Can Bernie Ecclestone survive latest blow to his F1 rule?

As Formula One's 'ringmaster' faces a trial in Germany, what are the implications for the sport he has dominated for decades?

The decision by a German court to pursue Bernie Ecclestone over an alleged bribe represents the most serious threat yet to his control of Formula One. Following the announcement in Munich that he must stand trial, Ecclestone stepped down from the Formula One board but he continues to operate the sport's day-to-day running pending the hearing.

Q. So what is it all about and how will this development impact on the sport?

A. Ecclestone denies wrongdoing. The Munich prosecutor begs to differ. Here's why: Ecclestone paid £27m to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, engaged to manage the sale in 2005 of a 47 per cent stake in Formula One owned by a number of banks, of which his employer, Bayern Landesbank, was one. For his part in the affair Gribkowsky is serving an eight-and-a-half-year sentence after being convicted in 2012 of receiving corrupt payments, non-payment of tax and breach of trust. Ecclestone admits to paying the £27m but claims he was being "shaken down" by Gribkowsky, who, according to Ecclestone, threatened to approach HM Revenue & Customs with "false evidence" about his financial affairs.

Q. Are there any other legal consequences?

A. Ecclestone is already awaiting the outcome of a High Court action at the end of last year in which the German media company Constantin Medien, former owners of Formula One, sued for £117m in damages, claiming the 2005 deal that took the business to CVC Capital partners undervalued the commercial rights to avoid triggering bonus payments that would have been owed to them.

Q. So what happens now?

A. A trial date is expected for April. Ecclestone will step down from the board but will continue to manage things on the ground. Though uncomfortable with the legal proceedings against him, CVC, whose shareholding has shrunk from 63 to 36 per cent, is prepared to allow Ecclestone to continue as chief executive, subject to increased monitoring and control by the board, until a judgment is passed down in Munich. The CVC co-founder Donald Mackenzie said last November: "If it is proven that Mr Ecclestone has done anything that is criminally wrong, we would fire him."

Q. What next if Ecclestone is convicted?

A. The jailing of Gribkowsky and subsequent pursuit of Ecclestone was the trigger for the key players to consider their options. Luca di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari and the sport's most influential figure after Ecclestone, has said governance must be reformed. The end of the one-man show is nigh, Di Montezemolo declared in his end-of-season address last month while announcing his intention to convene a meeting this month at Maranello attended by all the teams to discuss the future post-Ecclestone.

Q. Who are the favourites to assume Ecclestone's chief executive role?

A. Ecclestone's preferred choice is Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, who has overseen the rise of Sebastian Vettel and the team financed by Austrian soft drinks magnate Dieter Mateschitz to the pinnacle of the sport. The commercial deal with CVC runs until 2020. After that Di Montezemolo has floated the idea of the teams taking ownership and control of the sport.

News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Life and Style
fashion

News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news

Video: It is the type of thing no parent wants to hear

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game