Bernie Ecclestone hints that Sacha Woodward-Hill could be next F1 Supremo nearly 10 years after suggesting women belong in the kitchen

Ecclestone believes that Woodward-Hill knows the ins and outs of running F1's workings as well as the current chief executive

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Bernie Ecclestone believes one of his most trusted female aides could succeed him as Formula One supremo, almost a decade on from suggesting a woman's place was in the kitchen rather than a race track.

Sacha Woodward-Hill is a name relatively unknown to those outside of Ecclestone's plush Knightsbridge offices from where many of his deals have been done over the years.

But as chief legal officer she has steered the 84-year-old Ecclestone through numerous trouble spots and court cases, including his bribery trial in Munich earlier this year, and is as dedicated a right hand as anyone could be.

It is understood Woodward-Hill holds 17 directorships in F1-connected businesses so understands its workings as well as Ecclestone himself, and in that sense appears the perfect fit.

 

It is also believed she has a good rapport with Donald Mackenzie, the co-chairman of private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, F1's primary shareholders.

Asked directly about Woodward-Hill at an end-of-season briefing, Ecclestone said: "The people here (in Knightsbridge) would be able to easily follow through what we have put in place.

"Perhaps if I controlled the board I would probably say it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a woman being the chief executive.

"If I died there are enough people in the company who could continue running it the way we have set things up.

"Would they (CVC) want a front guy? Particularly if they run an IPO (float the sport on the Stock Exchange) then the City would want to see someone I suppose and the right person would come along."

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One of Ecclestone's must trusted aides Sacha Woodward-Hill has been muted as a possible replacement for him

It is all a far cry to his comments in 2005 shortly after the United States' top female motorsports star Danica Patrick had just finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500.

Ecclestone remarked at the time: "You know I've got one of those wonderful ideas...women should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances."

Meanwhile, Ecclestone has applauded old adversary Ron Dennis for making the right call in keeping faith with Jenson Button.

Ecclestone has rarely seen eye to eye with Dennis in the past, but on Thursday McLaren's Group CEO finally made Formula One's supremo smile with one of his decisions.

After months of deliberation, Dennis confirmed Button would remain on board with the team for another two years as partner to fellow world champion Fernando Alonso who has signed a three-year deal.

Given Button's high profile within the sport, and the exposure he helps generate, Ecclestone said: "Jenson's going to be there, which is good isn't it? He's the right guy.

"He's well known, gets the job done in the end. He still delivers."

Delivering on the faith shown in him is exactly what Dennis is firmly expecting of a driver who next year will be competing in his 16th F1 campaign.

In preferring the experience of 34-year-old Button over the youth of 22-year-old Dane Kevin Magnussen, who has been retained as McLaren's test and reserve driver, Dennis pulled no punches.

"He has no reason now not to get the job done - no reason," asserted Dennis, who has confirmed leaning towards Magnussen before switching to Button.

"There was a turning point for me strangely, a conversation that took place between Jenson and me after the race (the final grand prix of the season in Abu Dhabi).

"It was in contrast to the previous month and re-energised my belief Jenson really wants to be in a Formula One car, and that he can kick Fernando's butt."

PA

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