Formula 1: Bernie Ecclestone says new owners don't want his input

By Andrew Benson & Tom ClarksonChief F1 writer and pit-lane reporter in Bahrain
Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone
Ecclestone has returned to the F1 paddock for the first time since the sport was taken over

Ex-F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone says the sport's owners do not want him involved in the running of the business.

The 86-year-old, ousted when US group Liberty Media took over F1 in January, said the new owners "believe I haven't done a very good job".

"The last thing they need is me to have any input because they want to change things," Ecclestone told BBC Sport.

"They know I would have changed them before if I thought they needed changing."

Ecclestone, who is attending a race for the first time this season in Bahrain this weekend, has been kept on by the F1 Group in a new role as chairman emeritus, in which he can be consulted for advice.

Asked if he was missing his former role, Ecclestone said: "Not particularly, I'm still in F1.

"What people don't understand is I'm still in the company. Everything's the same.

"I've been upgraded from chief executive to a much higher position. It's so high, I can't even see what's going on."

He added: "It's not a case of things being difficult or not being difficult. You've got what you've got and you've got to do [what you can] with what you've got.

"Imagine if suddenly a doctor said you've got cancer. Nothing I can do about it. You've got to get on with life as it is. Which is what I'm doing."

'They've bought the car and they are going to drive it'

New F1 chairman Chase Carey has paid tribute to the work Ecclestone has done in establishing F1 as a major global sport, but said he felt it was time for a new approach.

"I think over Bernie's career he deserves a great deal of credit for the sport that was built," said Carey.

"In recent years there are things we think can be done to really take the sport to another level so we are looking to bring in a number of new initiatives, marketing, digital, sponsors, and create more of a spirit of partnerships amongst the teams, the promoters and the like."

Asked if he believed the new owners would continue to be able to bring in $1.5bn a year in revenue, Ecclestone said: "No idea. [They] should do better.

"That's the reason they bought it because they thought I hadn't done a very good job and they could do better and they probably will."

Under Carey, F1 is now run on a day-to-day basis by former Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn and US television marketing expert Sean Bratches.

Ecclestone still has a lot to offer - Horner

Asked whether he had faith in them, Ecclestone: They have bought the car and they are going to drive it. It is not a case of having faith.

"They have bought a company and they are going to make it work."

The new owners want to open up the sport and expand its audience, partly by exploiting digital media. They have already loosened restrictions on what teams and drivers can show from inside the track on social networks.

Ecclestone, who has long said he does not see the internet as a valuable tool, said: "We probably mucked around with that before even people called it social media. While it was on my watch we were exploring social media.

"That's why I didn't explore it too much because I couldn't see too much coming out of it. It was just going to be enormous cost."

'It's important to capture people watching by accident'

Liberty, now renamed the F1 Group, is for now operating within the contracts Ecclestone completed before his departure.

One of the most controversial was his decision to sell the UK TV rights exclusively to pay-television channel Sky from 2019-24. The deal is said to be worth in the region of £160m a year but some teams are concerned about what they see as an inevitable drop in audiences.

Asked whether going behind a paywall was the right approach, Ecclestone said: "I wouldn't have done it, but I don't know. These people are TV specialists."

When it was pointed out that he did the deal, he said: "No, the Sky deal I was happy with, they do a bloody good job. I would have rather stayed with the BBC but they couldn't afford to keep F1; that's why we lost them.

"The BBC did a super job and I was disappointed we lost them but I was happy Sky have come up and done a good job."

He added that coverage on free-to-air television was "important for everybody".

"It's important you can capture people that by accident are watching and then stay when they see what they like, which is what happened with the BBC."

Sky has said the British Grand Prix and highlights of other races will be shown on free to air from 2019, but is not yet clear on whether that is on one of its own channels or if the rights will be sold on to one of the major terrestrial channels.

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