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Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Mar 2014   |  8:56 pm GMT  |  92 comments

In seven weeks from now F1’s commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone will appear in court in Munich charged with bribery and today he has admitted that his legal challenges are distracting him from his day to day role as the CEO of Formula 1. He has also said that he is actively looking for someone to share the work load and ultimately to succeed him.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Ecclestone, 83, struck a markedly less defiant tone than he has in recent weeks when he said,

“I’ve been spending time on this [civil] case and to spend time on Munich I am not able to give what I normally would do, 24/7, to the business. I’ve been looking, over the last few years, for somebody who can join me to assist with what I have to do. I will eventually be in a position, if I decide to retire – or unfortunately become dead – to have someone to step into my shoes.”

He was also clearly still bothered by the comments of the Judge in the recently concluded civil action brought by Constantin Medien, which found in Ecclestone’s favour in that he had not conspired to lower the value of the business at the point of sale, but concluded that he was not “a reliable or truthful witness”.

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92 Comments
  1. Gaz Boy says:

    Take the hint Mr E – time to leave the business of F1 to somebody else.
    Having said that, if the Germans decide that Mr E should eat porridge at their leisure then a successor issue would be forced upon F1, so probably better to get it out of the way now.
    Better late than never I suppose.
    And even if Mr E is not found guilty, the fact that his name – and by association F1 – has been dragged through some very sticky mud surely should imply that change at the top is required ASAP?

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  2. geoffjeff says:

    with the Deadbulls struggling to start the season, step forward Christian Horner to share the F1 load – and keep the regs in their favour.. Double points might not now seem such a bad idea to them, for example, and no FOTA to interfere!

    Surely Bernie can’t survive the Munich trial as CEO, but he will surely manage the succession….

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    1. forestial says:

      But why do we think Horner would be any good (other than that Bernie himself floated his name)? His weakness in managing his team (“this is silly, Seb”) doesn’t suggest he can handle that job.

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      1. aezy_doc says:

        4 world championships in a row would suggest that Horner hasn’t done too badly at managing his team.

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      2. AuraF1 says:

        I don’t think anybody really rates Horner for that job. Bernie just keeps pushing it as he expects he’s an easy puppet in his control. Horner would just be a mouthpiece for whatever Bernie still wanted to do.

        It’s almost certainly Justin King lined up by CVC anyway isn’t it? It’s just Bernie still throwing Horners name out as he doesn’t want to be evicted from control.

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      3. James Allen says:

        CVC sources are touting Horner’s name too.

        CVC will do nothing until the outcome of Munich trial is known

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      4. Rupert Suren says:

        What about the poacher turned gamekeeper? Bernie seriously owes him a BIG one having disgracefully abandoned him to the jackals. Enter stage right, Max. I would love to see some of the faces in the paddock!

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      5. Flying_Scotsman says:

        I think when BE said this he had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.

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  3. Rod says:

    I love Bernie’s little twist: “or unfortunately become dead…”
    I wish I had his energy at my young 60 years of age!

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    1. Random 79 says:

      It’s not really something to joke about, but I do like the way he worded it :)

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      1. Jock Ulah says:

        Definitely not . . .

        But his purported crimes do not deserve the hangman’s noose.

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      2. Random 79 says:

        I’m not sure anyone has gone so far as to say he should be hanged, although the penalty of making him eat porridge has been mentioned once or twice.

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      3. Gaz Boy says:

        Random, apparently that was DC’s breakfast of choice when he was driving.
        Could that be why he was slower than Mika?

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    2. David in Sydney says:

      The man is quite frankly amazing and he will be a loss to the sport and to the world of business.

      Read one of the biographies about him. What a life!

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  4. Bernie , I thank you for what you have given to Formula 1 , but I think you need to retire gracefully on top of what you have achieved and relax sitting on a private cruise boat or penthouse suite or English mansion and enjoy .

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    1. Dimitar Kadrinski says:

      I think he dropped from the “top” quite some time ago… HONESTLY!

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    2. Marcbob says:

      I’ve always had the impression that it’s the game, rather than the proceeds, that Bernie enjoys….

