting to that position in the near future... Nobody else seems to be around.

You’ve interacted with heads of state and government for years. Has any one of them left a lasting impression?

King Juan Carlos of Spain.

Why?

King Carlos doesn’t get the recognition he should get, but he’s done such a super job... He’s such a great ambassador for his country. I regard him as a personal friend.

Are you a keen follower of other sport?

Soccer... Till a few years ago, I used to own the Queens Park Rangers team.

Were you a hands-on owner?

(Laughs) Very much hands-off!

It’s hands-on in F1...

You’re right.

Do you have a favourite team in soccer?

Chelsea. I also happen to live in that part of London.

You’re exceptionally fit. What’s the secret?

I try to eat sensible food, don’t drink, except beer if it’s too hot, don’t smoke.

Well, who would be your favourite drivers, say the top-6?

In random order, I’d go for...

JOCHEN RINDT: He was an excellent driver and I was pretty close to him.

[Rindt won the 1970 world championship posthumously. He was killed at 28.]

JUAN MANUEL FANGIO: He was fast and he delivered.

[Fangio won five world championships and lived to be 84.]

STIRLING MOSS: Again, like Fangio, he delivered.

[Moss didn’t win a single world championship, but was very much in the top-bracket.]

SEBASTIAN VETTEL: I like his approach... He doesn’t give up... Look at the way he’s bounced back this season.

[Vettel has already won the world championship twice, back-to-back. He’s looking good for a hat-trick.]

ALAIN PROST: Somehow, nobody talks about him, but look at his career. So much depends on the car... He could have had an even better CV.

[Prost won the world championship four times.]

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: A super driver. What else can you say?

[Schumacher has the maximum wins (91) and won the world championship no less than seven times.]

Finally, how much is it the skill of a driver and to what extent does the car make the difference?

Team work makes the difference... A good driver, a good car and a good set-up... If any of the three things is missing, then there’s trouble. The drivers push for a better car.