Ecclestone: F1 teams looking at buying stake in series

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Ahead of his bribery trial in Germany that begins later this month, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that a group of F1 teams are talking about buying a stake in the Grand Prix series.

Ecclestone stressed to Bloomberg that the talks were, at this point, “just a conversation” and “may not go anywhere.” He also said that he himself was not a part of these talks.

“We’ll see what the group comes up with,” said Ecclestone, who didn’t identify the teams involved and also added that he didn’t know which team started the talks. “Maybe they will get enough together to buy shares.”

Bloomberg reached out to Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and CVC Capital Partners, which owns the biggest stake in the series. However, a Ferrari spokesperson declined to comment while the others hadn’t returned a message back.

A few days ago, Ecclestone indicated to the Financial Times that he’d like to partner with the teams in order to become the series’ controlling shareholders.

While CVC controls 35 percent of F1 shares, Ecclestone himself only holds a stake of 5 percent.

In January, Ecclestone said he would continue to run F1’s day-to-day operations through the trial, which stems from an alleged $44m bribe to a German banker who played a key role in selling a major stake in F1 to the CVC group.

Ecclestone has admitted to the payment but said he did it because the banker, Gerhard Gribowsky, was threatening to expose his tax affairs to authorities.

In February, an £85 million damages claim against him was dismissed.

F1 2017 driver review: Sebastian Vettel

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Sebastian Vettel

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 5
Races: 20
Wins: 5
Podiums (excluding wins): 8
Pole Positions: 4
Fastest Laps: 5
Points: 317
Laps Led: 286
Championship Position: 2nd

2017 was supposed to be the year Sebastian Vettel finally fulfilled his ambition of emulating Michael Schumacher by returning Ferrari to its championship-winning heyday.

Instead, it ended in disappointment and frustration – once again.

Ferrari arguably made a greater step across the change in technical regulations for 2017 than any other team, living up to its pre-season tag as favorite by winning the opening round in Australia in fashion.

Vettel and Ferrari led their respective championships following the Monaco Grand Prix as the German ended a 16-year win drought for the Prancing Horse in the principality, and even heading into the summer break, a shot at both championships was looking good.

However, cracks had started to appear. Vettel’s remarkable antics behind the safety car in Baku sparked controversy after driving into Hamilton, suggesting the tension of the title fight was beginning to take its toll on the German.

The final run of flyaways was where things really fell apart for Vettel, though. Singapore looked to be a slam-dunk win, only for a start-line crash also involving teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen to put 25 free points in Hamilton’s pocket.

Reliability woes then struck in Malaysia and Japan – two more races Vettel could realistically have won – to make it game over in the title race, with Hamilton wrapping things up in Mexico.

Vettel only finished the year 46 points back from Hamilton, proving the impact the three bad races in Asia had. Realistically, this was a title race that should have gone down to the wire in Abu Dhabi. Instead, Vettel remains a four-time champion, level with Hamilton, who had just one to his name back in 2013 when his rival secured his fourth.

Ferrari’s internal issues will come under the microscope over the off-season, and Vettel himself knows there is plenty to work on. Staying cool under pressure and not letting things boil over as in Baku is the most obvious area for improvement.

But there is reason for hope. If Ferrari can keep up with Mercedes and repeat its impressive step into 2017 through the upcoming off-season, we may well be treated to another Vettel/Hamilton scrap at the front of the field, perhaps settling once and for all who is the greatest driver of the post-Schumacher era.

Season High: A crucial win in Hungary despite battling with a broken steering column.

Season Low: Letting tensions flare in Baku and hitting Hamilton behind the safety car.