Friday February 2nd, 2001
Bernie Ecclestone was quoted on Friday as saying he had no immediate plans to relinquish control of Formula One.
He told the Daily Express newspaper that Europe's major carmakers were negotiating to buy a stake in Formula One but did not want outright control of the sport.
"They don't want control," Ecclestone told the Express. "They simply want to be sure of their security.
"They have big investments in Formula One and they just want to be sure that some lunatic is not going to be in charge without their say-so."
"I don't blame them, it is what they should do," he said.
"As long as the car manufacturers don't squabble among themselves, which I don't think they will, I believe that as long as I am healthy and can continue what I do now, they are delighted."
A report in two British newspapers on Thursday suggested Ecclestone was preparing to hand over control of Formula One to the five major European carmakers currently involved with teams.
It said Renault, BMW, Fiat, Ford and Mercedes had joined forces to buy a partnership with SLEC, the family trust through which Ecclestone controls the business of Formula One.
"I shouldn't think I will do this for more than another 20 years," joked the 70-year-old Ecclestone, who had heart surgery two years ago, when asked about retirement.
Renault own Benetton, BMW provide engines to Williams, Fiat own world champions Ferrari, Ford race under the Jaguar brand and Mercedes are in partnership with McLaren.
Japanese carmakers Honda and Toyota, from next season, are also involved in Formula One.
Ecclestone said that if he was no longer in charge - "dead or whatever" - then the carmakers needed to be in a position to determine who ran the business.
"They are talking with the trust on making it happen and I have been helping on day-to-day practical matters."
SLEC still holds half its shares with the other half held by debt-laden German media group EM.TV.
EM.TV are currently negotiating with German media giant Kirch to sell almost half its holding in SLEC. It said in October it had received a letter of intent from the carmakers stating their interest in buying a stake.
The Express said SLEC was likely to buy back some of EM.TV's holding and that if it ended up with a total of 70 percent of its shares, then it would sell half to the five carmakers.
It said the carmakers were looking for either a committee of the teams or a chief executive to run Formula One once Ecclestone departed the scene.
"I think the manufacturers will go with a chief executive and I believe it has to be with someone inside the sport who knows the ins and outs of the business," said Ecclestone.
"I don't know who could do it the way that I do it but maybe someone else would have a different style."
Ecclestone will loosen his grip on Formula One as part of an agreement last week between the ruling International Automobile Federation and the European Commission.
The Briton is an honourary vice-president of the FIA in charge of promotional matters but that role will no longer exist under an agreement for the FIA to loosen its ties with the commercial side of Formula One.