'It's bloody disgusting': Ecclestone blasts King

The former chief executive of Sainsbury's has been widely tipped as a successor to the Formula One boss

Bernie Ecclestone has launched a scathing attack on Justin King, the former chief executive of Sainsbury’s who has been widely tipped as a successor to the Formula One boss.

Mr King resigned from the supermarket in July 2014, after 10 years at its helm, and last month became chairman of the Sheffield-based Manor F1 team where his son is a development driver. The team failed to race at the F1 season-opener in Australia two weeks ago due to software problems, and this fuelled Mr Ecclestone’s anger.

“This shows you what that Justin King is. King is the genius businessman. The guy that was going to do all these things,” said Mr Ecclestone.

“It’s bloody disgusting, to be honest with you. It’s disgusting that somebody can do that for a start. They went to Melbourne with no intention to run. They couldn’t run. They never had anything which could let them run. They had two engines and two gearboxes which were supplied under their contract with Ferrari, which both couldn’t run because they had no life in them. They were just put in the cars to arrive there.”

The FIA investigated Manor in Australia and found that the team in fact made “all reasonable endeavours” to run the cars.  But Mr Ecclestone still docked Manor £2m in prize money for missing the season-opener. The team has said it expects to race in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

 Manor joined F1 in 2010 but crashed into administration in October with debts of £63.6m. It was rescued last month by Stephen Fitzpatrick, boss of the energy firm Ovo, and creditors have been told they will get just 1.3p in the pound.

The red ink began to accelerate in the year to 31 December 2013 when it made a net loss of £11m on revenue of £61.2m. It didn’t let up last year when its net loss came to £29.2m on revenue of £24.7m over the eight months to 31 August.

Its main source of funding was investment from its former owner, the Russian businessman Andrey Cheglakov. The team went into administration in October when Mr Cheglakov stopped paying the bills, and most of its 170 staff were made redundant the following month.

Manor is F1’s worst performer and finished in ninth place last year, giving it an estimated £35.4m in prize money. However, Mr Ecclestone said the team shouldn’t have received this as it became insolvent and F1’s contracts state that “a team’s rights and obligations terminate if it is insolvent.”

 “We should have chopped them off when we found out that they were insolvent,” he told The Independent. “The trouble is that they went into administration, and when they get themselves out of administration, they are back as if nothing has ever happened. I have never heard anything so mad but that is how it is.”

Justin King declined to comment.