You ask the questions: Bernie Ecclestone
Batten down the hatches! Man the barricades! F1 Racing has secured an exclusive one-to-one with Bernie Ecclestone - and my oh my he certainly hasn't held back. You'd be kind of disappointed if he did, right...?
Words: Norman Howell
Bernie Ecclestone rarely gives sit-down interviews: the quick-fire paddock soundbite is his preferred way. But F1 Racing has been granted a rare one-on-one audience with Mr E.
He is standing behind a large desk, immaculate, as always, in a white shirt and dark-grey trousers. A handshake.
"How are you Bernie?" we ask, by way of internationally approved opening gambit.
"Busy. Busier every day. If you want it done, you've got to do it yourself."
He points to one of the two chairs across from his desk. He sits down. "Let's start." When interviewing Bernie Ecclestone, small talk is not on the agenda. Time, as always, is money.
When are you going to retire?
Richard Bateman, UK
No idea. When I feel I can't do the job properly.
What is the strategy to attract new fans to the sport?
Kristian Soderberg, Finland
I don't know. Maybe someone else should answer that. What is it that attracted fans to this sport 30 or 40 years ago, and what's changed? That is the bottom line. Maybe other forms of entertainment, because of television, have taken away a big chunk of people, who would have watched F1 and are now watching something else. These other things are now accessible; before, they weren't. Football is big, big, big. Thousands of games. We have 20 'games' per year. Just think of the number of football games in each country that people can watch. And sponsors - they come to us if they want to position their product in F1. We can offer them 20 different variations of where they can go and how they can appear, but with football... think of how many games they play on a weekend, in every country. The world has changed.
What is the driving force that makes you do what you do?
Staffan Karlsson, Sweden
I suppose it is no different than if I were a racing driver. You want to win. And I don't know whether I am winning or losing until the end of the year. If Formula 1 is successful, then I think I am winning.
What advice would you offer to your eventual successor?
Ricardo Quinonez, USA
Well, I don't think there will be one person. There will be a group of people all doing different things. Maybe that's better. Maybe that is a better way. [His eyes smile behind his wide-rimmed glasses: he knows that he will be the hardest act to follow.]
What are the chances of V10 or V8 engines coming back?
Adam Morilla, UK
I wish I knew how to answer that honestly. I'd like to see it happen. We should never have got rid of them. People should understand that when this engine was thought about, nobody realised it would turn into what it is. It's a powerplant, not an engine. It has nothing to do with cars, it will never be used in cars. We do need a KERS, which cars now have, and it works, but this system would never be commercially usable. And I think that more important than that, it is not really F1. It's not what attracts people to F1, the noise and so forth. Think of it like this: if tonight you were to go to see a ballet and you saw the girls in running shoes, well, you'd be surprised. It's not what you were expecting.
If you could bring one former venue back to the Formula 1 calendar, what race would it be and why?
Gianni Fasulo, UK
Argentina was always a good race. The people were great - they loved motor racing in that part of the world. Otherwise, I don't know which I would bring back. Can't think of any races we've lost that I'd want to bring back. It would be nice to race in France, if it worked properly. That would be good for historical reasons. But, after all, we are a world championship. We used to be a European championship. It's as simple as that.