Bernie Ecclestone was replaced by Chase Carey at the top of F1, but Ross Brawn is crucial cog
The 86-year-old claimed last week he had been ‘deposed’ by the new owners of the sport – Liberty Media – who brought in former 21st Century Fox executive Chase Carey to replace him.
Ecclestone, a self-titled dictator, has ruled over F1 for the majority of his adult life and shaped it into the globally popular sport it is today.
But his autocratic stylings, fiery media approach and scrapes with the law have not endeared him to everyone in the paddock.
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When his shunt sideways into an ‘advisory role’ was confirmed on Monday, most were quick to praise his work, although few disagreed that it was time for him to move on.
However, immediate progress is unlikely – in fact, it’s nearly impossible.
Carey admitted that walking into Ecclestone’s office was no mean feat.
Bernie Ecclestone is expected to play an advisory role in F1 proceedings this year
"I think the reality is that Bernie has really ran the business as a one-man show," he said.
"That's not a criticism, it's just the reality.”
It means his first challenge – once he’s found where Bernie has hidden the big stapler – will be unpicking and figure out all of Ecclestone’s relationships and foibles, which have been built up over decades.
The contracts and working practices will have far-reaching consequences that Carey cannot simply wipe away with an executive order or two…
The team agreements in the sport currently run until 2020, meaning there will be another four seasons of Ecclestone racing – no changes can be made unless there is agreement between all 10 teams, an endeavour paramount to herding a large group of cats into a small bathtub.
Many of the initial changes therefore will be superficial as Liberty’s three-man board try to make the progress they feel their predecessors failed to in the last four or five years.
However, there is a way out.
The saviour from much of this will be Ross Brawn.
Ross Brawn will be in a position to work with teams within F1
F1 fans will be familiar with his face, most often seen look over his shoulder back into the garage from the pit-wall, once Ferrari then Mercedes. There would be the signature straightening of the frameless glasses or a fist pump as he secures yet another 1-2 – but he won’t be celebrating any victories this time around.
He has jumped upstairs into a motorsport director role, part of the Liberty triumvirate – along with commercial guru Sean Bratches – who will set look to build on the foundation of Ecclestone’s empire.
He may have got a new pair of specs – they are horn-rimmed now for a more intellectual look – but Brawn is still one of F1’s canniest operators. He holds the respect of almost everyone in the paddock and crucially will be able to understand the unique pressures of running a team. Ecclestone was too far removed from that responsibility and empathy was never his strong point.
Brawn will act as a liaison between Liberty and F1’s establishment, or what remains of it.
His penchant for revolution is nothing new. No-one will forget his year running the eponymous Brawn GP as they won a stunning World Constructors’ Championship.
And while there are no points for his achievements in his new job, there is a greater prize at stake: the future of the sport itself.
In an evolving marketplace, there will be some huge questions asked of F1 in the coming years, the answers to which will determine whether it can maintain its place in the global entertainment spectrum.
It will require brains, and Brawn, to weather the storm.