You either love him or hate him, but as he approaches his 80th birthday later this month, F1 commercial rights-holder Berne Ecclestone has given an enlightening interview to the sport's official website in which he muses that much of his phenomenal success has been down to 'luck' – and insists he has never been motivated by either money or power.
That last assertion might well be taken with a large pinch of salt by many, given that a common school of thought is that one of the principal reasons behind F1's increasing shift away from its traditional European heartland in favour of heading ever-further eastwards is a financially-motivated one. Ecclestone – who has variously been described as the sport's 'fixer', supremo, ringmaster, problem-solver and even problem-maker – assures that nothing could in fact be further from the truth.
“It means zero to me,” he underlined, when asked about the importance of money, power and success in his life and career, adding that much of it has come about simply because 'I've been lucky so often with many things'. “I just do what I think I have to do. If you send me to do a job, I would do the best that I could for you. Is that being successful? I am just doing a job – and what I do, I hope I do well.
“I have never done anything for money; money is a by-product of what I do, from the early days onwards. I had a very successful business when I was 20-years-old. What motivated me even then was to do good deals – not to make money. Money comes out of good deals, which people don't understand.
“I don't think that you will find anyone who is more than comfortably off doing what he does just to make more money. I would rather not go without money, but it is not the most important thing. Success? Success you get if you have achieved something. Not having success would mean doing nothing – lying in bed all day long.
“Probably others just haven't been prepared to give up what you have to give up to do a proper job – I have given a lot of things up because of this. I was once asked what I would write in my job description and I said I am a fire-fighter. That is exactly what I am – a fire-fighter! A lot of people think that I start more fires than I put out...”
Confessing that he hopes he is 'a human being in F1', the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive reflected back on how he had got to where he is now, from humble beginnings as the Suffolk-born son of a fisherman and subsequently a used car dealer – and expanded on his assessment that good fortune has played a large part in what he has accomplished over the past six decades or so.
“What you have to do, when an opportunity is there, is to take it,” he stressed, admitting that he never took inspiration from any kind of role model. “A lot of people stumble through life saying 'I could have done this' and 'I could have done that'. I took opportunities. It's the right time and the right place and having the guts to take up the opportunity.
“One thing I do remember was during the war; I was out picking potatoes to make some money when a German warplane went down just metres from where I was. The impact picked me up and blew me metres away, but that was it – I didn't even have minor injuries! That was luck! And this luck had nothing to do with me. I had no ego, I was not successful – I was just bloody lucky. Obviously, a lot of people must feel that they were unlucky that day...