McLaren Executive Director Zak Brown has offered a tribute to Bernie Ecclestone following the news he will be stepping down from the role of Chief Executive Officer after 40 years at the helm Formula 1.
The F1 supremo has been become a figure synonymous with F1 over the last four decades but the arrival of new owners Liberty Media was always expected to put his position under threat as it forges ahead with plans to modernise the sport.
Though many anticipated this to come later in the year, the 86 year-old will instead switch to a chairman emeritus role ahead of the 2017 season, with Chase Carey assuming his CEO duties.
A potentially seismic day for F1 ahead of what is expected to herald sweeping changes across the sport over the next couple of years, McLaren's Brown – who himself only took over from Ron Dennis at McLaren officially last month – paid tribute to Ecclestone whilst welcoming the new set-up comprising Carey, Ross Brawn and Sean Bratches.
“Formula 1 wouldn't be the international sporting power-house that it is today without the truly enormous contribution made over the past half-century by Bernie Ecclestone. Indeed, I can't think of a single other person who has had anything like as much influence on building a global sport as he has.
“Bernie will be a very hard act to follow, but he's created a fantastic springboard from which Chase Carey and his Liberty Media colleagues will be able to take Formula 1 forward and make it even bigger and even better. And we at McLaren will be eager to help them – indeed we already enjoy great relationships with the Liberty Media principals and we're looking forward to working very closely with them.
“How will 'bigger and better' manifest itself? I think the clue is in the words 'liberty' and 'media'. Over the next decade I expect the way Formula 1 is run will become both freer and more fan-friendly, and as such we can expect to see new generations of Formula 1 devotees recruited and delighted via the proactive embracing of digital and social media, gaming etc. Fan engagement is where it's at these days, and it's clear that the Liberty Media guys get that.
“But, as I say, today is a day on which we should all pay tribute to a remarkable visionary entrepreneur called Bernie Ecclestone, and to say thank you to him too.”