Team bosses have reacted with some caution to the news that Bernie Ecclestone could be on his way out of Formula 1 should the sport's much mooted sale to the Liberty Group goes ahead as planned.
Following speculation of an interested buyer in recent weeks, it is understood the Liberty Group is now very close to agreeing a contractl that would see it take control of the sport in a reported £6.5bn deal. The move would see equity firm CVC Capital Partners exit the sport.
According to Auto Motor und Sport
, Ecclestone has confirmed talks with the Liberty Group – owner of Virgin Media – are progressing well and close to completion, though it is unclear whether the deal will see Ecclestone retain his long-held role as its figurehead.
With Ecclestone and the Liberty Group have remained relatively tight-lipped about the deal, team bosses were also keen not to discuss their stance either but gave the impression they would not want to see the 85 year-old quit the sport.
“I sincerely hope this is not Bernie's last race,” said Red Bull's Christian Horner. “I don't believe it will be. And obviously we will all wait to see what the news is over the next couple of weeks regarding the ownership or shareholding of F1, if there is any change or redistribution. So there is an awful lot of speculation at this point in time.”
“He has built an empire and we are benefitting from that empire,” added Mercedes' Toto Wolff. “That thing generates dozens and dozens of live views and full race tracks like we had today and one and a half billion in profits like we've had every year. He's done an awesome job and whether the future shows there are areas which can be improved or not, I don't know, but I don't want to speculate because that is just wrong.”
Considering the Liberty Group's influence in the media industry, many are seeing the potential sale as a chance for F1 to shift away from what many consider to be F1's technical, regulation-based ethos into one that puts more emphasis on the 'show'. Indeed, while the FIA has favoured the move towards smaller, more efficient engines in an effort to lure manufacturers, Ecclestone has long spoken of his desire to prioritise the spectacle with bigger, more powerful and noisier engines but has found his influence neutered by over-arching democratic process of changing regulations.
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