Bernie Ecclestone has hinted he is close to stepping down as F1 supremo.
Most insiders believe that, with star witness Gerhard Gribkowsky often sounding contradictory or unbelievable, Ecclestone’s Munich corruption trial is going well for the 83-year-old.
But he certainly does not look well this weekend.
The diminutive Briton had to miss a day of court last week with a bad cold, and he is still unwell as he fulfills his duties in the Principality.
But while Ecclestone may ultimately win the day in Munich, the scandal may already have taken its toll.
Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport raised the theory that F1′s major shareholder CVC might have decided now to oust him, no matter the outcome.
The names Christian Horner, Flavio Briatore and the suddenly higher-profile Luca di Montezemolo are mentioned as potential successors.
And with his cold leaving him with a husky voice, Ecclestone said: “I have heard Niki Lauda‘s name.”
Usually, Ecclestone suggests the only way he will voluntarily leave the paddock is nailed inside a wooden box.
But he said in Monaco: “If CVC presents me with a successor, I will leave tomorrow.”
The words will be echoing inside the paddock, as F1 is currently in the sort of trouble that only Ecclestone has traditionally been able to magically solve.
On one side are angry small teams who are threatening the involvement of the European Union, and on the other are the powerful big teams, seemingly determined to cling to their financial advantage.
“Our job,” big-spending Red Bull’s Horner said on Thursday, “is to to the best job we can to represent the companies that we work for, so of course you’re going to cut the most aggressive deal that you can.”
It is rumoured the big teams are quite happy to see the small teams fail and be forced to buy ‘customer cars’ rather than continue to try to be constructors.
“It’s a brutal competition and it’s survival of the fittest,” said Horner.
Without Ecclestone, many fear F1 is currently facing an existential threat.
“There has never been a worse time to lose Bernie,” Auto Motor und Sport quoted one paddock voice as saying.