Teams downplay talk of Ecclestone exit from F1

Formula 1 teams have downplayed talk that Bernie Ecclestone could be about to exit the sport, despite it being on the verge of a sale to Liberty Media.

Teams downplay talk of Ecclestone exit from F1
Bernie Ecclestone with Donald Mackenzie, CVC Capital Partners Managing Partner, Co Head of Global Investments
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid leads at the start of the race
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid leads at the start of the race
(L to R): Bernie Ecclestone, with Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing Team Principal
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid leads at the start of the race
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid leads at the start of the race
(L to R): Flavio Briatore, with Piero Ferrari, Ferrari Vice-President and Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB12 and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid at the start of the race
Esteban Ocon, Manor Racing MRT05 andEsteban Gutierrez, Haas F1 Team VF-16 at the start of the race
Bernie Ecclestone
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A deal for the American Liberty Media company to buy CVC's shares in F1 is believed to be close - and if it is signed off, announcements confirming the plan and the arrival of Chase Carey, executive vice-chairman of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox as chairman of the board, could come as early as this week.

The speculation about Liberty Media's arrival has prompted some to suggest that Ecclestone's period of running the sport could be over immediately.

However, even though Carey could take on a big role in shaping F1, many within the sport are well aware that it would be a mistake not to have a transition period where both work together.

Ecclestone is understood to have briefed teams and car manufacturer representatives about the F1 takeover plans over the Monza weekend, as the sport awaits a final signature on the contract.

When asked if the Italian Grand Prix could be Ecclestone's final race, Red Bull boss Christian Horner said: “There is obviously a lot of speculation going on, and I sincerely hope it is not Bernie's last race. I don't believe it will be.

“We will all wait to see what the news is over the next couple of weeks regarding the ownership or shareholding of F1, and if there is any change or redistribution. But there is an awful lot of speculation at this time.

“I think it is obvious that there are discussions going on, but until something is signed and finalised, everything is pure conjecture to that point.”

Investment promise

Although nothing is guaranteed until Liberty Media signs the contract and makes a first payment in a deal believed to be worth $8.5 billion, teams are optimistic about the potential arrival of the new investors.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: “If there is an investor who wants to buy the shares, it is good news for F1.

"Maybe it is good news that an American media company buys F1, but I don’t know the details of the transaction and neither do I know what happens in terms of management. Bernie has done an awesome job over 50 years and made it what it is.”

When asked if it was important that Ecclestone stays, Wolff said: “He has built an empire and we are benefiting from it.

"That thing generates millions of live views and full race tracks like we had [at Monza] and $1.5bn in profits every year, so he has done an awesome job.

“What the future will show is whether there are areas where things can be improved or not. But I don’t want to speculate. It is just wrong."

He added: “There are things we can learn from the American way, particularly in the digital areas, and there are things that work here and not there. 

"They will have a close look and then analyse what they think needs to be changed and what needs to remain. There is a reason why these guys can afford to buy this.”

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