Bernie Ecclestone has repeated his assertion that any money that passed between himself and disgraced banker Gerhard Gribkowsky was a private matter that had nothing to do with the impending sale of F1 rights.

The 83-year old, making his first appearance in court as part of the civil trial brought by German media company Constantin Medien, reprised claims that he was being put under pressure by Gribkowsky, amid claims that the BayernLB employee would reveal details of the Briton's tax affairs.

The timing of the 'shake down' - as Ecclestone refers to it - coincided with CVC's acquisition of the commercial rights to F1, which included purchasing BayernLB's interest in the sport. Constantin, meanwhile, had its own interest in the sale, having had an agreement with the bank that stated it would receive a ten per cent cut should the rights be sold for more than $1.1bn. CVC eventually paid 'just' $814m, leaving the media company with nothing except a glowering resentment and the belief that the sport had been deliberately undervalued by Ecclestone, in cahoots with Gribkowsky, in order to ensure that F1 had a new owner that would retain him as its figurehead.

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Although Gribkowsky was subsequently jailed by a German court for accepting a bribe, amongst other charges, Ecclestone has always maintained his innocence. Despite facing his own day in the dock in Germany early next year, the octogenarian insists that the $16m payment to Gribkowsky was a reaction to threats to his privacy.

"What I paid him was a very small amount, what I call an insurance policy - quite a cheap insurance policy," Ecclestone told the High Court in London, "This issue was nothing to do with anyone except Gribkowsky and myself, nobody else. I paid him because I was being 'shaken down'."

Constantin Medien is seeking $100m in damages from Ecclestone and three other defendants, including Gribkowsky. The Briton is due back in court today [Thursday]