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Bernie savours Formula One feast

Sport’s power broker hails ‘historic’ start to the season

Gulf News

London: Bernie Ecclestone didn’t have his hands free to use his fork and spoon to twirl up his pasta at our lunch because he was too busy clapping them with glee.

The Formula One power broker, plotting a stock-market flotation before the end of the year, could not be happier about his sport’s self promotion in the shape of its eye-catching showcase grands prix.

Seven different victors from the opening seven races, and one of them rank outsider Pastor Malondonado, a no-hoper, grabbing a slice of the action with a shock win in Spain, have added to the dramatic uncertainty of what has become a spectacle not to be missed.

To date those triumphant are 2009 title holder Jenson Button, who has slumped puzzlingly and lamentably since his impressive opener in Australia; double champs Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia and Bahrain; Nico Rosberg, China; Mark Webber in Monaco; and Lewis Hamilton, last time out in Montreal.

Ecclestone, his uneaten spaghetti quickly cooling at our London lunchtime venue, enthused: “In all my years in this business I’ve never known anything like it. It’s historic.”

He added: “Every grand prix has given us something extra special to applaud and be excited about. The whole show, evidenced by the massive TV audiences right across the world, as well as the sell-out circuit attendances, proves that we are on a winner of a championship right now.

“I wonder how many more surprises we are in for before the end of the season. I hope my old heart can stand it.”

The 81-year-old double-billionaire, one of Europe’s richest men, was still buzzing from his memory of the magic of Montreal, when 2008 champion Hamilton put himself in seventh heaven with his first win of the season. He in turn left world-beaters Vettel, the German wonderboy, and Spanish flyer Alonso to sniff the exhaust fumes of his race-a-way McLaren.

The title chase is wide open with no breakaway looming as the multi-million-dollar teams and their mega-rich drivers bid to outwit one another on and off the tracks that have become stages for their skilful outpourings and engineering expertise.

“We are not even at the half-way mark yet,” added Ecclestone, “and the lead in the drivers’ championship is swapping all the time. There’s a lot more fun and drama to come before the end of the season. That’s a guarantee”

All of which adds to the marketability of the F1 show, sale postponed for the moment, but destined for a $10 billion scramble when Ecclestone and his cohorts decide the time is right for the float in the world marketplace.

— Ted Macauley is a motorsports expert based in London, UK.