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
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

News
news

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

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

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London