An rare audience with Bernie
"The thing about Formula 1," remarked a paddock chum, late on Saturday night in the Barcelona paddock, "is that the people in it are so alive. Go to a school reunion some time and you'll see how many of your old friends have given up and settled for a boring life."
That observation immediately put me in mind of Bernie Ecclestone, this month's cover star, who at 84 shows no sign of relinquishing his iron grip on F1. One reader's question this month teases Bernie about when he might retire. "No idea," he snaps back. "When I feel I can't do the job properly." So clearly not yet, then.
I'd hazard a guess that one of the many reasons Bernie remains at the helm is that he still gets a thrill from a sport he's controlled for more than 40 years - indeed that it still makes him feel alive. Formula 1 can be frustrating, infuriating, exhausting, draining, exasperating, polarising and many other 'challenging' adjectives. But, you know what? It's never, ever, boring, not from the inside, not for a nanosecond. So why would Bernie choose to step aside from a top job that has not only made him staggeringly wealthy, but which remains one of the two or three most influential in world sport?
The key word here is 'choose' for there are influences around Ecclestone that remain beyond his absolute control. He must, for example, keep happy the board of CVC Capital Partners, the private equity firm that holds Formula 1's commercial rights. This means he must continue to score mega-buck deals with new territories, such as Abu Dhabi, Russia and Azerbaijan, even if this expansion away from the sport's traditional European heartland remains terribly unpopular in some quarters. But for as long as he can continue to close these and other deals, Ecclestone's position remains secure, regardless of his age.
The question of his departure remains pertinent, however, because even this remarkably resilient octogenarian billionaire can't go on forever - although he did once remark to an interviewer that he'd never die. He's quizzed again on immortality in this month's issue, but rather than have me reveal what he has to say on that particular topic, why not turn to page 40 and find out for yourself. Conversations with Bernie, while often destabilising, are never less than entertaining - and this one's a cracker.
But enough already on Mr Ecclestone, for we have plenty more for you to enjoy this month. For starters, we've investigated why it is that Fernando Alonso, despite driving a thus far painfully slow McLaren-Honda and seeing his old team, Ferrari, take a marked upswing in competitiveness, is looking happier than he ever has during his long Formula 1 career (p60). We've also got beneath the skin of the oh-so-elegant Ferrari SF15-T, surely one of the loveliest-looking cars ever to emerge from Maranello, even if it's not yet the fastest (p52). And by way of continuing the 'scarlet fever', we've joined Daniel Ricciardo on a blast round the rubbly roads of Sicily, as he tackles part of the epic Targa Florio route in a vintage Alfa Romeo (p68).
Sure beats a high school reunion...