Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Ecclestone listens in court

    'Free man' Ecclestone goes back to work on F1

  • Ecclestone 'a bit of an idiot' for settling
  • Raikkonen to be father
  • Mercedes' Costa rules out Ferrari return
  • Symonds: Williams has third fastest car
  • Video: Red Bull catches fire during demo
  • Bernie Ecclestone proves money can buy happiness
  • Ecclestone seeks to banish tarnished image after 'buying' bribery case acquittal

'Free man' Ecclestone goes back to work on F1
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone is going straight back to work after agreeing a $100 million deal to end his bribery trial in Munich.

Amid high controversy and suggestions F1's major stakeholders and his employer CVC might not be happy with Tuesday's news, it was confirmed that the outcome of the court proceedings is that the 83-year-old is a "free man".

"There was no conclusion on guilt or innocence of the defendant," said a court spokeswoman. "He is leaving this courtroom a free man."

Briton Ecclestone, F1's chief executive and 'supremo' who has been working only part-time for months amid the trial, headed straight from Munich to London.

"I've just got to get on with work," he told F1 business journalist Christian Sylt in the Independent newspaper. "I've got things I need to catch up with so I'm cracking on.

"I have been wasting two days a week. Now I can get back to doing what I should be doing."

The appearance that he effectively bought his innocence, however – particularly in the face of bribery charges – remains highly controversial.

But Ecclestone, who admitted he feels "a bit of an idiot" for paying up, said the price he paid was so high only because he is a billionaire.

"If I had proved that I hadn't got any money I wouldn't have had to pay," he insisted. "That's what it's all about."

And the Daily Express quoted him as saying: "I've always said I was innocent and if I had waited until October I would have saved a lot of money.

"But when you're trying to run businesses it's not easy trying to resolve things when dealing with lawyers for so much of the time," Ecclestone added.

Indeed, his lawyers on Tuesday insisted that if the trial had simply run its course, Ecclestone would have been acquitted as prosecutors were having trouble proving the case.

"What has happened is that the judge has come back and more or less said it's an acquittal, which he didn't have to do," said Ecclestone.

"Another three months out would have been bad. I've been working weekends to catch up with what I've been missing during the week. I've not really noticed but it has probably taken its toll a little bit."

Nonetheless, there remains speculation that, even though an innocent man on paper, damage has been done particularly in the eyes of CVC, a massive private equity firm.

"Yes," Ecclestone is quoted by the Express newspaper, "I can get back to running the business five days a week instead of three and buying F1 remains a possibility."

Ecclestone 'a bit of an idiot' for settling
Bernie Ecclestone says he feels like "a bit of an idiot" for paying $100 million (60 million pounds) to end his bribery trial in Munich, after the judge "more or less said" that the Formula 1 supremo was acquitted.

Ecclestone went on trial in April over claims that he bribed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky with a $44 million payment to ensure that the sale of a major stake in the motorsport business went to a buyer of his choice.

State prosecutors accepted the settlement on Tuesday morning, before the decision was finalized in court.

"In the end what has happened is good and bad – the good is the judge more or less said I was acquitted, and [the prosecution] really didn't have a case," 83-year-old Ecclestone told the Press Association.

"So I was a bit of an idiot to do what I did to settle because it wasn't with the judge, it was with the prosecutors.

"Anyway, it's done and finished. I'm content. This now allows me to do what I do best, which is running F1."

Ecclestone added that the trial has gradually taken its toll on both personal and professional levels.

"The bottom line is it's been three and a half years of aggravation, travelling, meeting lawyers, and God knows what else, so it is good it is out of the way. This trial has been going on for two days a week and it was going to go on until October," Ecclestone, who has been working weekends to keep up to date, went on to explain.

"When you're trying to run businesses it's not easy trying to resolve things when you're dealing with lawyers."

Of the $100 million, $99 million will go to the German state and $1 million to a charity for terminally-ill children.

Kimi and Minttu

Raikkonen to be father
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen looks set to race into the world of fatherhood.

