Flavio Briatore and Naomi Campbell
I’ve been to enough Formula One paddocks on race day to know that the sport’s inner sanctum is a very exclusive club indeed. If you’re not a recognisable celebrity or pitching a big business deal, people simply won’t give you the time of day.
With so many millions of dollars floating around and deals to be done, sometimes it helps in the crazy world of F1 to have an ego that matches the size of your wallet.
Here, then, are my top five biggest egomaniacs in F1.
If I had to draw up a list of everyone in the F1 paddock past and present who had an over-inflated opinion of themselves, I’d be here a long time.
Notable omissions include Jay Kay of Jamiroquai band fame, who in the late 1990s and early 2000s was a regular fixture on almost all of Martin Brundle’s grid walks, and Kimi Raikkonen for his pure ambivalence to any press-related activity.
Ever colourful and always controversial, Eddie Irvine simply has to make my list because he was never afraid to speak his mind during interviews as demonstrated perfectly by the above clip.
Irvine famously unlapped himself from Ayrton Senna on his grand prix debut in Suzuka in 1993, and the incensed Senna confronted Irvine in the Jordan motorhome afterward and planted a punch on him. He came within a whisker of winning the title for Ferrari in 1999, but after three uncompetitive seasons with Jaguar Racing retired to pursue his business interests.
He now owns a multi-million dollar property portfolio, and according to the Daily Mail, he recently made a profit of over $5 million on one of his Miami properties and is said to be worth around $90 million.
Former supermodel Naomi Campbell became engaged to Flavio Briatore in 1998 and was a mainstay in the F1 paddock ever since, despite their separation in 2008.
Campbell is famous for courting the limelight and likes to be seen on the F1 grid although she is not everybody’s cup of tea after being involved in a string of high-profile assault cases including being banned from British Airways flights for a violent outburst.
She has since been let back onboard BA flights so she can continue her glamorous jetsetting lifestyle and continue to be seen at F1 races.
It’s fair to say that Michael Schumacher would go down in any sporting list of biggest egos, let alone just an F1 list. It’s also fair to say that he is entitled to have an arrogant streak about him after capturing no less than seven world drivers’ titles, and he wouldn’t have achieved it without such a single-minded dedication to be the best in his chosen field.
But such an approach did not always go down well with his rivals and the press, many of whom often found him a difficult man to approach.
Formula One’s supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, can perhaps be forgiven for having one of the biggest egos in the sport because it’s simply a pre-requisite for a man of his standing.
As the president and CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Administration, Ecclestone is the most powerful man in the sport and a leading decision-maker in Formula One rights and commercial affairs.
As such, he has developed a ruthless approach to business but to his credit he has also displayed a mischievous sense of humour in many of his interviews with the press.
There can surely only be one winner here. The former Benetton and Renault F1 boss makes Jose Mourinho look like the shy and retiring type.
Briatore helped mastermind Michael Schumacher’s first two titles at Benetton and both of Fernando Alonso’s titles at Renault. But his direct involvement in F1 ended in 2009 when he was forced to resign after being found guilty of being involved in the race fixing in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in which Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately crashed to bring out the safety car and help Alonso to win the race.
His indefinite ban from attending races has since been lifted, and he has gone on to open a his own brand of Billionaire Clubs in Istanbul, Monaco, Sardinia and Marbella.