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      1. Bernie the Game Show Host thought up or stamped his approval for wacky ideas in F1 such as water sprinklers , Pirelli tyres that wear out to soon , Double points ?? He’s made F1 a pay per view global winner in sales for massive profit due to huge paid up audiences , also Pilots are bankrolled to get a race car before the natural gifted young race drivers get a look in .I think F1 has reached its peak with to many rules ,overtaking aids etc , it needs a new boss with racing history that makes the right changes to win back the true F1 fan that understood the early days of racing when Alan Jones one the championship without DRS or ERS or tyres that were designed to wear out in 10 laps .

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      2. rasbob says:

        I mean the game of making money….

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    3. AJ says:

      A bit late to retire gracefully.

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      1. distant viewer says:

        I’ll second that , Mr E your day of reckoning is coming, I hope you like porridge btw don’t drop the soap either

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  5. Andrew M says:

    So THAT’S how double points snuck in. Curse you Gribkowsky!

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  6. AlexD says:

    Poor Bernie….bribed a man and is not happy that people want to know a bit more about it…

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  7. Marchesi Bruno says:

    All the best and long live to you dear Bernie!

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  8. Tony cuxson says:

    Can i nominate jeremy clarkson given his record with tesla.

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    1. Random 79 says:

      Yes I can see that working out well…

      FIA: So Jeremy, we’re thinking about downsizing the V6s to V4s in five to seven…

      JC: POWER!!!

      FIA: *sigh* Back to V12s then?

      JC: MORE POWER!!!!!!!!!!!!

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      1. Gaz Boy says:

        I reckon the Big Ape was in charge of regulations in rallying during the Group B era – you know, practically unlimited regulations concerning turbocharging, supercharging, construction, fuel tank placement etc
        I mean, 600 Bhp in a Metro, Pug 205, Lancia Delta et al? Only Jezza would come up with that idea……………

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      2. Aaron says:

        That might not be a bad thing. These are supposed to be the fastest race cars in the world.

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      3. Randome 79 says:

        Yep I knew someone would like the idea :)

        I honestly don’t care how fast or slow they are generally – as I’ve said before I think it only really matters how fast one car is against another – but as long as we get to see some good racing every now and again I’m happy :)

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      4. Random 79 says:

        Who is this Randome guy and why is he replying to my replies?

        Have to say though I agree with him 100% 😉

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    2. hippyneil says:

      No. No you can’t.

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    3. Bart says:

      Good joke. I think they need somebody like Toto Wolf

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  9. aveli says:

    credit when credit is due. the guy has done a great deal for the sport and has got a great deal out of it. he is an exceptional man to be running the sport so successfully for so long and at his age. there are ex sports people younger who don’t look fit enough to do half as much as ecclestone does.

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  10. JEZ Playense says:

    If Bernie is bothered by people judging his actions, perhaps he should have thought about that before making his choices?

    I doubt he is really upset by his actions, he is more likely to be irritated by being caught out.

    Still the 4.2 billion Bernie has made from F1 should help assuage his sadness…

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  11. Chromatic says:

    Clearly Bernie’s big mistake was not to beget a son and heir…

    I suspect he now much regrets not devoting more time to procreating and a bit less to creating [wealth].

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    1. Random 79 says:

      You’re forgetting the super secret clone program he initiated in the late nineties.

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    2. AndyFov says:

      You don’t have to have a son to pass the reins to.

      Claire Williams is proof of that. She seems to be doing a very good job too so far as I can tell.

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      1. Sandy says:

        LOL there is a fundamental difference in the way Claire was raised versus Ecclestone’s princesses if thats your implication.

        Just like formula one has outgrown the team principal role, Bernie’s role is also redundant that will be spread over a couple positions with one head honcho, who hopefully will split the revenues with the teams more than Bernie has done so.

        That being said, Bernie Ecclestone is a walking homage to a time when Formula One was full of real characters. Whatever the natural progression is, I’m sure i’ll be watching the sport every Sunday in 20 years

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      2. Gaz Boy says:

        Well said. Claire is a sensible, down to earth, common sense, straight talking individual who isn’t chasing her own image – just like her dad.
        Claire is a no nonsense racer – I respect her for that.