Currently vacationing on his yacht off the Mediterranean island of Corsica, photos have emerged of the Finn's girlfriend Minttu appearing apparently pregnant.

And Minttu has added a photo of the couple to her Instagram account including the hashtags 'babyonboard' and 'momanddadtobe'.

Raikkonen's spokesman, Riku Kuvaja, is quoted by the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat: "Minttu and Kimi hope, above all, for peace from the media in this joyous time."

Mercedes' Costa rules out Ferrari return
(GMM) Aldo Costa insists he is "sorry" to see his old team Ferrari struggle in formula one.

Amid an earlier dip in the fabled Maranello team's form, the 53-year-old was ousted by Ferrari in 2011 and he joined Mercedes, who are now utterly dominating the sport.

"Comeback? Actually I am fine where I am," said Costa, who although based at Brackley is currently holidaying in his native Italy.

"Ferrari — do we have to talk about it?" he told Ferrari insider Leo Turrini in his Quotidiano blog.

"Write, then, that I am sorry. Honestly.

"I'm an emiliano (from the Emilia-Romagna region) and I worked for a company that is a myth. It cannot please me to see the level they are working now in formula one, even though they sent me off in a way that I wouldn't describe as exactly elegant.

"That said, I don't think Mercedes' problems in 2015 will come from the Rossa (reds). We're worried about Red Bull, who have proved and are proving to have an extraordinarily fast reaction."

Asked what he thinks Ferrari's main problems are, Costa replied: "It is not absolute — it is my opinion. But very serious mistakes were made in the strategic vision.

"An example: in 2008, we in the racing team thought it essential to have a new wind tunnel to remain competitive. We were told there was no need.

"In Ferrari, all the strategic decisions were always made by (Luca di) Montezemolo. He took them when Ferrari triumphed and when Ferrari ceased to triumph. Just to be clear."

When Costa was ousted, however, it was rumored that it had come at the behest of Ferrari's number 1 driver, the influential Fernando Alonso.

"I do not believe Alonso was out to get me," he insisted. "In the car, I consider him to be a great. Out of the car, I was never able to understand him — to me he is an inscrutable, enigmatic character.

"I don't think we will see him at Mercedes. I don't see why Hamilton would leave a team like ours," added Costa.

Clearly, the manner of Costa's Ferrari departure still rankles. When asked about Nikolas Tombazis, Costa recalls rumors that his own presence was stifling the Greek designer's creativity.

"After I left his (Tombazis') imagination must have been freed," Costa said, "with results that are before everyone's eyes, no?

"(Stefano) Domenicali? There is no resentment, sometimes we write a text message. Ferrari belongs to his past and to mine, and (Luca) Marmorini's and many others."

Actually, Costa has no need for resentment, as his career at Mercedes has culminated in a period of success rarely obtained in the highly-competitive world of formula one.

"Professionally it is a happy time," he agreed, "and I'd be a liar to deny to you that I feel a deep satisfaction.

"In Mercedes there are twelve Italians; twelve engineers in the team. I recruited them myself — some from Ferrari, others straight from university. We are a small 'tricolor' colony within a multinational.

"Now I'm already working on the 2015 project in a normal way, as are all those who do my job.

"I will not come to any more races this season — at most maybe in Belgium or Monza, then my priorities are elsewhere," said Costa.

Symonds: Williams has third fastest car
Williams Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds reckons the team has the third fastest car on the 2014 grid.

Although Ferrari pushed Williams back down to fourth in the standings at the Hungaroring, with the FW36 less suited to its twisty nature, Valtteri Bottas claimed three consecutive podiums in Austria, Britain and Germany.

This has led Symonds to believe that only the Mercedes and Red Bull outfits possess quicker packages.

"It is very close this year – no one will say anything other than Mercedes is the best car, in my opinion Red Bull are second, and then you have Ferrari, Force India, Williams and McLaren. That is quite a tight bunch, [but] arguably we have the third-best car at the moment," Symonds told the official Formula 1 website.

