As the years passed Bernie Ecclestone spent an increasing amount of his time on FOCA business, but he always kept a close eye on everything that was happening at Chessington. By all accounts he was not always an easy man to please.
“When I first met him he was quite a terrifying sort of person,” Charlie Whiting admits. “He’d walk in and not say anything. It was like, ‘Carry on,’ as if you could carry on with him standing there watching you. If he walked out into the workshop it was, ‘The Bolt’s coming!’ I don’t find him terrifying any more, but I think people were terrified then.”
“He was a perfectionist,” says Herbie Blash. “You had to up your game. Providing you did everything correctly, then it was fine. If you didn’t you knew that he was not a happy man, and he could certainly show it. And then you were frightened of the boss.
“He was very involved in the livery of the car and the team and the general appearance. He always wanted things to be ultra-smart, just like now, with his white shirt and long sleeves. He was always very elegant and that’s how he wanted the team to be. We were the first to venture into shirts and trousers for the mechanics, for example. Then when everybody did that we went back to overalls, and people followed us again.”
Ecclestone certainly demanded a lot from his employees, and it’s been alleged that he even found a way to ensure they didn’t waste company time in the factory toilet. “The loo had a time switch,” confirms Whiting. “And if you had a particularly long visit, the light went out. One can only speculate as to why — draw your own conclusions…”