German court to accept Ecclestone payment to end bribery trial

9 Comments

Bernie Ecclestone’s bribery trial will end, as the head of Formula One has offered up $100 million U.S. for that ending – this has been identified by a district court in Munich, and state prosecutors plan to accept.

Reports last week indicated this was possible for Ecclestone to pay his way out through a legal out clause, explained a bit further below.

This will end the trial that began in April and has gone on throughout the summer. Ecclestone will be found neither guilty or innocent on the charges.

The trial all stems from Ecclestone’s being accused of paying jailed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky of $44m for the BayernLB bank to keep Ecclestone as an F1 executive and for CVC Capital Partners to take the sale of F1’s commercial rights at an undervalued price. Though the payment was accepted, Ecclestone denied this was a bribe.

But the out clause to allow Ecclestone to pay his way out of this case refers to a provision in German law.

The BBC reported the quote of an experienced lawyer, Franz Bielefeld, to the Spiegelonline news website. Bielefeld explained to that outlet that this proviso, known as Paragraph 153a, was not just applicable to commercial trials, but could be invoked throughout the court system.

Further clarification here via The Guardian, which explained of the “get-out clause:”

“A paragraph in the German criminal code allows for trials to be ended under conditions which are “appropriate for resolving the public interest in a prosecution,” as long as the gravity of wrongdoing does not outweigh this.”

NBC Sports Group F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton said the decision is due to the intricacies of the German legal system:

Ecclestone, now 83, will be able to continue running the sport for the foreseeable future; however, he’s not clearly out of the woods. As my MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith notes, a sale of the CVC Capital Partners group is on the horizon.

Though the trial may now be over, the political intrigue will continue to roll on.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.