Bernie Ecclestone bans team principal from Formula 1

Ex-Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is no stranger to controversy.

Ex-Caterham team boss Finbarr O’Connell has revealed that he was banned from the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix grid by Bernie Ecclestone, who was still Formula 1’s CEO at the time.

2014 was Caterham’s final season in F1, as the backmarker filed for administration in October 2014.

They joined the pinnacle of motorsport in 2010 alongside Marussia and HRT, with the grid having grown to 12 teams.

This didn’t last for long, as HRT left the grid ahead of the 2013 season, due to financial problems.

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Caterham were the next to go at the end of 2014, whilst Marussia rebranded as Manor Racing for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, before they also entered administration.

As a result of Caterham’s financial difficulties in 2014, they missed the United States Grand Prix and the Brazilian Grand Prix but managed to raise enough funds to get Will Stevens and Kamui Kobayashi on the grid at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Stevens did well to make it to the end of race, whereas Kobayashi retired in the closing stages.

That was the last time Caterham were seen in F1 and resembles part of the reason why some teams are so against an 11th side joining the paddock.

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Current teams are concerned that a new outfit joining the sport will put others under financial strain, potentially leading to collapses in the future.

Ecclestone actually banned O’Connell from the 2014 Abu Dhabi GP grid remarkably, as he didn’t want the team boss to “crowdfund”.

“Bernie didn’t want me out on the track.

“He wanted the car there, he wanted the car racing. But he didn’t want the TV camera saying ‘Who’s that on the grid standing beside the car? Oh, it’s the corporate undertaker,’ so I didn’t get out during the race… which is a real shame because insolvency practitioners don’t get out much at the best of times!

“He was trying to control me as much as he could. It was his circus, his show, he was the Ringmaster.

“So he wanted the cars there, and them racing. He didn’t want me to crowdfund, because that was the begging bowl. He didn’t want anything cheap or insolvent to be out there about F1.

“He personally looked at the applications at every Grand Prix for everybody to get a pass into the paddock and he pulled some of my people.

“He pulled one of my lawyers and I didn’t really know why. He used some quite colourful language when speaking to me on the phone and said lawyers should be sat behind a desk somewhere, and not at a Grand Prix.

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“But I think, in reality, he gets into various disputes, he didn’t want lawyers out there who might serve some papers on him or something like that. So he controlled everything!

“I respected him for it. As I say he was the Ringmaster in this circus. In the end, [the lawyer] got the royal nod to come into the paddock.

“And because Bernie wanted Caterham racing that weekend, he helped out with organising tyres and fuel and I was eternally grateful to him for that.”