Thursday 2 February at 08:35 :
Feb.2 (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone may be gone as chief executive, but he may not be gone for good according to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
Long-time 'F1 supremo' Ecclestone, 86, recently rejected claims his comeback might be in the form of a breakaway series.
But Wolff insists the inimitable Briton can never be written off.
"With Bernie, you never know if he's really gone or if he will be back somehow," he told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
"But it's true that Liberty has not only got the majority of shares in formula one but also the voting rights, and with this is the right to occupy the management. Chase Carey is the new boss -- that is a fact," Wolff said.
Asked if he thinks Ecclestone might try to sweep back into power somehow, Wolff answered: "This has happened repeatedly in the past, and of course you have to count on anything in formula one.
"However, I basically assume that a situation has now been created in which there will be no way back," he added.
As for Ecclestone's exit, expert opinions are split. Some see the departure of an 86-year-old as a great opportunity to finally modernise F1, while others think the sport is now dangerously exposed without its 'dictator'.
"Both are possible," Wolff admitted.
"The risk is that a lot of knowledge is lost. Bernie made incredibly good deals, we have long-term contracts and building on that is not easy because much of it was built on personal relationships that Bernie built up over decades.
"On the other hand, there are also areas where we can improve," he explained.
And while Liberty Media has clear ideas for future changes, Wolff thinks the sport could in fact be about to enter a calmer era.
"The (2016) qualifying story, the discussion about the engine formula -- we were always confronted with erratic decisions," Wolff said.
"The approach will now be much more strategic and thoughtful, based on data, with areas in which we can improve examined in detail," he added.