Formula 1: Interview with Bernie Ecclestone

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Formula 1: Interview with Bernie Ecclestone
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What will the three highlights be this year?
Ecclestone: How is Alonso doing at F errari against Massa? Can Vettel meet my expectations and become world champion? And then of course Michael Schumacher: How good is his car. If Michael doesn't win, the car will be blamed for it.

Which of the duels in the top teams is the most explosive?
Ecclestone: That at Ferrari. Fernando is a nice guy outside of the cockpit, but he's a winner. He doesn't like anyone next to him who is faster. And Massa is fast.

Can Schumacher still keep up with the young lions at the age of 41?
Ecclestone: I don't see any disadvantage in his age. At most one advantage. He's seen it all before. He doesn't have to prove anything anymore. He's fit and he's recharged his batteries. Michael would not have come back if he didn't know he could do a good job.

Does Schumacher risk his image if Rosberg were faster?
Ecclestone: Michael is not interested in his image. He wants to race again. If someone was really faster than him, he would accept it.

Formula 1 has a new face: fewer manufacturers, more private teams. Does that mean you lose interest?
Ecclestone: It cannot be said that Toyota and BMW's appearance in Formula 1 was overly exciting. Renault is still there. BMW lives on as the name in Sauber, maybe even better. If we had lost Ferrari, I would have said: Oh my God.

Ferrari claims that the war between Max Mosley and the teams drove the manufacturers away. What do you think?
Ecclestone: I believe that BMW and Toyota have left because they were unsuccessful. Max Mosley wanted to remove the need to spend a lot of money to be successful. The manufacturers should be grateful to him for that. They can't claim that they drove the high costs out of Formula 1. Max tried to accommodate them.

Ferrari accuses the new teams of failingFormula 1 worthy. Are you right?
Ecclestone: Ferrari is right.

But didn't we invite you?
Ecclestone: Yes, but under different conditions. When the teams signed up, they were of the firm opinion that there was a budget limit of 40 million euros. For everyone, including Ferrari. That would have given them a fair chance. I've always warned that a budget limit won't work because it can be overridden at will. Now the teams are realizing that their budget is not enough to be competitive.

How much time should you give the newcomers now?
Ecclestone: How much time did we give Toyota? Long enough.

Will the races without refueling be more exciting?
Ecclestone: That will depend on the tires that are put on at the start. If they wear out quickly under the heavy weight, things could get interesting. The pit stops themselves will definitely be more exciting. Refueling stops were only interesting in the first few years after their introduction. When the teams had perfected the processes, everyone stood in the pits for the same length of time. The refueling determined the idle time, not the tire change.

Will the starting position or the tire wear decide?
Ecclestone: To win you have to be in are on the first two rows and have found a reasonably sensible race set-up. I think that will decide the races. Don't just focus on the tires. Brake wear will play an important role on many tracks.

In recent years, Formula 1 has generated a lot of controversy. How much is too much, how much can the sport take?
Ecclestone: We had too many controversies with a negative aftertaste. Just think of the Singapore scandal with Flavio Briatore. A little fuss is always helpful, either between teams or within a team. Just like the fight between Senna and Prost.

What will change with the new FIA President Jean Todt?
Ecclestone: He will be the business lead differently than Mosley. More like a government than a solo entertainer.

Is your life getting easier?
Ecclestone: It doesn't matter to me. Jean will not get lost in my territory and I will not get involved in the FIA.

One of his first decisions was to introduce a new points system. Was that necessary?
Ecclestone: You shouldn't blame Jean Todt for this. There was a discussion among the teams and that's what came out. As you know, this is not what I have in mind. I still believe that the rider with the most wins is world championshould be. Can you no longer compare the drivers? Well, there have been changes in the point system before. Maybe we should have gone back to the very old format with 10-6-4-3-2-1. That would have been better.

The contract with Bridgestone expires at the end of 2010. How big is the problem of finding a replacement?
Ecclestone: We would definitely find a replacement, but I hope Bridgestone reconsider its decision. We're working on it.

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