|Ecclestone tired and wearing out|
Remember you read it here first. Bernie Ecclestone has hinted he is close to stepping down as F1 supremo.
Most insiders believe that, with star witness Gerhard Gribkowsky often sounding contradictory or unbelievable, Ecclestone's Munich corruption trial is going well for the 83-year-old.
But he certainly does not look well this weekend.
The diminutive Briton had to miss a day of court last week with a bad cold, and he is still unwell as he fulfills his duties in the Principality.
But while Ecclestone may ultimately win the day in Munich, the scandal may already have taken its toll.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport raised the theory that F1's major shareholder CVC might have decided now to oust him, no matter the outcome.
The names Christian Horner, Flavio Briatore and the suddenly higher-profile Luca di Montezemolo are mentioned as potential successors.
And with his cold leaving him with a husky voice, Ecclestone said: "I have heard Niki Lauda's name."
Usually, Ecclestone suggests the only way he will voluntarily leave the paddock is nailed inside a wooden box.
But he said in Monaco: "If CVC presents me with a successor, I will leave tomorrow."
The words will be echoing inside the paddock, as F1 is currently in the sort of trouble that only Ecclestone has traditionally been able to magically solve.
On one side are angry small teams who are threatening the involvement of the European Union, and on the other are the powerful big teams, seemingly determined to cling to their financial advantage.
"Our job," big-spending Red Bull's Horner said on Thursday, "is to do the best job we can to represent the companies that we work for, so of course you're going to cut the most aggressive deal that you can."
It is rumored the big teams are quite happy to see the small teams fail and be forced to buy 'customer cars' rather than continue to try to be constructors.
"It's a brutal competition and its survival of the fittest," said Horner.
Without Ecclestone, many fear F1 is currently facing an existential threat.
"There has never been a worse time to lose Bernie," Auto Motor und Sport quoted one paddock voice as saying.
|If Bernie is forced out, will F1 ever be the same?|
(GMM) The criminal trial is only just beginning, but F1's board has already conceded that the Bernie Ecclestone reign is at an end (recall AR1.com reported when this rumor started that Bernie's reign over F1 would end by the German GP).
The banker he allegedly bribed, Gerhard Gribkowsky, is already in jail for receiving the $44 million, and a UK judge has also declared that the sport's 83-year-old chief executive paid a bribe.
Still, Ecclestone's defense appeared to get a boost this week when it emerged that German prosecutors concede that the diminutive Briton was in fact blackmailed by Gribkowsky.
Writing in Forbes, and quoting from the indictment, F1 business journalist Christian Sylt explained that Gribkowsky was putting "pressure" on Ecclestone by "repeatedly insinuating" that Ecclestone had control of his family trust.
Ecclestone claims he paid the $44 million only because Gribkowsky was 'shaking me down' over his personal tax affairs.
"It seems to be a textbook example of blackmail," Sylt said.
Nonetheless, as the Munich proceedings begin on Thursday, the signs for Ecclestone are worrying.
Writing in the Times, Kevin Eason said Ecclestone could avoid jail by accepting he is guilty and paying more than a staggering $400 million.
Even so, the Ecclestone era is "over", Eason quoted a source close to F1's owners CVC and the board as saying.
The report said the board has been advised by a London law firm not to keep Ecclestone in charge after a judge called him "untruthful and unreliable".
The source explained: "In truth, it (Ecclestone's reign) has been over for a while, but Bernie has been allowed to continue as the face of the sport until this legal advice, which was devastating."
03/18/14 Bernie Ecclestone has admitted for the first time he is starting to think about stepping down as the head of a sport he has run for 40 years.
The 83-year-old, who has a birthday in October, revealed he was unsure he would want to continue into 2015.
But he admitted he might go sooner if he was not allowed to run the sport as he wanted.
"I’m going to be 84 at the end of this year so I am probably going to have to start to think, 'Do I want to go into the 85th year doing what I’ve been doing for goddamn how many years'," he said.
"It’s something I’ll have to give some very serious thought to."
Asked how easy it would be to step away, as leading sports stars do at the top of their game, he replied: “They do these things though you know…
"The important thing is to know when you should hang the boxing gloves up. So you are not going to end up going into the ring and getting a good hiding."
03/16/14 According to AR1.com sources, Bernie Ecclestone will be gone from F1 by the German GP this year and new management will be in place. In a parallel but related story, Ecclestone has revealed that he will sell his 5.3 per cent stake in Formula One when its controlling shareholder, the private equity firm CVC, exits the business.
"If I sell I would sell with CVC. If somebody wants to buy CVC's shares but doesn't need mine then I will keep them," says Mr. Ecclestone.
Next month he is due to go on trial in Germany for allegedly paying part of a $US44 million bribe to steer the sale of F1 to CVC in 2006. He denies the charges and has stepped down from the board of F1's parent company Delta Topco until the trial comes to a close in September. The question is whether he will be allowed to keep his shares if he loses the trial and goes to jail.