Red Bull team principal Christian Horner backed Bernie Ecclestone to keep running Formula One as the 83-year-old chief executive officer awaits the verdict of his lawsuit over bribery allegations.
“It all depends upon the outcome,” Horner told reporters in London yesterday. “Bernie is absolutely the best and only guy to do what he does, to take Formula One to the global reach that the sport has achieved. It’s a massive calendar that he’s pulled together.”
Ecclestone is being sued for as much as $140 million by Constantin Medien AG, a German media company, over the 2005 sale of F-1 to CVC Capital Partners Ltd. Constantin says it lost money because the deal undervalued its stake, and alleges Ecclestone bribed a German banker about $40 million to ensure the racing series was sold to the private equity firm.
Ecclestone told a U.K. court in November that the payments to Gerhard Gribkowsky had nothing to do with his role as head of Formula One, and that he paid the sum because of the banker’s threats to tell British tax authorities about a family trust.
The billionaire is facing criminal charges in Germany and an investigation by Swiss prosecutors into the deal. In 2012 Gribkowsky was convicted in Munich of receiving a bribe and is serving 8 1/2 years in prison.
The U.K. court hasn’t yet announced a date for its verdict on Ecclestone’s case.
“It’s in all our interests that he’s around as long as possible,” Horner said, when asked about Ecclestone’s future as CEO. “That’s more of a question for CVC than it is for me.”
Horner’s team, bankrolled by billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz’s energy drink maker Red Bull GmbH, has dominated F-1 since 2010, winning the past four constructors’ championships. Last season Red Bull’s lead driver, Sebastian Vettel, won his fourth straight drivers’ title with three races to spare.
In December, the International Automobile Federation, the body that oversees motorsports, agreed to double the points awarded to drivers and constructors at the final race of the season to keep the competition more interesting.
“It can either work for or against you,” Horner said, speaking to reporters at an event at Bloomberg’s European headquarters in London. “Is it right to put so much predominance on one race? Does it undervalue what you’ve done in the rest of the year? I think arguably yes it does. We need to think very carefully about it.
“It’s not our fault or responsibility if the competition hasn’t been prevalent in the last few races,” he added.
The 19-race F-1 season starts in Melbourne on March 16.