Decades later, it would be the same story as race organisers negotiating with Ecclestone found, to their detriment, that he had deftly switched currencies during a lengthy and complicated process. For a man eventually worth billions, it may sound strange to say that Ecclestone was not totally motivated by the money, per se. For Bernie, the deal continued to be the thing. And winning it. Which he usually did thanks, in part, to working with one man in particular.
Ecclestone found an ally in Max Mosley, then running the March team. On the face of it, they were like chalk and cheese; Mosley the urbane lawyer from a privileged background; Ecclestone the street-wise grafter with an equally sharp mind. They were the perfect fit, united by the same impish sense of humour.
Formation of the Formula One Constructors’ Association (FOCA) integrated the teams as Mosley relished the politics and Ecclestone the business potential. Bernie introduced a FOCA pass for all personnel, much to the displeasure of organisers who, until this point, had issued accreditation to each team as a matter of personal preference.
When Ecclestone investigated other sources of income, he found no objection from the teams for whom life under Bernie was becoming exceedingly profitable. On their behalf, Ecclestone was moving beyond deals with race promoters to begin mining the rich potential of television. Previously, broadcasters had been able to cherry pick the races in the belief they ought to be paid for helping advertise the event. Now Ecclestone forced them to sign annual contracts to cover every race – and pay a substantial fee for their trouble.
All of this was done without recourse to FISA. The sporting arm of the FIA, the world governing body of motoring, kept their collective heads below the parapet, happy in the knowledge that someone else was doing the donkeywork in promoting the sport for which they were supposed to be responsible. But the situation was about to change dramatically in 1978 when FISA elected a new president, Jean-Marie Balestre, a bombastic businessman who vowed to wrestle power back from FOCA and the predominantly British teams.