F1 banks to keep Bernie on

Bernie Ecclestone's position as the ring master of Formula 1 is not about to be threatened, despite a recent court battle over the way the sport is run. The assurance has come from one of the leading representatives of the German banks that own a majority of the sport and now have a clear say in the running of F1

F1 banks to keep Bernie on

The banks that own 75 percent of the company that runs F1 recently won a High Court verdict allowing them to have a greater presence on the board of the company that runs F1 - and there had been fears that such a scenario would put Ecclestone's position under threat.

But such concerns have been alleviated by one of the key figures in the three banks that own the shares. Gerhard Gribkowsky, chairman of F1 holding company SLEC and leading figure with the Bayerische Landesbank, has acknowledged that the banks would be foolish to try and replace Ecclestone.

"We would be badly advised to exclude a key figure like Ecclestone," he told German newspaper Der Spiegel. "In the past three decades he has developed close connections to the industry, the sponsors and other parties and we must consider his life's work.

"However there is some limit. We will not accept any longer a role in which we carry the risks, and we have demonstrated that we are ready to fight for our position."

In fact, rather than criticise Ecclestone over the lack of long-term stability that the sport currently has - especially with the manufacturers fighting for a bigger share of the revenue - Gribkowsky has said that there are a lot of positive aspects to what has been achieved in F1 recently. The comments come with the banks clearly looking eventually to sell their shares in the sport.

"The moves into China and Bahrain were without doubt right," he added. "It would be desirable to also go to Russia and India. With only two races in North America we are under-represented in comparison with the market.

"Our aim is to guarantee the sport's long-term stability. At some point the time may come when we say, 'okay, we are leaving again.'"

When asked what time frame he believed the banks would try and get out of F1, he said: "From today's point of view, in three to five years. Not earlier."

Gribkowsky's comments come after a weekend when the pressure was increased on Ecclestone to reach an agreement with the manufacturers, after Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo indicated that a decision about a breakaway F1 championship will definitely be made in 2005.

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