Bernie insists F1 is in good shape

Formula 1 commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone believes that Formula 1 is in good shape despite a season in which Ferrari enjoyed total dominance and manipulated results, while the sport suffered falling television viewing figures and closed down its global digital service at the end of 2002

Bernie insists F1 is in good shape

"It's healthy," said Ecclestone upon leaving a meeting of the F1 team bosses and FIA President Max Mosley, where a raft of measures were introduced to cut costs and improve the quality of the racing. "The problem is these past few months the reporting on F1 should have been in the financial columns rather than the sports columns because everyone was talking about money.

"We are talking about Formula 1 which is in good shape, not bad shape. We lost less percentage of our television audience than any sport."

Ecclestone is not concerned by the dominance of Ferrari but did concede that viewing figures suffered as a result of Schumacher wrapping the title up with six races still to run. "Did we lose viewers at the end of the season because the championship was over? I would have to say yes, and that's normal, that's what has happened in the past," he said. "We have been lucky in the past that championships have gone down to the final round."

F1's difficult year was not helped by Ferrari team orders that forced Rubens Barrichello to forsake victory in the Austrian Grand Prix, allowing Michael Schumacher through to win. "I think they (Ferrari) are more embarrassed than I am. It's one of those things that happens, Michael never expected the crowd to react like that and he panicked a bit."

Asked if he thought the best thing for F1 in 2003 was for Schumacher and Ferrari to have a poor season he responded: "No, the best thing for F1 is for Williams, McLaren and Renault to have a good season.

"I'm not worried at all because I know this is going to change and you will see that Williams and McLaren will be back and winning races like they used to be. I mean those two teams have won more championships in the last 25 years than anybody!"

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