Bernie's still needed, says Alonso
McLaren star Alonso bullish after American takeover, but says Ecclestone remains key
Bernie Ecclestone is Formula 1 because in 38 years he built the sport from a niche championship into a global phenomenon, double world champion Fernando Alonso said last night at the paddock of the Marina Bay circuit.
Ahead of Sunday's F1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, the Spaniard added Ecclestone must continue to manage the sport.
The future of the Briton has been the subject of speculation after American media conglomerate Liberty Media acquired Formula 1's business from CVC Capital last week in a deal worth $4.4 billion.
Ecclestone said the new owners want him to stay as CEO for three years, but his long-time friend and former FIA president Max Mosley suggested the 85-year-old could quit if Liberty Media interfered with his management.
"I don't think Bernie will leave Formula 1," said Alonso. "What Formula 1 and its brand are now and what was created out of them is thanks to the many decisions that Bernie made over nearly 40 years.
"So, it is too difficult to see F1 without him and hopefully he will stay and we will continue to see him every weekend. His experience and knowledge are very important for any decision that Formula 1 makes in future."
In the six years to 2014, global viewership of Formula 1 slipped to 425 million from 600 million, and Alonso believes Liberty Media will help lift the sport to another level and make it attractive as a global property.
The American giant has a stake in several sports and entertainment businesses, including Major League Baseball's Atlanta Braves, US cable TV firms and satellite and online radio company Sirius XM.
Said Alonso: "Everything that comes from the Americans in terms of sport normally is quite attractive. So I think their point of view and ideas would be very welcome in our sport and I see a good future for Formula 1."
What Formula 1 and its brand are now and what was created out of them is thanks to the many decisions that Bernie made over nearly 40 years. — Fernando Alonso on Bernie Ecclestone (above)
After enduring struggles in the last two years while the McLaren-Honda technical partnership underwent a period of gestation, the 35-year-old Spanish hero is upbeat about his own future.
He is now able to fight for points in the top 10 and is confident of chasing a third Formula 1 title with McLaren next year.
"In Belgium and Italy this year we were unable to progress to Q3 in qualifying. But from Singapore onwards we will be able to do so and fight for points," claimed Alonso, who won his first two titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006.
"I am aiming to fight for the title with McLaren next year. Last year we had a lot of trust in this project with Honda.
"This year we are doing well with this trust and no one in the team has any doubt that McLaren and Honda will start winning races sooner or later.
"All we need now is the last step."
The McLaren pilot has won twice at Marina Bay, with Renault in the inaugural night race in 2008 and behind the Ferrari wheel two years later.
Still regarded as one of the most talented drivers on the grid, Alonso has taken less favourable cars beyond their limits, but he is cautious about McLaren's chances on Sunday, despite the progress the team have made this year.
"It is difficult with the current performance of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. We will do our best, even though I think we cannot be overly optimistic about McLaren's chances here.
"But that said, I think this weekend we can perform quite well and be in the points, which is the target."