Bernie on: Brexit, female drivers, Putin and Trump

What happens when Advertising Week Europe invites Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and WPP chief and F1 board member at CVC Capital, Martin Sorrell? Well, you get some candid comments, that’s what. Here’s the dialog from an interview the two did in which Advertising Week Europe covered in their piece here. Here is how they put it:

Bernie on a Brexit

He claimed he won’t be voting, but as a self-described “100 per cent outer” made his feelings on the EU referendum clear:

“I don’t see what Europe does for England. [I see] no [economic] benefit at all. Europe has become less important, full stop.

“I don’t think we need to have anything to do with Brussels.”

Bernie on Immigration

“[Immigrants] have not made a contribution.”

To this comment Sorrell, a second-generation immigrant, made an impassioned comparison to the situation in Syria with Nazi German, and questioned if it’s not important that Britain welcomes immigrants, later adding “I’m emotional about it because of my grandparents”.

A seemingly blank stare from Ecclestone led Sorrell to say, “Well, we haven’t got this off to a great start”.

Bernie on Vladimir Putin

“[Vladimir Putin] should be running Europe. We should get rid of Brussels and he should just be in charge.

“He does what he says he’s going to do and gets the job done.  people don’t understand exactly what he wants to do. He wants to put Russia back to what it was, that’s basically the most important thing for him.”

Bernie on Donald Trump

“I think he’d be a fantastic president. I’m sure he’s much more flexible than most of them. If he’s made a mistake, he’s more likely to say: ‘It was a good idea at the time’”

Bernie on gender diversity

On women getting behind the wheel in F1 races: “I don’t know whether a woman would physically be able to drive an F1 car quickly. Women wouldn’t be taken seriously in Formula One”

But women being on the ‘management’ side of things: “Women are more competent and they don’t have massive egos.”

Of course, Sorrell was quick to distance himself for Eccleston’s unpopular sentiments, saying he “violently disagrees” on pretty much everything except the point on Putin whom he thinks world leaders treated “very badly” when it came to their lack of support for the Sochi Olympics. 

Finally, Sorrell said: “I think the reason you make these extreme statements is that you control Formula One” and that he likes to remind people of that even though he sold his stake to CVC, the sports holding company he now runs.

Well that’s surely going to go down well with the outrage mobocracy and Twiteratti. Putin, Trump and another “women can’t handle F1” comment?

You could argue that even Claire Williams, who had a very good female driver in Susie Wolff, wouldn’t put her in as one of the team’s main drivers. While many decry the notion of Ecclestone’s comments, they also heap scorn on Renault F1’s Carmen Jorda.

Ultimately there is a reason for the duality in reaction but Ecclestone knows full well there have been female drivers in F1 and some would argue that there would be more if more chances were given to young female drivers to work the ladder system, earn a super license and get placed in a team.

I’m not sure it’s as easy as that to be honest. Finding another Lewis, Alonso or Vettel in female form would be very difficult. Hell, it’s damned hard finding them in male form let alone female. But would Susie have done much worse than Gutierrez, Nasr, Ericsson or Haryanto? In testing for Williams, she wasn’t that far off the pace of the main drivers so my answer would be no. Unfortunately she does not have a super license.

Some have argued that Danica Patrick would have been a good choice and she did drive in the junior forms of open wheel in Europe but chose a different path.

As for Putin, well, Bernie likes leaders who lead, answer to few and get things done…good or bad. It’s the system and the way leaders like Putin approach the system in a dictatorial fashion that appeals to him and he also likes being controversial.

The Brexit and immigration are certainly topics that galvanize across political ideologies but now you know Mr. E’s position.

Hat Tip: Advertising Weekly Europe