Already well-known for his desire to broaden Formula 1's scope in terms of the countries it visits, Bernie Ecclestone now appears keen to reach out to more culturally and ethnically diverse audiences too in proclaiming that what the sport needs most of all is 'a female driver who is black and Jewish'.
The top flight has been a predominantly male preserve right from the official inception of the world championship all the way back in 1950, with only five women having ever made the grade – and just two of them, Maria Teresa de Filippis in the late 1950s and the late Lella Lombardi a little under two decades later, actually seeing the starting lights.
Of late there has been much talk about IndyCar's first-ever female race-winner, Danica Patrick – who has a significant media profile both sides of the Pond – with speculation linking the Wisconsin native to an ultimately abortive test outing with Honda F1 (now Brawn GP) back at the end of 2008 and a seat at the new, North Carolina-based USGPE outfit next year. According to Ecclestone, however, the 27-year-old Sports Illustrated
pin-up does not quite fit the bill.
“I don't care who drives,” the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive told Spanish newspaper Marca
, before adding: “It would be fantastic to have a female driver who is black and Jewish.”
Ecclestone, from a Jewish background himself, is keen to generate greater global interest in F1 and – Lewis Hamilton apart – has lamented the lack of celebrity superstars in the top flight in a similar mould to football's David Beckham. He was critical of the publicity-shy nature of many of the sport's current leading lights such as former double world champion Fernando Alonso, who he described as 'stupid' for not doing more to promote F1 in the way that some of the Spaniard's predecessors such as triple title-winner Sir Jackie Stewart continue to do.
The 78-year-old was, however, more complimentary about the Oviedo ace's skills inside the cockpit, suggesting the 21-time grand prix-winner possesses all the necessary talent to lift a third crown – only not in a car as uncompetitive as his current Renault. Alonso is widely believed to be Maranello-bound in 2011, if not earlier.
“They have told me that Alonso hasn't signed anything with Ferrari,” Ecclestone contended. “They told me that I got it wrong.”
On the subject of the FIA's new budget cap, finally – due to be announced in all of its detail today (Thursday) – the sport's ringmaster was blunt, insisting: “We could not continue to waste so much money as before. We can be competitive with reduced budgets.”