Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The difference between F1 and MotoGP? The size of the fines...

I guess Bernie Ecclestone figures that he got off light, after a German judge agreed to drop criminal bribery charges against him, in exchange for a $100,000,000 fine.

Yes, you read that right, the F1 car-racing boss -- living proof that at some point in the past, the relatives of Machiavelli interbred with the relatives of Rasputin -- just paid a fine of a hundred million bucks.

F1 may be on hard times. There are team principals who'd hoped that Bernie's several recent legal problems would force him to relinquish control of the sport, and hopefully free up some of the money the sport spins off, for the benefit of their teams. But obviously 'hard times' is a relative term and Bernie's masterful legal manouvering are proof that at age 83, he's far from a spent force.

I encountered him once, at the Canadian Grand Prix, in Montreal, in about '92 or '93. Those were glory years for F1. Senna and Prost were still active, tobacco sponsorship funneled billions into the sport. And yet, I was able to wrangle two press passes -- one a photo pass with pit access -- through my connections with a Calgary magazine.

I went to the races with a friend, and we traded off the photo pass. I'm sure that it's all handled electronically now, but back then, the pass was an octagonal piece of card that you wore around your neck. Various corners of it were perforated and torn off, if your pass didn't cover that particular area. So it was, like, Hospitality; Paddock; Press Room; Pit; Grid, or whatever.

At one point, my friend had the photo pass, but I had slipped past security into the pit area, and walked up to a scrum of people, one of whom was Bernie Ecclestone.  At that point in time, I'm sure he was already a billionaire. And yet, he was obviously scrutinizing passes, because he saw that I was in an area that wasn't authorized on my pass, and immediately brought that fact to the attention of a burly security man who'd been standing nearby in plain clothes. That dude hustled me back out of the pits.

I remember being amazed at two things. What a horrible looking little man Bernie was, and that as the boss of the whole show, he was that OCD that he actually looked at the passes of people around him.

There are many people who are bitterly critical of the way Dorna runs MotoGP (and World Superbike) and, in the years I've been 'covering' motorcycle racing, I've quite often heard people saying that they wish Ecclestone'd buy our sport, too.

That would mean we'd be at the whim of a despotic Hitler-apologist who, if he didn't really exist, would make an excellent villain in the next Austin Powers movie. Seriously. Google "Bernie Ecclestone's wife" to see to what degree he's a parody of himself. I'll keep the Spaniards, thanks.

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