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      3. rapsac says:

        A GIRL! Running F1? Preposterous…… I can see it now. Pink everywhere. Grid Boys in very tight shorts. Dancing, chatting, cocktails, politeness in racing (after you…No, after You) and even honesty and apologies creeping in when there is a slight incident on the track. Theme tunes for each team to help casual viewers to recognise each car on TV, and proper colour coding of each team (Which one do you support? …The white one, with the Michael Jackson theme tune, of course!) …… And many other very sensible ideas….

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      4. Random 79 says:

        You know what?

        Every single one of those ideas is still better than double points 😉

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      5. Flying_Scotsman says:

        So you want one of Bernie’s [mod] daughters to take over?

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    3. Dave Emberton says:

      You don’t think Tamara will be taking over F1?

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  12. Richard says:

    Well he is only human and at his age it is probably time for him to go. I’m not not sure who could replace him given that Christian Horner seems content to manage a race team. I suppose it will be decided by CVC as to how they want to proceed.

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  13. J.Danek says:

    It’s unfortunate that we cannot trust the sincerity of anything Bernie says on the record, and must henceforth always suspect him of working some cynical “angle”.

    He may not even be making these statements of his own “free will” so to speak, in the sense that it’s very possible he’s so weakened politically that CVC are now desperately trying to make-up for lost time (ie, the many years during which Bernie has been unreasonably resistant to succession planning, good governance, and transparency) and now they’re simply using Ecclestone as a ventriloquist’s dummy – they make him say the right things and hope third time’s a charm w/r/t previously-aborted Singapore listing of F1…

    I could totally see this being the case if, for example, there is some obscure Bernie-version of a Morals Clause or Disrepute Clause in his contract w/ CVC pertaining to “‘bringing the sport of Formula 1 [or the business of CVC] into disrepute'” that they’ve [CVC] figured out how to activate and put Bernie up against the wall…

    I’ll always acknowledge Bernie’s success in satisfying his lust for the pursuit of the deal, and I admit that I envy his great wealth, but that old trope about how F1 owes its growth solely to Bernie’s foresight and shark-like DNA…well, that doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.

    Lastly, to Bernie: you could’ve handled this so much better, and you could’ve left us/F1/the world so much more respectable a legacy than that of an almost-fallen, somewhat crippled global sports tycoon. Right, right, right…we know such things never mattered to you and probably still don’t! Jerk!

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  14. Jose Sanchez kowalsky says:

    Not a reliable or truthful witness. Bernie said it wast just an opinión. But he must agree, that it comes from a very respected and knolegable person. So it is worth a lot.

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  15. patrick says:

    Hang on in there Bernie…we need you!

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    1. Lezza says:

      For what?

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    2. forestial says:

      Actually we don’t, and it’s time to pass the job on to someone else. If he is convicted while still holding on to the job it looks even worse for the sport.

      At the very least he should step aside until this legal case is settled. Yes, it may be a mess if indeed there is no succession plan in place, but we could be only a few months away from that anyway in the event that he is convicted.

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    3. Jose Sanchez kowalsky says:

      What for? To screw f1 to the doldrums?

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    4. Grabsplatter says:

      No we don’t.

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    5. AlexD says:

      For bribing?

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    6. Kenny S says:

      Yeah, like bloody toothache, we need someone with principles

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    7. Heinz says:

      Right, Patrick.

      I’m surprised at the comments here. Obviously these people think that F1s grow on trees.

      News: F1 had to be managed and made to grow lovingly by a wise head with the greatest of skill. That is what we have today to enjoy … Bernie’s brainchild.

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      1. forestial says:

        Almost no one disputes what he has done to build F1 into what it is, or how difficult that was, or how few others could have done it, or how unappealing the possible successors might look.

        But that doesn’t excuse illegal conduct, which (according to the London judge recently) seems to have occurred.

