Johansson: Liberty should have kept Bernie around


Former Ferrari and McLaren driver Stefan Johansson believes new Formula One owners Liberty Media would have been wiser in keeping Bernie Ecclestone in their management structure for a few years.

John Malone’s US conglomerate completed its takeover of the sport last month and while Ecclestone was initially supposed to stay on board for three years in bid to ease the transition the 86-year-old was forced to step down from his role as CEO right after the Liberty deal.

“It was a weird feeling when I first heard of the announcement and talking with other friends from Formula 1 it seems that everyone agrees that it’s kind of sad, he’s been like a grandfather to all of us,” Johansson wrote in his latest blog entry.

“The change is definitely a big deal. I can’t think of anyone in the paddock now who was there before Bernie. It will be very interesting to see what happens.

“Personally I feel that Liberty might have been better off by keeping Bernie on-board for a few more years and ease into the ownership by learning or studying how things got done rather than cutting the cord and starting with a clean sheet right away.

“If I had the opportunity to work next to what is arguably one of the best deal-makers in history, not only in F1 but in general, I would certainly jump at the opportunity.

“The devil is always in the detail and Mr. E was the only one in that organisation that had an intimate knowledge of every little detail. Those are some big shoes to fill for sure.”

Ecclestone has been replaced by a three-headed structure comprising chairman and CEO Chase Carey, former ESPN executive Sean Bratches, and ex-Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn.

Carey previously said the sport could no longer be run like “a dictatorship”. Although Johansson is happy to see the British engineer back in F1, the Swede is not convinced that a more democratic approach can yield better results.

“If you look at any championship that’s been run like a democracy, it’s failed,” he further commented. “I think that’s true of most sports in general. I think there will be so many opinions that, again, it will be hard to get things done. But this is the “romance period” for the new establishment. We’ll see how it goes.

“Since F1 implemented a somewhat more “Democratic” approach through the Strategy Group there seems to be more confusion and more complicated rules every year. So far, they have not accomplished anything that has made F1 better as far as I’m aware.

“I don’t think the guys at Liberty has any idea of what’s in store for them when it comes to dealing with the teams in particular.

“The best analogy would be to use the famous quote from Ron Dennis when Eddie Jordan entered F1 back in the 80’s, “Welcome to the Piranha Club”. Nothing has changed since then and that is exactly what they can expect.”

Johansson’s F1 career consisted of 79 race starts for 12 podium finishes between 1980 and 1991.

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