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F1 Q&A: Bernie Ecclestone

13 March 2012, 09:05 BARRY WHELAN

Germany - Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone says he still has plenty of work to do in Formula 1 before he thinks about retirement. After all, he's only 81...

Ecclestone told German media agency DPA: "There are a lot of changes I'm going to make generally worldwide in F1 - I want to complete those. I think I'm stuck here for a few more years."

Ecclestone, president and chief executive of Formula 1 Management and Formula 1 Administration, has controlled the sport for more than three decades. He

predicts that Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, World champion in 2010 and 2011, will face a tougher challenge in 2012 and that begins from qualifying on Saturday March 17, in Melbourne, Australia. The first Grand Prix of 2012 will be on Sunday March 18.

DPA asked a few questions...

What are your expectations for the upcoming season?

Ecclestone: "Well, it's the first time we have had six world champions on the grid. Hopefully all six of them will be able to perform and it should be super racing, but I very much doubt whether that will happen. If they were all in the same car I suppose then we could sit back and say now we know who's the best. An awful lot is going to depend on what the best car is."

Can you see Sebastian Vettel running away with the title as he did last year?

Ecclestone: "I hope not. I mean I think he won't have such an easy time as he had last year for sure. I'm not saying last year he had an easy time, but on the face it looks like it. I don't think it will be just as easy for him this year."

What would you expect in the upcoming season for Michael Schumacher?

Ecclestone: "Well, I don't know whether he is going to win races, but I'd love to see him on the podium a few times. I understand the car is much better than it was last year and that's what he needs. I'd like to see him in a Red Bull."

Schumacher's contract is running out this season. If he were to ask you what to do what would you tell him?

Ecclestone: "I think it depends an awful lot on what happens this year. I'd like to talk to him mid-season. That would be the time to discuss these things."

How do you rate the chances of your countrymen Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton (both McLaren) of beating Vettel in 2012?

Ecclestone: "I always think that (Mark) Webber, (Red Bull) is maybe going to do a much better job than he did last. But I think the two English guys, yes, I'm sure. I was very, very impressed by Jenson last year. I think he did a very good job."

What is the difference between the two drivers? Button seems calmer and relaxed compared to Lewis Hamilton, so how would you describe it?

Ecclestone: "Well you just described it. I think he uses the tyres to the best of his advantage and things like that whereas actually Lewis is my type of driver. He is a very aggressive driver and he is good. But Jenson thinks a lot more and doesn't make mistakes and looks after the car and the tyres. So I will be surprised if Jenson doesn't do what he did last year and be quicker than Lewis."

You've spoken in the past about Hamilton not making the right decisions with his management. Last season he had a few ups and downs. Do you think he has sorted that out and maybe learned from the mistakes?

Ecclestone: "Yes, I think he has grown up a lot. I mean he had personal problems which now I think are behind him."

What do you expect from Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) on his return to the track?

Ecclestone: "Well, he has performed much, much better than I'd have thought. I'm very impressed with Kimi. Looks like the car's good as well."

Might he be the biggest surprise in 2012?

Ecclestone: "Yes I think he is going to be the dark horse amongst everybody."

Ferrari seem to have run into early trouble again?

Ecclestone: "Yes they don't seem to wake up for a few races, so let's hope by the time they get back to Europe things will change in that camp."

Is Fernando Alonso in the wrong car?

Ecclestone: "I don't know whether he is in the wrong car. He could be in a better car, let's put it that way, at the moment. Whether that will remain like that is another story. I don't see Ferrari accepting the performance of the current car for too long."

We have a record number of 20 races this year and New York and Sochi coming up in the future - where is the limit in terms of the number of races?

Ecclestone: "Well I think we have more or less reached that. It depends on how important that is to us. I thought the limit was 16 when it was 16. The world is changing so fast and we have to cope up with the world."

After two years teams like Hispania or Marussia (formerly Virgin) haven't been able to challenge for points. What is their value for Formula 1 apart from filling the grid?

Ecclestone: "You know the strange thing, in every race there can only be one winner and somebody's got to be last. They are there competing. I can remember when Frank Williams was struggling at the beginning. He came on and won an awful lot of world championships - going through a bit of a rough time at the moment, but these things happen. They are there trying to be competitive."

Is Europe dying out for F1?

Ecclestone: "When you think about it, we've got sort of 10 races in Europe, which is the same size of America but we only have one race in America. There may be too many races in Europe now. We're not a European Championship any more, we're a world championship and we need to be in all different parts of the world."

You'll be 82 this year. Are you healthy and fit? Have you thought about retirement?

Ecclestone: "I haven't got any plans for dying at the moment. I certainly wouldn't want to retire until I've finished doing all the things that I'm in the pipeline to do. There are a lot of changes that I'm going to make generally worldwide in F1 so I want to complete those. So I think I'm stuck here for a few more years."

What kind of changes, what are the priorities?

Ecclestone: "So many different things. Moving forward, not only the technical and sporting regulations in F1, it's the general composition of F1, as I said before the countries we're going to, new countries, so it's a lot of things."


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