This was the result of Bernie Ecclestone’s nightmares: Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel finishing ahead of Lewis Hamilton in Formula One’s blue-ribbon event.
On the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix, Formula One’s chief executive launched an astonishing attack on the race winner, telling Rosberg: “You are not good for my business.”
Ecclestone is not usually one to mince his words but these were extraordinary comments in what was an excruciating joint interview for F1’s official website. The 84-year-old has long championed Hamilton because of his star status, believing he does a much better job of selling the sport than Germans Rosberg and Vettel.
In “conversation” with Rosberg, Ecclestone said: “When it comes to F1, I am a huge Lewis fan because he is a super promoter of the sport. From a pure business aspect — sorry, Nico, if I have to say this — you are not so good for my business.”
When Rosberg replied by saying, “Wait a minute — that’s a hard call”, Formula One’s ringmaster went on: “It sounds harder than it is meant.
“Unfortunately, you don’t have the German fans on your side. As the cancellation of the German Grand Prix indicates, Germany is a terrible market for Formula One. On the contrary, Lewis is a hero in the UK. The British love Formula One. Sebastian [Vettel] is also not doing much for F1.
“People hardly recognise him on the street.
“Generally, I still believe that Lewis is the best champion that we have had in a long, long time. He manages to get to all different walks of life: red carpet, fashion business and music — you name it. That is not your [Nico’s] fault or his. You two are just very different characters.”
The interview was conducted in the build-up to the Monaco Grand Prix, and if there was any driver you could hope for to take it in the right spirit, it is Rosberg.
The 29-year-old responded: “Of course I do [understand Ecclestone’s point].
“Bernie is the commercial rights holder so the more outgoing the champion is, the better. Of course. I also do think about our sport and want to make an effort — but in my own way. I am Nico and not Lewis!”
Rosberg was not the only man on the receiving end of Ecclestone’s preference for telling it like it is. Team bosses also came in for strong criticism.
On Toto Wolff, Mercedes head of motorsport, Ecclestone said: “The team principals should be more prominent. Take away Toto Wolff’s Mercedes shirt and send him down a street — nobody would recognise him.”
Ecclestone also indicated a growing rift with Ferrari’s new team principal, Maurizio Arrivabene, who has been publicly critical of the sport’s supremo this year. The Italian memorably sat in the stands during testing to complain at restrictions on the number of paddock passes this year.
Asked if Arrivabene was a good character for F1, Ecclestone said: “But only for himself and not for Formula One.”