Bernie searching for successor

Bernie Ecclestone has started preparing the ground for his exit as F1 supremo with his forthcoming criminal trial beginning to take precedence.

Ecclestone is to go on trial in Munich on April 24 facing allegations he bribed a German banker during negotiations relating to the sale of the sport in 2006.

To facilitate matters, Ecclestone stood down from several directorial positions on companies related to F1 in mid-January, although it was announced he would continue to run the business on a day-to-day basis.

However, the 83-year-old has revealed the case in Munich is taking up a considerable amount of time, to such an extent he is now seriously pondering the idea of a partner or successor after almost 40 years in charge.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Ecclestone said: "I've been spending time on this case, and to spend time on Munich I am not able to give what I normally would do, 24/7, to the business.

"I've been looking, over the last few years, for somebody who can join me to assist with what I have to do.

"I will eventually be in a position, if I decide to retire - or unfortunately become dead - to have someone to step into my shoes."

With regard to the trial, it is alleged Ecclestone bribed Gerhard Gribkowsky with a 44million US dollars (29million) payment to help smooth the sale of F1 to CVC.

Ecclestone has previously claimed he was being "shaken down" by Gribkowsky, who was at the time employed as the chief risk officer at Bayern LB, the German bank overseeing the sale.

Gribkowsky was imprisoned in June 2012 for eight and a half years after being found guilty of breach of trust, tax evasion and receipt of corrupt payments.

Prosecutors in Gribkowsky's trial claimed he sold the stake without updating its valuation in return for bribes disguised as consulting contracts.

Ecclestone has admitted making the payment to Gribkowsky, but claims he did so because he was being threatened with blackmail.