Bernie Ecclestone Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Knute Rockne, the legendary American football player and coach once said: “One man practising sportsmanship is far better than 50 preaching it.”

Late on Friday, the world watched in gaping awe as 89-year-old former Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone termed black people as being “more racist that white people” during a television interview.

Formula One was quick on the draw.

“At a time when unity is needed to tackle racism and inequality, we completely disagree with Bernie Ecclestone’s comments, which have no place in Formula One or society,” read a statement from Liberty Media’s Chase Carey, the American who took over from Ecclestone, in 2017.

“Mr Ecclestone has played no role in F1 since he left our organisation in 2017. His title of chairman emeritus, which was honorific, expired in January 2020,” the statement added.

The one-time driver, who became a businessman and ran the sport as a personal fiefdom for more than 40 years, has over the years quite shown his unwillingness to curtail his tongue.

From professing admiration for Adolf Hitler because “he was able to get things done”, to loving Russian president Vladimir Putin so much that he would “take a bullet for him”, Ecclestone’s worst one perhaps came in 2005, when he decreed that “women should be dressed in white like all domestic appliances”.

The world may have brushed all these past demeanours aside. But for the octogenarian to come up with his latest rants, it doesn’t feel good at all. It simply doesn’t fit in this day and time especially when the entire world is being challenged through so many things all at one time, not least racism and its backlash, and the coronavirus pandemic.

Perhaps we could show him an inkling of sympathy considering what exactly Ecclestone brought to motorsport through the years.

And that would mean attempting to understand the man, exactly the way he would want to portray himself to be before the world.

Ecclestone with Chase Carey

Born in the English county of Suffolk — known to some as “God’s Own County”- Ecclestone managed to acquire a 500cc Cooper F3 racing car and participated at most of the races at Brand’s Hatch. Following a collision with Bill Whitehouse, later killed in an F2 crash at Rheims, Bernie was thrown from the cockpit and landed in the public car park and the driver retired from race driving.

By then, he was into a number of business ventures, demonstrating his financial acumen by making a lot of money. And among other things, Ecclestone was a Mercedes dealer, and sold cars to stars such as Shirley Bassey. Less visibly, Ecclestone was a property speculator, and he made a pile of money there as well.

From then on, there was no cap — like the impending one coming into the sport shortly — on Ecclestone’s limitations as he took total control of motorsport to emerge as the king of Formula 1.

Ecclestone has been living in Switzerland with his 44-year-old Brazilian wife Fabiana Flosi, who is expecting his first son. The former F1 superstar has had three daughters from two previous marriages and his only son is expected to arrive any time during the two opening Austrian races on July 5 and 12.

Perhaps, it would be best with all that money, and the power that comes along, Ecclestone doesn’t forget how to step away from the sport that he helped build over the years. That could best suit everyone.