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Bernie’s Thoughts on 2007

Bernie Ecclestone has been interviewed by The Times newspaper regarding his opinion on how things will go in F1 next year. There are no great surprises, but “Mr. Formula One” has a few words to say to Jenson Button, my tip for the title. To be champion, Button needs to display the drive and commitment so evident in Michael Schumacher, says Bernie.


Bernie Ecclestone

“Michael has given up so much to achieve what he has achieved,” Ecclestone said. “He is dedicated to what he is and puts himself under an awful lot of pressure. He’ll win a race and next day start testing. I’m not sure whether Jenson is prepared to do that.

“I would say that Jenson is much like the old-time drivers. The Graham Hill type of driver with all the talent that they need, except nowadays you’ve got to be dedicated, too.

“The biggest thing that can help Honda is Jenson,” he said. “He needs to get stuck into it and stuck into them, making sure they deliver him the equipment to make him a consistent winner.”

Nothing much to argue with there, although I sometimes wonder if Michael is really so much more dedicated than the other drivers. Everyone knows the level of commitment and fitness required these days and I suspect that most of the drivers work just as hard as does Michael. They would be fools to do otherwise and none of them strike me as lacking in intelligence.

There is no doubt that Michael does have something special, however; you don’t win seven world titles without that. If I were asked to name the difference, I would have to say just two words: Flavio Briatore.

It was Briatore who saw Michael’s potential and gave him everything he needed to fulfill it, including the adoration and obedience of the Benetton team. By the time the German went to Ferrari, he knew exactly what was required to win consistently. He supplied the talent, determination and fitness to succeed as an individual but he also insisted on the same level of commitment from his team. In effect, he created a new Ferrari team by bringing in the personnel he needed and concentrating their minds on the task ahead.

But it was Briatore who gave Michael the understanding of what it takes to win: the undivided support of the team. And one suspects that Bernie is right in doubting that Jenson has the monomania necessary to achieve that – he seems too nice a guy. At the moment the Honda team are betting on both horses, giving Button and Barrichello equal attention without preference. I wonder whether this can be the right approach for a team on the edge of success but not quite there yet.

So it comes down to the old argument between having two star drivers or a clear number one and number two. Looking at Michael’s success, we would have to say that the second system is more effective. Pour your energies into the faster driver and keep the second man as back-up if needed, that is the way to go. Equality brings competition between team members and can result in the loss of a championship, as Williams discovered when both Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann were their drivers in 1981, splitting the points and losing out ultimately to Nelson Piquet (who was a definite number 1 in the Brabham team).

Can Button persuade Honda to favor him over Barrichello? Perhaps if Button has a very special race in Brazil this weekend, he might achieve it. But Rubens isn’t going to like that one bit…

2 Responses to “Bernie’s Thoughts on 2007”

  1. [...] Honda, however, will have pretty much the same team as last year (okay, I know they lost an aerodynamicist to McLaren but one designer does not a team make). Both of their drivers have something to prove – Barrichello that he is not just a cast-off second man from Ferrari, Button that the promise of former years is still there and just waiting for the right equipment. And Button will have been fired up by Bernie Ecclestone’s comments of a few weeks ago. [...]

  2. [...] shows that he does not have much hope for success this year. It reminds me too painfully of Bernie Ecclestone’s assessment of Jenson last [...]

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