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.

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
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

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'