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GP Week : Issue 160
BRIEFLY » German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky was this week sentenced to eight-and-a -half years’ imprisonment for a collection of crimes including tax evasion, receipt of bribes, and breach of trust. The charges all date from the sale of BayernLB’s Formula One stake to CVC Capital Partners. Gribkowsky was chief risk officer for Bayern LB at the time, and was thought to have used his position to influence the sale of the stake following a $44 million payment from Bernie Ecclestone. Ecclestone admits paying the money, but says he was being “shaken down” by Gribkowsky. While Ecclestone has appeared in the court as a witness, he has not been served with any charges by the German prosecutors. For more on this story and its effect on Formula One, see the feature further on in this issue. » In the run-up to next weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, FOTA are hosting one of their popular fan forums. The event, which gives Formula One fans a chance to grill paddock figures including drivers and team principals on the motorsport questions of the day, will take place at Williams’ Grove factory on Tuesday 3 July from 6-8pm. Frank Williams, Ross Brawn, Pastor Maldonado, and Martin Whitmarsh have all confirmed they will be taking part. For the first time at FOTA event there will be a legends panel with guests including Patrick Head and John Watson. At the time of writing, limited spaces for this event were still available via www.fota.co. One of the stories doing the rounds this week was the rumour that Mercedes might be forced to pull out of Formula One if the Daimler board determines that Bernie Ecclestone’s involvement in the Gerhard Gribkowsky scandal violates company corruption statutes. The story originated in Handelsblatt, a German business newspaper, and stated that the Daimler board was keeping a close eye on proceedings in Munich. If Ecclestone were indicted by the German courts on charges similar to those faced by Gribkowsky – tax evasion, bribery, and breach of fiduciary trust – then Mercedes would be forced to leave the sport. But the Mercedes board has long been divided between those who see the motorsports programme as vital to the brand’s integrity, and those who see it as a waste of potential profit. Since Mercedes’ F1 involvement has expanded from engine manufacturer to team owner, those opposed to the motorsports programme have taken advantage of every available opportunity to call for an immediate withdrawal. This is one such opportunity, and there is no reason to believe that Daimler would invoke anti-corruption statutes as a reason to quit the sport. Mercedes have invested heavily in Formula One in recent years, both in the monies spent building the race team and in research and development costs for the 2014 engine. Both projects are now bearing fruit, with the current on-track success for the W03 and the forthcoming formula change. To pull out now would represent too great a loss of money and face for the Daimler board to explain to its shareholders’ satisfaction. Were that not the case, the argument for departing is a flimsy one at best. The statute in question states that Daimler “does not tolerate the immoral or corrupt practices of its employees or its business partners” . But similar anti-corruption rules are standard business practice, inside and outside of Formula One, and it does not follow that Mercedes would use the excuse of a trial to quit the sport. The 30 June deadline for putting cost-cutting proposals to the World Motor Sport Council has now passed without any definite agreements, putting cost-cutting proposals under threat. Adding to the headache for those in favour of cost-cutting are recent comments from Sir Frank Williams, founder and team principal of the Williams F1 team, who has spoken out against enshrining cost cutting in the FIA regulations. “I am against any kind of interference. I don't want any third-party interference with one's business, to have people sneaking around wanting to check this and that. It's just like waiting for the taxman every day,” W illiams told formula1. com website. “W illiams is not pleading for more restrictions. But I have said many times that we have to control driver costs.” Speaking to Autosport earlier this week, Eric Boullier also sounded a note of caution. But the Enstone boss was more accepting of cost control measures than his colleague from Grove, warning only against agreeing to unsatisfactory solutions as the result of the then-looing 30 June deadline. “It is good that everybody in the paddock understands that we need to be thinking carefully about the future of F1,” the Lotus team principal told the magazine. “But we definitely need to take the right decision, and we definitely do not need to rush into a decision that we might regret. ... We are all in favour of making F1 better, more sustainable and having a long term plan. Cost-cutting is part of the strategy, but we need to do it consciously.” Wise words indeed. But given that the 30 June deadline has passed with no agreement reached, anyone wanting to put cost-cutting into the regulations needs to have unanimous agreement from all the teams. And while Red Bull and Toro Rosso are known dissenters, Frank Williams’ statements to the formula1.com website suggest the team principal is singing from Bernie Ecclestone’s hymn sheet on this one, and not taking the standard FOTA position. “There are 12 teams and each operates in different circumstances,” W illiams, below, told the website. “We have several manufacturer teams. One of them is Ferrari, who seem to have a great deal of money and who are in effect subsidised. But that is fine – they are Ferrari. They are the core of Formula 1 and that is how it should be.” MERCEDES NOT PULLING OUT OF F1 F1 COST-CUTTING UNDER THREAT AS DEADLINE SLIPS BY F1 >>> NEWS Dr. Dieter Zetsche (GER), CEO of Daimler AG. 7 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: