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Horner: Bernie must stay F1 boss

2014-01-16 08:11


CHAT BETWEEN FRIENDS: Red Bull team principal Christian Horner (left) talks with Bernie Ecclestone, president and CEO of Formula One Management, at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi in 2012. Supplied

LONDON, England - With Bernie Ecclestone's Formula 1 future in doubt amid bribery allegations one of the most influential team bosses on Wednesday said the series' prosperity relied on him remaining in charge.

Christian Horner, team principal of reigning Constructors' champion team Red Bull, believes Ecclestone is "the only guy" who can ensure F1 maintains its global reach as the premier motorsport series.

Ecclestone, now 83 and who started to build his F1 power base in the 1970s, is awaiting the outcome of a $140-million bribery trial relating to F1's sale in 2005. Evidence was heard at London's High Court at the end of 2013 about the measures Ecclestone allegedly took to maintain his grip on F1.

The billionaire entrepreneur has denied the claims.


The banker Ecclestone is accused of bribing has already been jailed in Germany for taking a payment and now Ecclestonre is also waiting to hear if he will have to stand trial in Munich on charges of bribery and incitement to breach of trust.

Regardless of those legal fights, Horner still strongly backs his long-time friend and has dismissed any fear that the cases are damaging F1's image. In fact, Horner fears the series could be damaged if Ecclestone had to quit as its commercial chief.

He said after speaking at a Leaders Sport Network breakfast in London: "Bernie is absolutely the best and only guy to do what he does, to take F1 to the global reach that the sport has achieved, introducing races in Russia in 2014, going back to the Austrian GP.

"It's a massive 2014 calendar he's pulled together... it's in all our interests that he's around as long as possible."

Horner was tipped by Ecclestone in November as his eventual successor after a transition period but the Red Bull boss has no plans to leave the team that won the previous four Constructors' championships.

"I have a long-standing commitment to Red Bull, a multi-year commitment," Horner said. "I'm very happy doing what I do. I have a very good friendship with Bernie. I have no interest in getting out of my contract."

Especially not after helping to mastermind Sebastian Vettel's dominance, with the German winning all four titles since 2010. And by awarding double points in the final race of the 2014 season Horner believes F1 is trying to halt Vettel's reign.


"Is it right to put so much predominance on one race? Does it undervalue what you have done in the rest of the year? I think it yes, it does," Horner said. "There will be a discussion next week about it no doubt and we need to think very carefully about it.

"I can understand trying to keep the championship alive to the last race but two out of the last four years it has gone to the wire under the current points system. Especially with the regulation changes we have got this year it's probably not the right time to be looking at that change."

Horner does, however, accept that Vettel's hegemony could be turning off sponsors keen on backing a competitive championship. "Inevitably there is that conflict because nobody likes serial winners in any sport, We've won every GP since July 2013 - nine in a row.

"Of course, with the championship being sewn up early, the final three or four races become like non-championship races and interest diminishes."


What could spike interest is the entry of the first woman driver since 1976 but Horner believes there isn't a suitable candidate. "The best marketing thing we could do would be to have a female driver," Horner said, "but at the moment there isn't one that could cut it at the front.

"f a woman were fast-tracked to the grid without being competitive," Horner said, "you end up doing more damage and ultimately your revenues will drop... but there are some very talented women coming through so it's only a matter of time."

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