Review: No Angel, The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone

Posted on March 24, 2011


Investigative journalist Tom Bower was given unprecedented access to Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone to lift the lid on an extraordinary life.

No Angel lifts the lid on Bernie Ecclestone

The book is at times baffling. Bower describes Ecclestone’s various deals both at pace and in detail and it can be difficult to follow. At times this is down to the writing – simply changing the currency being used as a reference for example – but often it appears this is because the deal itself is a smoke screen.

Ecclestone has made his own luck through life. His wealth and iron grip over Formula One have been created by a man who has total control and understanding over every step he takes. An early understanding of the value of television was key to his modern fortune. Ecclestone is a brilliant, if also controversial and often troubling, mind.

It is also clear many lesser men have been left in his wake. The former car salesman has had little care for his opposition over the years and Bower lays out in detail feuds with many in Formula One – particularly Jackie Stewart and Ron Dennis. Ecclestone has crushed opposition to what he wants and many of his acts would appear to have been motivated by self interest.

Bower sparked the ire of Ecclestone by including so much material on his private life, particularly a turbulent marriage to ex-wife Slavica. But she was a crucial element of who Bernie Ecclestone was and offered an alternative prism through which to view the billionaire.

As a Formula One fan, No Angel offers a potted history of the sport and reveals many incidents this 25-year-old viewer was simply unaware of. The sport has changed fundamentally over the decades and the skullduggery of the early years throws moderns scandals – particularly Spygate, for which McLaren were fined $100 million – into a new perspective.

Politics have too often got in the way of racing. But the last two seasons have been a triumph for Formula One on the track. Ecclestone has greater control than ever before and, while it is unclear what happens when he inevitably goes, his creation is complete.

No Angel is very much worth reading by every Formula One fan. It is by turn a fascinating and frustrating story.

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