Rumours that Bernie Ecclestone ordered a ‘TV blackout’ of a team have resurfaced after the Japanese grand prix.
The first time rumours of this nature began to swirl was in 2012, when spectators noticed that Force India was ignored by the FOM-controlled ‘world feed’ during qualifying for the controversial grand prix in Bahrain. Force India had sat out a practice session over security fears in the troubled island Kingdom, but F1 supremo Ecclestone denied he deliberately snubbed the team as retribution. “Not at all,” he said at the time.
The same sort of rumours then returned earlier this year, when FOM was reportedly having an off-track dispute with Ferrari. One Italian commentator told viewers to “complain to FOM” because images of the red cars were rarely broadcasted. “Certainly on my part there was nothing,” Ecclestone said, once again denying the claims.
And the latest rumours began swirling during and after Sunday’s Japanese grand prix, when viewers of the world feed noticed that as Mercedes raced to a one-two, the dominant Silver Arrows were conspicuously absent from the television. Sky, the German television broadcaster, even apologised for the apparent snub.
The speculation suggests Ecclestone may be punishing or sending a message to the German giant, having refused to supply engines to Red Bull next year. “I don’t know. I don’t know,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told the British broadcaster Sky afterwards, admitting he also noticed that Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s cars were rarely seen on the TV during the race.