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  16. jpinx says:

    Love him or hate him – you have to admire his longevity. BE and F1 are a perfect match – both cut-throat businesses without a thought for scruples – the only difference is that F1 has a set of rules and a system to enforce them. In BE’s case he ran too free, too long. For sure there must be machinations underway to provide a successor, but it’s pretty obvious that no-one wants to work under BE and BE doesn’t want to show his hand — yet,,,,,, 😉

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  17. Sri says:

    I wonder how an 83-year old seems to be so indispensable. He must have very good senses and memory at that ripe old age, I suppose. Horner and others crying out aloud that F1 needs Bernie seems more of a emotional cry rather than a well-thought out one. In any organization, leaders and heads change (sometimes very often), but how in F1 a dictator ruling over some emotionally weak people where some good engineering brains work is beyond me. F1 almost sounds like a religion with Bernie as its Pope.

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  18. Witan says:

    Ecclestone has done a tremendous – no fabulous job for F1 and done very, very well out of F1 financially himself.

    But all good things eventually turn old and tired and need replacing.

    Thanks Bernie but your credit is all spent and it is time to let new people do the job, and perhaps give the teams a little more of the dosh.

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  19. bones says:

    Go back to the early 70’s,remember how big Sport Prototypes was.
    How big was Cart.
    How important was F-2.

    See where they are now and where F1 is.
    He has made mistakes,as any other human being,but he has made our sport big and the only big racing car championship that has improved (or survived).
    Is time for him to go I guess,but F1 as a whole owes him a big THANK YOU,and would be awesome if is said while he is alive and not a postmortem one.
    He deserves it.

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    1. Simon Lord says:

      Since his chums at the FIA played a key role in killing off sports cars and F2 because they detracted from the major money spinner, this remark seems a little disingenuous.

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    2. Jonathan Dye says:

      These other sports have fallen by the side of the track because of F1 and how Bernie has ruthlessly grown it. But would F1 not be better and truly the pinnacle of Motorsport if there was more and better feeder series. F1 now struggles to find decent drivers who can cope with F1 and relays on ‘pay drivers’ with little experience.
      Surely F1 would be better to look to improve motorsport in general rather than short sightedly lining its own pockets.
      F1 needs someone prepared to do right by the sport and not just shareholders and multi million/billion dollar companies.

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  20. DB4Tim says:

    We do NOT need BE, he has taken F1 to new lows

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    1. Kenny S says:

      Blooming right he has, he has to go. as quickly and quietly as possible he has no credit now, when the highest court in our land doubts his credibility and honestly how can he lead a sport as big as formula one

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      1. DB4Tim says:

        Sure does make one consider this was all planned…meaning they are giving him time to make a quiet exodus…his other partners that is.

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  21. Matthew says:

    Mr. E, I volunteer to be your successor!

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    1. Random 79 says:

      How could he say no to that? :)

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  22. Scuderia McLaren says:

    I think Bernie’s best years are ahead if him. So far, we’ve only just seen the beginning of what Bernie can do for Formula One. I pray the great man remain for another decade at least directing things.

    As for the court and judge, well he was cleared if all charges. The judge just has an axe to grind after the fact having hoped Bernie would be guilty. Looks like the judge won’t get the German kick back now. One less ivory back scratcher.

    Bernie saw through it all.

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    1. Curly says:

      cleared of all charges?… em… it was a civil case, there were no charges. In germany however it is a different matter, although the burden of proof is somewhat higher.

      judge has an axe to grind after the fact…have you read the judgement? all 114 pages of it.

      http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/constantin-median-v-ecclestone-ors.pdf

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    2. Pat M says:

      The judgement didn’t say that Bernie was innocent of bribery, it would be hard to justify finding him innocent of bribery after finding the man who received the money from Bernie was guilty of accepting a bribe. It was a civil case and the judge only found that Constantin Medien couldn’t prove that he was financially injured by Bernie’s bribery scheme.

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  23. jmv says:

    F1 needs a new Mr. F1 or Mrs. F1 or Madam F1.

    But who can it be?

    First thought goes to Flavio Briatore, he´d bring back a lot of glamour & glitz to F1… but in the end he proved to be a [mod].

    Tony Fernandes? He´d be great for the sport, clear marketing & global business man. Has a good heart for F1 (though not overly successful)

    Eddie Jordan? We´d have a lot of fun with him, and his business acumen is good too.

    Eddie Irvine? Maybe too young? But he knows racing & business.

    Christian Horner… ? Could be good but is he a loved guy in the paddock? Not all team bosses gel with him. But that might be because of his success. Doing things the red bull way did spice things up in the paddock.

