In the past 24 hours, Bernie Ecclestone has gone from appearing as a potential saviour for Germany’s motor racing jewel, the Nürburgring, to being officially prosecuted by the country’s law courts for a bribery case that could send him to prison. In theory, at least. In between, he also happened to secure a new three-year tyre supply deal for his sport with Pirelli. You could say it’s been eventful.
Now, in response to legal confirmation that he will indeed face trial, the 83-year-old has stepped down from the Formula 1 board. The pressure has finally told and it does appear today is a significant landmark in motor racing history.
But the end of an era? Not yet. The statement issued by Delta Topco, F1’s holding company, makes it clear that despite quitting the board, Ecclestone will still run Grand Prix racing day to day – as he has done for more than 30 years. Quite how he’ll juggle that job with the strains of preparing his defence for a major criminal trial remains to be seen. But for now, Bernie remains at the helm.
Of course, he might not be found guilty. If Ecclestone is cleared at some point in the coming months, perhaps his place on the board will be restored and it’ll be business as usual. But right now, on the basis of what we know from the case of jailed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky – the source of this damaging bribery claim – it’s not looking good for the former Brabham team owner.
This story clearly has weeks and probably months to run, and we’ll be covering it in more detail here on the website and in future issues of the magazine. But for now, we’d like to ask you, the Motor Sport readers, what you’d like to see happen next.
If Bernie Ecclestone’s era at the helm of F1 is about to come to an end, what should happen next? Who should take his place? Is there anyone capable of replacing him? What is the best and most realistic ownership structure for F1’s promotional rights? Can and should the FIA play a role beyond its remit of governance? Do you happen to think the best news for F1 would be that Bernie is cleared and allowed to continue his rule?
Let us know what you think.
The official statement from Formula 1’s holding company Delta Topco
Munich court proceedings
The Board of Delta Topco Limited (the holding company for the Formula One Group of companies) has met today to discuss the decision of the Munich Court to commence proceedings against Mr Ecclestone.
Mr Ecclestone has reassured the Board that he is innocent of the charges and intends to vigorously defend the case which will commence in late April 2014.
After discussion with the Board, Mr Ecclestone has proposed and the Board has agreed that until the case has been concluded, he will step down as a director with immediate effect, thereby relinquishing his board duties and responsibilities until the case has been resolved.
The Board believes that it is in the best interests of both the F1 business and the sport that Mr Ecclestone should continue to run the business on a day-to-day basis, but subject to increased monitoring and control by the Board. Mr Ecclestone has agreed to these arrangements.
The approval and signing of significant contracts and other material business arrangements shall now be the responsibility of the Chairman, Mr Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, and Deputy Chairman, Mr Donald Mackenzie.