Belfast Telegraph

Landmark 1000th race should've been at Silverstone: Ecclestone

Big guns: Bernie Ecclestone (centre) with Flavio Briatore (left)
and Vice President and CEO of Pirelli Marco Tronchetti Provera
before the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina
Circuit in November
Big guns: Bernie Ecclestone (centre) with Flavio Briatore (left) and Vice President and CEO of Pirelli Marco Tronchetti Provera before the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit in November

By Philip Duncan

Bernie Ecclestone has called Formula One's decision not to stage the 1,000th race at Silverstone a "failure".

On the eve of tomorrow's landmark 1000th grand prix in Shanghai, Ecclestone also claimed Lewis Hamilton is the "best and worst" thing to happen to F1, said Sebastian Vettel will retire from the sport if he loses his number one status at Ferrari, and urged Britain to hire Vladimir Putin to lead its Brexit negotiations.

Liberty Media, the American owners which put an end to Ecclestone's 40-year reign when they took over the sport two years ago, wanted Silverstone to host tomorrow's race.

But the Northamptonshire circuit rebuffed their approach, fearing a move from its traditional July slot would scupper ticket sales.

"Is that a failure on Formula One and Silverstone? Absolutely," said 88-year-old Ecclestone.

"If I was running the sport, I would have got Silverstone to change their date. That's where the first world championship race was staged, so that's where the 1,000th race should be held.

"Silverstone would have said they were going to lose money. I would have told them I'd make up for their loss.

"People who come in and are fresh don't have any feeling about where it all started. It doesn't mean anything to them."

Ecclestone, the sport's chairman emeritus, has not been approached by Liberty to play a role in this weekend's celebrations. He has been to more than 800 races, a figure he says is greater than any person alive.

Ecclestone wanted to be in China, but food poisoning curtailed his travel plans. Instead, he will watch the race on television from his Knightsbridge penthouse.

Hamilton trails Valtteri Bottas by one point as he contends for his sixth title. But will the Briton eclipse Michael Schumacher's record of seven?

"There is no reason why he shouldn't," added Ecclestone.

"Lewis is super and there is no doubt about that. Alongside his fashion business, it is almost as if he now treats Formula One as a hobby.

"He is the only real character we have got in the sport, and it is a pity there are not two or three drivers like him."

Ecclestone continued: "Lewis is the best and worst thing to happen to Formula One.

"The best, because he is Formula One. The worst, because he takes so much of the attention for himself and that is not his fault. I wouldn't like to think anyone is bigger than Formula One but he is certainly bigger than anyone else, even any of the teams.

"We have a Formula One superstar in England, but do we appreciate him? Probably not."

Meanwhile, Bottas provided Mercedes with hope that they will be able to take the fight to Ferrari this weekend after leading the way in practice at the Chinese Grand Prix.

Although Vettel topped the time sheets in yesterday's first session, Bottas put his Mercedes on top in the second running.

Hamilton finished a distant fourth after a scruffy afternoon in which the Mercedes star spun on his first lap.

He ended the day seven tenths off his team-mate's pace.

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