Happy Birthday, Bernie
Formula One is a dictatorship and Bernie Ecclestone is its supreme ruler. He has taken the motorsport series from the preserve of amateur constructors working in British backyards to the status of a global business, and all of this with hard work, rigid discipline and no e-mails, because he always has these printed out as hard copy by his secretary.
Bernie, who has just turned 80 today (28th October), doesn't look like your average octogenarian. He developed a keen entrepreneurial sense at a very early age. When he was still attending school, he would buy sweets in bulk from the nearby confectioner's and sell them on in the playground during break. With a mark-up, obviously. His first job in Formula One was as manager for Stuart Lewis Evans. Later, he entered a business partnership with his friend Jochen Rindt.
Ecclestone has established a reputation for his excursions into politics. Not just the mainstream variety, when he gave Tony Blair a million to spend on the 1997 UK election campaign, but also of the more questionable kind when he praised Adolf Hitler for the fact that "he got things done". He has generally followed up such faux pas with a bluster of apology and denials, claiming that he had expressed himself clumsily, been misrepresented etc etc.
But there is a good reason for this sequence of embarrassments. Much of it stems from a philosophy that has been forged by the Formula One environment. This is where he came to the view that democracy doesn't work - for example, if you expect the teams to cooperate in coming up with constructive solutions. As Bernie states quite baldly: "The best form of government is a dictatorship." Though he conveniently forgets that the real world doesn't necessarily work in the same way as his F1 microcosm...