F1: Ecclestone Facing Corruption Charge; Ricciardo Red Bull Seat Unlikely Photo:
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Mike Stevens | Jul, 07 2011 | 2 Comments

The Gribkowsky corruption affair is expected to return to the F1 headlines on Wednesday.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone was questioned by Munich prosecutors in April on suspicion of being involved in the mysterious $50 million payment to the jailed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky.

The affair surrounds the sale of Formula One's commercial rights to CVC some years ago, with 80-year-old Ecclestone insisting that he will ultimately be "exonerated" of "any wrongdoing".

But it is only on Wednesday that the Briton will learn whether he has been charged and summoned to court, according to the Guardian.

The Times quotes him as saying: "I have done nothing so I have no idea what charges they could bring.

"I have done what I had to do at all times during this investigation and I have cooperated fully with the people in Germany. As far as I am concerned there are no problems."

If a charge is brought, it would likely relate to 'aiding and abetting' the deliberately wrong valuation of the commercial rights by Gribkowsky, who was then the chief risk manager of BayernLB bank.

London's Telegraph said it believes Ecclestone has been asked to cooperate by supplying evidence about Gribkowsky on the promise of a lighter sentence such as a monetary penalty.

"As long as it's not too much. I'm only joking," he said.

The newspaper also asked Ecclestone if he was aware Tuesday was the six-month deadline for either releasing or charging Gribkowsky: "I've not heard anything," he answered.



Hamilton Ruled Out As Partner To Vettel

Pitting Lewis Hamilton against Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull would risk the harmony of the team.

That was the message of Christian Horner on Tuesday as the team principal finally dealt a knock-out blow to speculation linking McLaren's Hamilton with a 2012 switch.

It emerged this week that Hamilton, 26, handed over to Horner a business card of his new manager Simon Fuller in Montreal and will be free to sign a Red Bull contract if he is not crowned 2011 champion.

But Horner, indicating Mark Webber is very likely to be offered a new contract, has told British reporters ahead of Silverstone this weekend that he has "severe reservations" about signing Hamilton.

"A Hamilton-Vettel combination, on paper, would look very attractive. But what we have to look at is the dynamics of a partnership and it's difficult to see how two sportsmen at the absolute top of their game could work in harmony under one roof," he said.

"History demonstrates, whether you look at Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna or Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet, that it doesn't tend to work. Lewis is one of the top three in the world but we are very happy with the combination we have.

"Lewis must be very frustrated this year. But it be would be difficult to envisage a driver of Sebastian's calibre and one of Lewis's under the same roof," added Horner.

The comments might be regarded as insulting to both Hamilton's current teammate Jenson Button and also Australian Webber, with the implication that Horner does not regard them as truly top drivers.

There also might be a deeper relevance ahead of the 2012 talks with Webber about his role at Red Bull.

"We are not looking for anybody else. I don't believe Mark is looking to go anywhere else," said Horner. "When the time is right we will sit down and have what is hopefully a very straightforward conversation.

"We are very happy with the job Mark is doing."

Webber, who is 35 in August, told the Telegraph: "We are talking but there is no real urgency from either side."



Red Bull seat unlikely for Ricciardo: Horner

Christian Horner will keep a "very close eye" on Daniel Ricciardo this weekend, but a seat at Red Bull's premier team in the near future is unlikely.

With Mark Webber's contract expiring and Lewis Hamilton now ruled out for 2012, attention has turned to fellow-Aussie Ricciardo, the cream of Red Bull's junior programme who at Silverstone is making his F1 race debut with HRT.

"It will be interesting to see how he now progresses," Red Bull Racing team boss Horner is quoted by Sky Sports.

It had been believed that Ricciardo, 22, would make his debut mid this season at secondary team Toro Rosso, but Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi have for now kept their drives.

Horner however suggested that a full-time Toro Rosso seat for Ricciardo is the logical next step, rather than a rapid rise to the energy drink company's premier team.

"Daniel has no experience of grand prix racing, he has an awful lot to learn, and HRT and Toro Rosso are the best environment for him to do that, as Sebastian (Vettel) did with Toro Rosso in 2007 and 2008," he said.

"He needs to develop, it would be wrong to rush him through. He now has to prove himself in formula one after proving himself in the lower categories.

"But we'll certainly be keeping a very close eye on him," added Horner.



Button brightened by Silverstone dampener

Jenson Button is hoping bad weather will help him end his podium drought at Silverstone this weekend.

The 2009 world champion has not only never won his home British grand prix, he has not even stood on the podium after any of his eleven previous races at the famous Northamptonshire venue.

31-year-old Button and his McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton left Valencia two weeks ago downbeat on their chances of matching the Red Bulls on the circuit's high speed curves.

But a weekend weather forecast predicting likely rain has brightened his spirits.

"If you look at the pace in Valencia you'd say we were nowhere near close enough to the Red Bulls," said Button.

"Our car seems to work well in the wet so if it rains it's not so good for fans sitting out there but for us, in terms of our pace and a result, wet weather could be good."

Red Bull's rivals also have their fingers crossed that Adrian Newey is right, as the dominant RB7's designer on Tuesday admitted the blown exhaust clampdown will affect the car "quite heavily".

"Our car was designed around the exhaust," the Briton is quoted by the BBC.

"So it might be that it's going to be more of a hit for us, but it's very difficult to forecast," added Newey.



South Africa GP deal signing 'weeks away' - Ecclestone

Just days ago, Force India deputy team boss Bob Fernley said Formula One should be targeting a race in Africa.

"It's the only major continent that we're not working on and I'd like to see us go back there," he said.

According to reports from South Africa on Wednesday, Bernie Ecclestone is indeed close to finalising a contract for organisers of an event in Cape Town to sign.

Iol.co.za quotes him as saying the street race could be held within two years, with a deal "weeks away from signing".

"I'm hoping we can make a decision as soon as our lawyers have a good look at them ... within the next couple of weeks," said the F1 chief executive.

"It'll be good to be back in South Africa. We were very happy when it was here in the past."

The last South African Grand Prix, at the Kyalami circuit, was won by Alain Prost in 1993.


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