Kevin Garside: Why F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is cosying up to Russia president Vladimir Putin

And why he doesn’t give a wheeltapper’s cuss what you might think of it

It was a typical day in the life of Charles Bernard Ecclestone: from a court case in which his character was shredded by a judge – purveyor of bribes, unreliable witness, at odds with the truth, that sort of thing – straight into the arms of Vladimir Putin, offering robust support for Russia’s antediluvian legislation on homosexuality.

A man who cares about how others see him could not survive the ridicule, which offers a rather large clue towards how Ecclestone has managed to make his unique way in the world, acquiring en route the most feted measure of a man’s standing in society, unimaginable wealth.

Unwitting paeans to abhorrent political figures are a feature of Ecclestone’s bizarre public pronouncements, proclaiming at various mad moments the merits of Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban on the grounds they get stuff done. There has been some wholly indefensible commentary, too, on women, Jews and race that would have gone down a storm at the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club in 1970s Britain. He is therefore an easy target to lampoon, and for the intelligentsia something to be removed from the bottom of their shoes.

That’s OK because Ecclestone has nil regard for their sort, either. Intellect, learning, academic expertise come way down the list of attributes he most admires. If there is ever a need of that kind of thing – lawyers, accountants, tax advisers, engine builders, circuit designers, et al – he buys it in like any other commodity.

Ecclestone is not an educated man. There was some muttering about studying chemistry at Woolwich Polytechnic but no mortar and gown to support it. The kind of intelligence Ecclestone has is not certificated by convention. He has an intuitive understanding of the human condition, an absolute grasp of the base impulses that push and pull at the soul. There is no moral tap dance from him to reconcile riches with conscience.

There can be few powerful figures who care less about being heard. Most can’t wait to offer their twopenn’orth on any given subject, to demonstrate how clever they are. Ecclestone does not care enough about what you might think of him to bother with impression management. He is utterly without ego. This allows him to whistle while he works without batting an eyelid when his name is dragged through the midden as it was last week.

The idea that Ecclestone is furiously scheming in his Kensington bunker to counter the negative PR associated with the High Court judgment of Mr Justice Newey or Putin in some kind of Team Nigella frenzy could not be further from the truth. It’s all about the deal with him, and, as is common among those of his ilk, the means nearly always justify the ends.

It is worth remembering Mr Justice Newey dismissed the claims made against Ecclestone by a German media organisation that the acquisition of Formula One in 2006 by CVC Capital Partners from the German banks that part owned it cost them $140 million (£84 million) in commission, the second such victory following a similar outcome in New York. He has his hands full in Courtroom Battle III, scheduled for Munich in April, where he faces a jail term if convicted of making a corrupt payment to facilitate the CVC deal. In the meantime it’s business almost as usual.

The Winter Olympics was just one part of Russia’s Sochi-led assault on the geopolitical senses. Formula One is the next element of the global soft-sell programme designed to fill our heads with positivity towards the new Russia. Ecclestone has persuaded Putin that it is just what he needs to help create the sense that Russia is up to speed and at one with the rest of the world.

A new circuit is under construction adjacent to the Sochi Olympic Park. When the ice rinks have melted, the workers will crack on at the facility that is scheduled to host the inaugural Russian Grand Prix in October. There is still plenty to do. That’s what Ecclestone’s arm around Putin was all about last week, protecting his interests, massaging relations, making sure the work is done on time.

Ecclestone did not get rich by accident. He has a pathological infatuation with detail that goes beyond lining up noughts to the left of the decimal point. One media delegate still has nightmares about not informing news outlets about the place of Jarno Trulli, who had climbed one in the middle of the starting grid as a result of a penalty to another driver. It was barely worthy of dissemination, and definitely unworthy of Ecclestone’s time, but he wanted it recording and busied himself to make sure it was.

Without Ecclestone, Formula One might still convene among hay bales with a round of sandwiches between sessions. It certainly would not be the multibillion-pound, global sporting property it is. That is not to defend him or his methods, only to recognise the remarkable achievement of a most singular mogul.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform