The fall out from Wednesday’s Gribkwosky verdict has many aspects and the stories from Germany about Mercedes threatening to pull out of the sport because it cannot be seen to be involved in corruption are worth dealing with briefly.
A story appeared yesterday in Handelsblatt, the German business paper, which claimed that Mercedes would have to withdraw from F1 if Bernie Ecclestone were to be indicted in relation to the conviction of Gerhard Gribkowksy, for tax evasion, bribery and breach of fiduciary trust.
Shareholders and Daimler officials were quoted as saying that it would be a breach of the company’s anti-corruption statutes to be involved in business with someone in that position and therefore the company would have to withdraw.
Mercedes has not come out with any robust statement on this, but behind the scenes the reality is that these voices of dissent about the company’s racing programme are always present and surface from time to time whenever there is an opportunity. We’ve seen it many times in the past and will do again in the future.
The company’s policy for many years has been that Mercedes is committed to motorsport, that it is part of its DNA as a motor manufacturer and that it is a central pillar of its marketing. That could change with future management teams, but for now, that’s how they see it and they invest in motorsport on that basis.
There are some internal figures and shareholders who disagree with this strategy, who believe that too much money is being wasted on F1 and motor sport, but who don’t have the power to change it, for the moment. So when they get the chance to say something negative about Mercedes in F1, they say it.
A couple of things are important to remember: Mercedes is no different from many other companies in F1 in its anti-corruption rules.
There is a series of hypotheticals here, facing many companies in the sport, about what might happen if Ecclestone were to be charged or convicted and then what would might happen if he continued to be the F1 chief executive in those circumstances.
Clearly it is possible in those circumstances that many companies, including Mercedes, could be required to review their position and it’s clearly possible that we may get to that point.
But it is also likely that, if that scenario were to unfold, the sport would take steps along the way to deal with events as they transpired.
A Mercedes spokesman told us, “Compliance is of central importance for Daimler. We immediately follow up indications of irregularities and should a conviction of corruption be reached, we would then evaluate that case.
“Our Formula 1 commitment is for the long term and an integral component of our company philosophy.”
So to say Mercedes is on the verge of a pull out, is to jump several stages down a hypothetical chain.
But as always, in F1 and in life, that is not to say that it can’t happen.