But Symonds says having the third best car does not automatically secure a top three championship finish.

"What makes it difficult this year is that 43 points are taken by Mercedes at pretty much every weekend, which means the rest of us are fighting for a lot less," he added, referring to the Silver Arrows claiming 1-2 finishes.

"The difference between finishing third and sixth overall might be quite small. If we are the third-best team, we ought to finish third in the championship – but in 2005 [when Symonds was at Renault] we won the championship with Fernando Alonso despite McLaren having the better car. We were a better team and we won by our racing."

Felipe Massa recently commented that upcoming circuits should play to the strengths of the Williams.

Video: Red Bull catches fire during demo
Red Bull junior and GP3 title leader Alex Lynn had a nasty surprise during a demo in Chelyabinsk, Russia on the weekend. The Briton was completing donuts in the RB7 when it caught fire. He escaped unharmed.

Bernie Ecclestone proves money can buy happiness
A German court on Tuesday dropped the bribery case against Bernie Ecclestone after the Formula One chief executive agreed to make a $100 million payment, ending a trial that lasted more than three months.

The Munich state court announced its decision to drop proceedings against the 83-year-old Ecclestone hours after prosecutors agreed to the move. Ecclestone is now free to concentrate on running the global racing series.

“There was no conclusion on guilt or innocence of the defendant," court spokeswoman Andrea Titz said. “He is leaving this courtroom a free man."

The charges involved a $44 million payment to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, who is serving an 8 1/2-year sentence for taking the money. Gribkowsky was convicted of corruption, tax evasion and breach of trust in a trial led by the same judge who was hearing Ecclestone’s case, Peter Noll.

Ecclestone denied wrongdoing and contends that Gribkowsky, who was in charge of selling German bank BayernLB’s 47 percent stake in F1 in 2005, blackmailed him.

After hearing the evidence so far, “the court did not consider a conviction overwhelmingly likely from the present point of view," Titz said.

The court also noted that Ecclestone faced the charges “despite his advanced age, despite his poor health" and despite the fact that the lengthy, high-profile proceedings in a foreign language were “a significant strain for him," she said.

German law allows for prosecutors to agree to drop a case in exchange for conditions such as a fine or community work, so long as “the gravity of guilt" does not stand in the way.

Such deals, which have to be approved by the court hearing the case, are common in Germany though they rarely involve anything close to the amount of money Ecclestone will pay. Fines take account of the assets of the defendant; according to Forbes magazine, Ecclestone and his family are worth $4.2 billion.

Ecclestone’s defense team called last week for the proceedings to be dropped, citing a lack of evidence that the Englishman was criminally responsible and asserting that the proceedings were a strain for their client. He has been running F1 while attending twice-weekly court sessions in Munich.

Ecclestone’s lawyers agreed on a $100 million payment in talks with prosecutors over recent days. The National

Ecclestone seeks to banish tarnished image after 'buying' bribery case acquittal
Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone his seeking to restore his battered reputation after controversially agreeing to pay $100m to a German court in return for an ongoing bribery case against him to be dropped.

The ironic exchange of cash is expected to take place within a week and will see the motoring mogul walk free with neither guilt nor innocence attached to his name, courtesy of a quirk of German law designed to ease pressure on the courts system.

The trial relates to a an alleged $44m payment made to a German banker in order to ensure a company Ecclestone backed could buy an F1 stake, a charge which Ecclestone vehemently denies.

Ecclestone, who doesn’t deny making the payment, said that he authorized it after the rogue banker threatened to make false claims in relation to his tax status.

In consequence of this turn of events Ecclestone will be free to continue his role as organizer for the sport without too big a dent on his bank balance – Forbes estimate his personal wealth to be in the region of $4.2bn.

Court spokesperson Andrea Titz told the press: "The court did not consider a conviction overwhelmingly likely from the present point of view. With this type of ending… there is no ruling on guilt or innocence of the defendant."

If convicted Ecclestone could have faced a decade in jail and the loss of his cherished motor racing role. The Drum

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