Ecclestone’s involvement in a bribery row had been tipped to force Mercedes out of the sport as the carmaker’s parent company Daimler’s statutes declare it “does not tolerate the immoral or corrupt practices of its employees or its business partners”. Daimler is particularly sensitive to the issue having paid $185m (£111m) in 2010 to settle charges it made improper payments in exchange for government contracts.
But a Mercedes spokesperson said: “With the start of the court procedures Bernie Ecclestone is suspending his duties as director of [F1 parent company] Delta Topco with immediate effect. We welcome these measures.”
The threat to Mercedes’ F1 future peaked last week when it emerged Ecclestone is to stand trial in Germany on bribery charges in April. He is accused of paying part of a $44m (£26m) bribe to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky so that he would steer the sale of F1 in 2006 to his preferred buyer, private equity firm CVC.
Ecclestone denies bribery and his hopes of returning to the board were boosted this week when a $650m (£391m) lawsuit also relating to F1’s sale to CVC was thrown out of New York’s Supreme Court.