Bernie Ecclestone seems to be on a roll this year with the foot-in-mouth disease. First it was the admiration for Hitler and his ability to get things done and now it seems his diarrhea of the mouth has Senna as the victim.

Spanish news paper ran the story. A Brazilian paper called Folha da Sao Paulo has an interview with the F1 commercial rights boss in which they discuss the late Ayrton Senna during the lead up to the Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend. For the younger or new-to-F1 crowd; Senna was one of the great drivers of F1 (yes, arguably the greatest depending on who you talk to). He died a tragic death in 1994 while driving a Williams F1 car and this death prompted a tremendous amount of safety measures in F1.


While discussing Senna and his premature death, Bernie Ecclestone effectively said:

Senna’s death was “Very unfortunate, but the publicity it generated was huge. That was very good for Formula One.”

If that wasn’t enough, he then exclaimed:

“It was a tragedy that we lost Ayrton, but these things happen. He was very popular, but a lot of the people who did not know about Formula One found out about it by the publicity generated by his death”

Ecclestone then goes on to explain how Nelson Piquet Jr. should be back in F1. I would assume he would have been talking about how safety was drastically improved after the accident and that it brought a lot of attention to the lack of safety measures surrounding the head injuries and G-forces sustained in F1.

As F1 Scoop pointed out to me on Twitter, there have been suggestions that this is a misquote but so far, all the sources I have read seem to suggest he was talking about PR and not safety. The suggestion was that it was debunked in the paddock today but two sources in Spanish and Portuguese have looked at the recording, as well as a local radio station, and they say it is an accurate translation. Keep in mind Ecclestone is being translated from English into Portuguese, unless he is fluent in the language (which I doubt). The actual transcript, as printed by the Brazilian paper, does indeed support that he said this. If Ecclestone feels differently, then let English speaking people hear the tapes of what he said. Simple as that. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt, as I said, but I thought that about the Hitler comment too.

Thanks to our friend David Emmett for the scoop.

An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Scott

    It’s not sensitive – but could be true!

  • Gersh

    Bernie and Max’s deaths would be good for F1 as well.

    Just saying…

    • SR

      Not sensative…but oh so true.

  • Vatanen’s first official act should be to ban Bernie from any FIA involvement for life for gross violation of Article 151, “Bringing the sport into disrepute.”

  • Will Ellingham

    Have to side with Bernie on this one… he is absolutely correct… let me qualify:

    A lot of us had forgotten, given the talent and lack of carnage for some time, just how serious the sport remains – to this day. A lot more people tuned in after that.

    Improved safety measures are always instituted after a tragedy like this and that has saved a number of lives since… specifically recall the accidents of Kubica and Massa… enough said?

    • As I said, I’d like to think he was really talking about the attention it brought to the sport from a safety aspect and not a commercial PR aspect. If that is what he actually said and it was lost in translation; then I agree with him completely. But as it is, the published translations don’t mention safety; just PR.

      • Even if the comments were about safety, they’re inexcusable. The life of a competitor is NEVER a fair price to pay for the improvement of safety or viewership. NEVER! It makes me sick to think Bernie or anyone else could ever consider it as such.

        • Will Ellingham

          A good part of the brilliance of Mr. Ecclestone is his recognition of your fantasy world and his ability and balls to sell it back to you. That is the primary reason he has umpteen billion bucks to play with and we don’t!

          Face the reality… these are modern day gladiators and they, the participants, would be the first to concede that.

          • Good point Will…that’s why few underestimate him on just about anything he’s involved in.

      • As I understand it, this had nothing to do with safety. Ecclestone was referring specifically to the publicity Senna’s death generated, and the fact that it boosted viewing figures. Naturally, there is a view that all publicity is good publicity, but that’s a little too cynical, even for me. But then as a very good friend of mine says, no matter how cynical you are, it’s hard to keep up.

  • royce amatique

    Checkout this story on Autosport, and Bernie’s quote. Everyone is effusive in their praise and congratulations and then “wet-blanket Bernie says …

    Bernie Ecclestone: “Well, he’s not world champion until the end of November when the FIA announce it. He’s got enough points, if everything else is alright, to be world champion and he deserves it too. He did a good job. All the question marks from the last few races, in my opinion, now have disappeared.”

  • Nelson DB

    I’ts extremely cynical thinkin’ in that way, but Bernie is wrong for another reason: with Ayrton’s tragedy F1 has lost 2 or 3 years of amazing show, the battle between the Brazilian and Shouey, a battle which could be a golden era of motorsport.. it’s strange Bernie doesn’t consider that.

  • PeterRiva

    I have a question, what’s Bernie’s problem with Button? If we apply his “gold medals” standard, is not Button the winner long ago? The season would have been over two races ago and – presto – Bernie would be losing money every race.
    So, where, exactly is his issue with Button now?
    I really (no sarcasm) don’t understand.

    On the other hand (here’s the sarcasm) we could have a Great race next week, especially if they merge F1 with Grand Theft Auto — 10 points for every track marshall, 100 points for Bernie and 1000 for nailing Max. Oh, and throw in a fireball or two from Dungeons & Dragons!

  • mark h

    What really baffles me – aside from the monumental insensitivity this comment displays – is that Bernie has also stated many times that Schumacher’s era of domination was bad for the sport. (And in this case, I happen to agree.)

    Well, Senna’s death was the main reason for that domination. He had years of fighting with the young charger left in him, and we were robbed of it – turning the mid-late nineties into a shadow of what they might have been.

    Make up your mind, Bernie. (And preferably do so without offending thousands if not millions of people.)

  • The Captain

    Look, I understand it’s going to take a team of highly trained and motivates doctors to surgically remove Bernie’s hands from the F1 money. But could we at least for the good of the sport, surgically seal his mouth shut?

  • Paul Tozer

    I know who’s death WOULD be a benefit to F1

  • The deaths of tragic heroes always generate publicity for anything they were involved in. Duh.