F1 takeover: Ecclestone rumours overshadow Italian Grand Prix
Nico Rosberg beats Lewis Hamilton in another Mercedes one-two, but the real drama revolves around the future of ringleader Ecclestone
Nico Rosberg won the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday, beating his Mercedes team-mate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton into second place at Monza and cutting his lead to just two points.
But if the race was little more than another procession for Mercedes there was drama aplenty off the circuit with rumours that the sport is about to be taken over by an American buyer and that Bernie Ecclestone's days in charge of F1 are coming to an end.
"As a television spectacle, the Italian Grand Prix looked much like any other Formula 1 race in 2016," says Andrew Benson of the BBC. "Mercedes dominated and the rest were left to pick up the pieces as the title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg took another shift.
"But, behind the scenes, it is starting to appear as though the sport will soon look very different."
Most of the talk over the weekend was of a takeover by Liberty Media, explains Paul Weaver of The Guardian.
"The American company has been in talks with CVC Capital Partners, which owns a controlling 35.5 per cent stake in F1, and a deal could be concluded within the next few days. That may well undermine Ecclestone's position as the sport's chief executive, with Eddie Jordan, a former team owner-turned-pundit, suggesting the 85-year-old could be gone by the Singapore Grand Prix in two weeks' time."
Ecclestone, however, saw it differently. Asked about the rumours of a takeover he had a one-word answer: "Bulls***."
"On a confusing day even in the chaotic world of F1 politics, what is clear is that Liberty Media is in the running to complete a deal to buy the sport, which would be the first change of ownership in more than a decade," says Daniel Johnson of the Daily Telegraph.
Liberty, which owns Virgin Media, is run by American businessman John Malone, who "has coveted the sport for several years and would hope to use his media empire to market Formula 1 globally like never before," says Johnson. The deal would be worth around £6.5bn he adds.
However, replacing Ecclestone might not be that simple, even though Liberty have identified their own man, former News Corp executive Chase Carey, to act as chief executive.
"With Ecclestone having ruled the sport for almost four decades, it would cause chaos to remove him overnight in the middle of the season. He will want to retain full control," says Johnson.
All in all it was "a curious weekend of comings and goings that turned the Monza paddock into a cauldron of rabid speculation, huge assumptions and downright fibs", says Kevin Eason of The Times. "Welcome to the wacky world of Formula 1, where the shenanigans on the track are often a distraction from the action off it."