Jailed banker tells German court that Ecclestone bribed him

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Today in Munich, imprisoned banker Gerhard Gribkowsky told a courtroom that Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone gave him a $44 million bribe over the sale of a stake in the sport.

Ecclestone is accused of giving that alleged bribe to Gribkowsky in order to help move along the sale of German bank BayernLB’s former F1 stake to CVC Capital Partners almost a decade ago.

Gribkowsky, now the star witness for the prosecution, is serving an eight-and-a-half year jail sentence for accepting the money and for tax evasion.

Ecclestone has admitted to the payments, but has consistently maintained that Gribkowsky was threatening to make false reports about him to tax authorities.

According to Reuters, Gribkowsky – who started giving evidence in the trial last Friday – said through an interpreter that “the offer clearly came from him,” meaning Ecclestone.

He also added, “I had a carrot dangled in front of me. I grabbed the carrot.”

As for the matter of what Ecclestone expected in return for the payment, Gribkowsky said “that remained vague.”

Additionally, the banker admitted to spreading rumors about Ecclestone’s tax status but denied the allegations of blackmail from the British billionaire, who faces not only a possible 10-year jail term but the end of his decades-long reign over F1.

“We didn’t have anything concrete,” Gribkowsky said on those rumors. “It was mainly nuisance value.”

Last November, CVC (which owns a 35 percent stake in the sport) said that it was ready to fire Ecclestone if he is found guilty of any charges against him.

“He told me he had never lied to me and I must say that I had trouble believing you could forget payment of $40 million,” CVC co-founder Donald Mackenzie told the High Court in London at that time.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).