Skip to main content

F1: Bernie Ecclestone reveals Ferrari has veto over his successor

By Christian Sylt, for CNN
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1049 GMT (1849 HKT)
F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone suggested Christian Horner (left) could succeed him but the appointment is unlikely
F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone suggested Christian Horner (left) could succeed him but the appointment is unlikely
  • Bernie Ecclestone reveals Ferrari can veto his successor as Formula One chief executive
  • F1's controlling shareholder, private equity firm CVC, would also have a significant say
  • Ecclestone this year named Red Bull team boss Christian Horner as his possible replacement
  • But the 83-year-old says he has no plans to stand down

(CNN) -- Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that Italian motor marque Ferrari has a veto over who will succeed him as the boss of Formula One.

The British billionaire has managed F1's commercial rights since 1978 but there has recently been speculation over who could replace him as chief executive.

Ecclestone turned 83 this year and is defending lawsuits on both sides of the Atlantic surrounding the sale of F1 to private equity firm CVC in 2006.

Speaking before the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix in November, Ecclestone told reporters for the first time who he would like to take over the reins.

Ferrari's secret: make fewer cars
Only fastest will be team number one

He said his "ideal" successor would be Christian Horner, team principal of the Red Bull Racing team which has won the F1 championship for the past four years.

"It needs someone who knows the sport. If someone comes in from outside, a corporate type, I don't think I could work with them. It wouldn't last five minutes," said Ecclestone.

In a statement on Red Bull's official website on November 22, Horner said while he was flattered by Ecclestone's comments, he is "fully focused" on his role as team boss and has a long-term contract with the world champion team.

Ecclestone has since explained to CNN how Horner's name was linked with F1's top job, saying: "Somebody said to me, 'What happens when you go, what's going to happen?'

"Christian walked past and I said: 'What about him? He is a good guy.'

"Firstly CVC would never agree and secondly Ferrari would have a say," added Ecclestone.

Ecclestone revealed that Ferrari needs to give consent to his successor, a detail that is written in the prospectus for the stalled flotation of F1 on the Singapore stock exchange.

Ecclestone: F1 secure until 2020
Massa worried for Brazilian F1 future

Read: Three races axed from 2013 calendar

The prospectus states: "We must obtain the written consent of Ferrari prior to the appointment of any person as our chief executive officer if, within the past five years, he or she has held a senior executive office or an ownership interest of 5% or more in any Team or automobile manufacturer which either owns more than a 5% interest in a Team or is a supplier of engines to a Team."

Ferrari's president Luca di Montezemolo also sits on F1's nomination committee, whose responsibility is to "review and recommend candidates for appointments to the Board ..." according to the prospectus.

Di Montezemolo recently commented on Italy's RAI television about Ecclestone's anointment of Horner as his successor.

The Italian commented: "Ecclestone sees Horner as his successor? As the years go by, he more and more enjoys making jokes and I'm happy he still has the desire to do so."

A Ferrari spokesperson declined to give additional comment and told CNN: "It is premature at the moment to discuss this topic further."

Ferrari is the only team which has competed in F1 every year since the championship was launched in 1950. Damon Hill, who won the F1 title for the Williams team in 1996, says he believes that Ferrari's power is down to its longevity.

Vettel's dominance could bore F1 fans
Celebrations at the Red Bull F1 Factory

"Ferrari has always been an exception in this sport and there may be good reason for that," Hill told CNN.

"Personally, I don't see how you can have a free sport where one competitor has got a special status but there seems to be some sound marketing reason. Teams that have had longer commitment to the sport have got a greater say in the sport and that is fair enough.

"That is the power Ferrari has always had over the sport."

Interactive: Do you understand F1's rule changes?

As F1's controlling shareholder, CVC would also be closely involved with choosing Ecclestone's successor.

Only 313 staff are employed by the F1 Group, the Jersey-based company which runs the sport. The company has only 10 members of senior management, with no chief operating officer or deputy for Ecclestone.

David Campbell, the former European chief executive of entertainment group AEG, was said to be a successor for Ecclestone but left F1 just over a year after he was hired to run its corporate hospitality division in 2011.

Others who have been tipped to take over from Ecclestone include Justin King, who runs British supermarket chain Sainsbury's, and Sir Stuart Rose, the former chief executive of its rival Marks & Spencer.

But despite his advancing age and ongoing legal troubles, Ecclestone says he has no intention of giving up the wheel, and told CNN: "I'm not going anywhere."

Blog: Sebastian Vettel -- Arrogant or humble champion?

Part of complete coverage on
Track the buzz of the 2014 Formula One season, race by race, with all the latest social reaction from motorsport experts.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
Too weak. Can't handle the pressure. Susie Wolff has heard it all -- but she is determined to become the first female F1 driver in 20 years.
CNN's Amanda Davies visits the headquarters of Mercedes, the dominant team in Formula One this season.
March 15, 2014 -- Updated 0108 GMT (0908 HKT)
The big winners of this Formula One season could be road drivers rather than F1 racers, according to one former world champion.
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 1730 GMT (0130 HKT)
The Williams team welcomes the biggest rule changes to Formula One cars for a generation.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1916 GMT (0316 HKT)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton sums up the dawn of a new Formula One era in three juicy words -- weird, mind-blowing and challenging.
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
Formula One is taking another step in its techno evolution this season, which could be more unpredictable than it has been for a long time.
February 24, 2014 -- Updated 1736 GMT (0136 HKT)
Jann Mardenborough on the similarities and differences between driving a race on a video game and driving a real F1 car.
February 22, 2014 -- Updated 1226 GMT (2026 HKT)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin watches the men's cross-country 4 x 10km relay event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on February 16, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ RIA-NOVOSTI/ POOL/ MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV (Photo credit should read MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)
How Russian president Vladimir Putin helped turn a muddy hole in the ground into a $400 million futuristic grand prix track in Sochi.
February 21, 2014 -- Updated 0013 GMT (0813 HKT)
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) and Formula One racing director Bernie Ecclestone talk during a ceremony of signing of an agreement to bring Formula One racing to Sochi for a Grand Prix Russia to be held in 2014, the same year the Black Sea resort hosts the Winter Olympics in Sochi on October 14, 2010. Putin, whose backing was crucial in Sochi winning the right to host the Games, is due in the city on Thursday to sign an agreement for work to begin on the construction of a new 200 million dollar circuit. AFP PHOTO/ ALEXANDER NEMENOV (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Vilified by the the international community for his government's attitude on gay rights, Russian president Vladimir Putin has found an ally.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1613 GMT (0013 HKT)
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel is bidding for a fifth consecutive drivers' championship in 2014.
He is Formula One's undisputed No. 1, and next season Sebastian Vettel will have proof of that fact emblazoned on his Red Bull.
December 4, 2013 -- Updated 1633 GMT (0033 HKT)
A new era of F1 looms large on the horizon in 2014, but what do the new rules mean for how we watch the sport? Get up to speed here.
October 17, 2013 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Explore our interactive of one of F1's most important and complicated pieces of kit.