Bernie Ecclestone has tipped the criminal bribery trial, set to begin in Munich in late April, to end before it even begins.
“Bet you it doesn’t happen,” the F1 chief executive, in London last Friday for a charity photograph auction called ‘Zoom’, said. Until then, despite the fact he has officially stepped down from the sport’s board, it is business as usual — and key ally Christian Horner, the Red Bull team boss, sees challenges ahead for F1 that Ecclestone must tackle. “Formula one needs him more than ever at the moment,” Horner said at the same event.
There was also a friendly needling between the pair, when the charity photograph taken by Horner was revealed to be a shot of one of his donkeys. Ecclestone joked: “I thought it was a picture of your (Horner’s) new car!” Horner, however, hit back at Red Bull’s troubled engine supplier. “My donkeys have more power than a Renault at the moment,” he joked. More seriously, Ecclestone and Horner disagree fundamentally about the sport’s incoming budget cap, despite reports recently the proposal could collapse.
Horner and world champion team Red Bull’s supremo Dietrich Mateschitz have made clear they oppose the plan, but Ecclestone said in London: “We have approved the budget cap. It is going to happen. “Everyone agreed to $200 million,” he told F1 business journalist Christian Sylt, according to the Express newspaper. “What hasn’t been agreed is what is in the $200 million. Unless we include everything, I am sure people will find ways around it. It’s going to be difficult.”
But Ecclestone does have a plan to minimising cheating, by offering a EUR 1 million reward to whistle-blowers. “We will then say to the team that the following year you will lose three of the maximum points you have scored. Then let’s see if they want to cheat,” he explained.