Bernie Ecclestone will be celebrated at Goodwood this year
Bernie Ecclestone’s role in transforming F1 will be celebrated by Goodwood – and he could be a controversial choice among Festival regulars
Since a celebratory tribute to Ferrari was first erected outside Goodwood House for the 1997 Festival of Speed, it’s become tradition for a massive Gerry Judah-designed sculpture to sit at the heart of the annual event.
Over the last 20 years, the increasingly spectacular Central Feature displays have celebrated the world’s biggest automotive manufacturers, and some of their finest models and successes. But this year’s sculpture will be different – it will celebrate just one man.
So which figure from motoring and motorsport history is worthy of such praise? How about an industry titan, such as Enzo Ferrari? Or perhaps an all-time racing great such as Ayrton Senna? Or maybe a hugely influential car designer, such as Sir Alec Issigonis?
The answer is none of the above. This year’s Central Feature will honour someone whose biggest impact on motor racing came not on the track but in the boardroom. Someone who is frequently described using terms such as ‘controversial’, ‘colourful’ and even ‘ruthless’: Bernie Ecclestone.
It’s an interesting choice. First, in terms of sheer impact on Formula 1, there is no question Ecclestone is deserving of such recognition. As the sport’s long-time commercial power broker, he was at the heart of turning the sport into the multi-billion pound global industry it is today.
Ecclestone could also be quite benevolent – away from the public eye. For one thing, you suspect he had a hand in ensuring that so many current F1 teams regularly attend Goodwood.
But Ecclestone isn’t universally viewed as a force for good – something he has freely admitted in the past. And in building F1 into a global force, he also fundamentally changed it. It was Ecclestone who led the push away from Europe to new markets. And, in recent years, it was Ecclestone who pushed F1 towards pay-to-view TV.
You suspect some of the latter points might particularly rankle with Festival of Speed regulars – particularly given that it started as a celebration of an older, simpler time in motor racing, standing in contrast to F1’s transformation.
Perhaps that’s the point. Dedicating the Goodwood Central Feature to an individual was always going to be a controversial decision, so why not do it with a controversial figure?
Love him or hate him, you almost certainly have an opinion on Ecclestone, and he’ll be the subject of lively debate among motorsport fans for years to come. He’s impossible to ignore – much like Goodwood’s central sculptures have been over the years.