    Gerhard Berger: good choice, but Gerhard has lost so much of his funny-ness… he looks so overly serious these days.

    Sadly I cannot think of any woman… but would be nice to hear some names.

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    1. James Allen says:

      Monisha Kaltenborn – lawyer, very smart, lots of experience from Sauber, not disliked by anyone, Bernie and Todt respect her a lot

      She’d be better than any of the above

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      1. jmv says:

        +1 !!!

        Absolutely!

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      2. DB4Tim says:

        If she got it, that would be unbelievably good for F1

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      3. Bart says:

        James, what about Toto Wolf? He seems to be quite a smart guy…

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    2. forestial says:

      Hmmm, a joint Irish ticket of Eddies Jordan and Irvine…. that would be entertaining while it lasted :-)

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      1. Gaz Boy says:

        Let’s hope they would do a better job than their government(s) – Ireland as a country (not just the banking sector) had to be bailed out in 2009 – not a promising indicator.

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  24. Soutboot says:

    We’d do well to get someone with half the business savvy and half the passion for F1 as this odd little man. I reckon he’s another 10 years in him!

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  25. Jon Wilde says:

    These comments feel like part of a graceful implementation of a succession plan, with all parties giving Bernie the respect has deserves.

    I doubt F1 would exist today without Bernie, every F1 fan should be thankful, only upon his departure will we realise his significance.

    Justin King seems like the logical and likely lead of what I imagine will be a management team bought into the lead the future of the sport.

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    1. James Allen says:

      King was at a dinner in London with Todt last Thursday. Nothing to read into that, but they are acquainted. CVC give the impression of not wanting King to take over

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  26. Darren says:

    There is no denying the huge amount of good he has done for F1 over the years but he now just looks silly, take the hint Bernie, it’s time to go.

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  27. Andy says:

    Surely with Martin Whitmarsh out of a job as a fully trained “corporate monkey” he must be the favorite for a Bernie assistant?

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  28. iiro says:

    You see how doing jail time is not an option to him? I guess it’s ‘retiring’ all the way: Run to Brazil with the new wife or die trying. This of course only if he risks getting sentenced :-)

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    1. Random 79 says:

      We know he never misses an opportunity to make money and there’s sure to be a reality show in that where we follow Bernie as he is pursued all the way across Europe and South America by the authorities.

      All we need now is a title…

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  29. Paul D says:

    Positive he now sees he has to hand over the reins…

    Question is to who?! I’ve always thought Gerhard Berger would be a good fit in terms of his personality / experience.

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  30. hp says:

    Off-topic James, but do you know what Martin Whitmarsh is doing these days? Thanks.

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    1. James Allen says:

      Still on McLaren’s books, but sorting out his severance deal this month, as I understand it

      Total votes:
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      1. DB4Tim says:

        Hope he lands on his feet when this is over finally !

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      2. Random 79 says:

        It’s difficult to land on your feet when you’ve just been booted out on your proverbial 😉

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      3. Gaz Boy says:

        I’m afraid Martin was complicit in his downfall for not binning that awful Macca after Malaysia last year – Ronspeak told him to bring back the superb 2012 McLaren, but Martin decided to stick with the 2013 dud.
        And paid the ultimate penalty – his job. If he had listened to Ronspeak and brought back the 2012 car, he may have been with us for F1 2014.
        Still, Macca have a habit of making a certain employee take all the blame – eh Dave Ryan anyone? Lewis was somewhat complicit in that shambles, but still kept his job……..

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      4. DB4Tim says:

        Formula one is brutal sport… it eats its young and leaves a trail of destruction on careers…and never looks back !

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  31. Richard says:

    It is going to be Horner, he doesn’t want it but hey, who expected Bouiller to leave Lotus?

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  32. Rupert Suren says:

    F1 has really been shown to be a grubby little business. Bernie described by the judge as “not a reliable or truthful witness”, Anthony Hamilton being shown to be “swerving with the truth” and the di Restas proving to be rather “greedy”. F1 is no longer a sport of gentlemen, in fact the last sporting players were probably Tyrell and Hesketh. What a shabby shower.

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