Tag Archives: prison

Karim Benzema ruled out of France v Spain clash after speeding offence

Spain judiciary hand national team a boost after summoning Benzema over 134mph speeding offence… on day of France clash

By
Pete Jenson

PUBLISHED:

13:59 GMT, 1 March 2013

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UPDATED:

14:07 GMT, 1 March 2013

Offence: Karim Benzema was caught speeding at 134mph

Offence: Karim Benzema was caught speeding at 134mph earlier this year

The Spanish judiciary has done the nation's football team a favour by telling speeding Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema he must appear in court on March 26 – the same day France play Spain in Paris in a vital World Cup qualifier.

Benzema was caught doing 134 mph on Madrid's M40 ring road in the early hours of February 3 – twice the speed limit.

He was meant to appear last Tuesday but asked for a postponement because he was in Real Madrid's squad to play Barcelona in the Cup.

Spanish boost: The Real Madrid striker will miss his country's qualifier

Spanish boost: The Real Madrid striker will miss France's World Cup qualifier

Now he will need to explain to France
boss Didier Deschamps that instead of being at Stade de France in Paris
he will be answering to his fourth traffic misdemeanor in the
three-and-a-half seasons he has been at Real Madrid.

He was fined for dangerous driving in Ibiza in 2011, involved in a Lamborghini accident on Reunion Island in 2009, and he drove into a tree on the way home from his first clasico in 2009.

The player could face between three and six months prison sentence although a hefty fine and a driving ban of between one and four years is more likely.

Floyd Mayweather ready to fight Manny Pacquiao in September

Mayweather: I feel bad for Manny… $100m superfight must wait until September nowFloyd Mayweather Jr confirms May 4 comebackBoxer tells Pacquiao to come through tune-up fights firstWait for $100m superfight could end on September 14

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UPDATED:

18:38 GMT, 13 December 2012

Floyd Mayweather Jnr has not ruled out facing Manny Pacquiao in boxing's first $100million superfight – but only after the battered Filipino has at least one warm-up bout.

Pacquiao was knocked out cold by the brutal right hand of Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas last Saturday, a result which looked to end hopes of the 33-year-old facing Mayweather.

But the five-weight world champion insists he remains interested in fighting his pound-for-pound rival, if terms can be agreed.

May the fourth be with you: Floyd Mayweather has confirmed his return to the ring will take place on May 4

May the fourth be with you: Floyd Mayweather has confirmed his return to the ring will take place on May 4

Wrong side of the law: Mayweather served two months in prison before his release in August

Wrong side of the law: Mayweather served two months in prison before his release in August

'Pacquiao's focus should on be on
trying to take a vacation, get his mind right, and get a few tune-up
fights so he can bounce back,' Mayweather told Fight Hype.

'I feel bad for him. There's a
difference in the ways you can get knocked out. See, when a guy gets
knocked out and he can get up, they sit him on his stool, rub his back
and he goes home to ice himself.

'But when you gotta wake a guy up
with smelling salts and got a concussion and he gotta go to hospital
overnight, that's crucial. I mean, that's close to death.

'When I offered Manny Pacquiao $40m, I told him I would wire him $20m up front, just agree to the guaranteed $40m.

'He told me [he wanted] 50/50 and then hopped off the phone.'

Mayweather will return to action on
May 4 at the MGM Grand, his first bout since serving two months of an
87-day prison sentence for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

All smiles: Manny Pacquiao arrives at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila with his wife Jinkee following his defeat to Marquez

Smiles better: Manny Pacquiao arrives at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila with his wife Jinkee following his defeat to Marquez (below)

Pacquiao was knocked out by Marquez in Las Vegas last week

Pacquiao was knocked out by Marquez in Las Vegas last week

He also revealed he is considering hiring his father, Floyd Snr, as his trainer after his uncle Roger took ill.

The pair have a fractured relationship and Floyd Jnr ejected his dad from his gym last year before his fight with Victor Ortiz.

'We don't really know what the future
holds for Floyd Mayweather as far as who's gonna be the trainer, but
I'm leaning towards my father at this particular time,' he added.

'My dad has to realise that I'm an
adult. I just want my dad to accept and respect me as an adult. I think
my dad still looks at me as his 10-year-old son.'

Back in action: Mayweather also has a date schemed in his diary to fight in September

Back in action: Mayweather also has a date schemed in his diary to fight in September

Mayweather will also fight on
September 14 and while no opponents have been announced for either date,
names in the frame include Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez and Robert Guerrero.

The 35-year-old, who remains
undefeated after 43 fights, and holds the WBC welterweight and WBA
(Super) light-middleweight world titles, concluded: 'I don't know who my
team has scouted but whoever it is, it's going to be an exciting show.

'I can't wait. I'm looking to go out there and perform and look well for my fans.'

Gary Speed suicide anniversary: Leon McKenzie book serialisation – I raced back from training to my hotel room determined to kill myself

LEON McKENZIE BOOK EXCLUSIVE: Nothing could stop me now.
I raced back from training to my hotel room determined to kill myself… I was sick of players, coaches and fans staring at me.

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UPDATED:

15:50 GMT, 27 November 2012

On the anniversary of Gary Speed's tragic
death, Sportsmail publishes here the harrowing opening chapter of Leon
McKenzie's autobiography 'My Fight With Life'. In the first extract of
an exclusive MailOnline serialisation, the former Premier League striker
recounts the bleakest of days when he tried to take his own life.
+++ WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT +++.

I’d had enough of life, my life at least, so it was time to end it all.

Thoughts of suicide had popped in and out of my head for a while now, but for the last week they’d been pretty much permanent visitors.

A pulled hamstring towards the end of a training session pushed me over the edge. It was a relatively trivial moment for sure, and an occupational hazard for a footballer, but I’d been beating myself up mentally for months and this was the punch that knocked me down and out.

I could think of only one way to escape the misery that had enveloped my life. At that horrible time I couldn’t explain why I felt numb, empty and desolate. On the outside I had everything, but inside I was lost in a fog of uncertainty.

Dark times: Former Premier League striker Leon McKenzie, who has battled depression throughout his career, at his Northamptonshire home last year

Dark times: Former Premier League striker Leon McKenzie, who has battled depression throughout his career, at his Northamptonshire home last year

TOMORROW: PART II OF MailOnline's EXCLUSIVE SERIALISATION…
Charles Bronson and Myra Hindley – life in prison and how the PFA failed depressed footballers like meLEON McKENZIE: My Fight With Life

Published by MacAnthonyMedia, priced 7.99

Leon McKenzie: My Fight With Life

Click here to buy your copy now…

I knew deep down that suicide was selfish. I knew it would cause misery and desperation to the people I loved the most and I know now that’s what depression does to you.

You don’t think straight. Hope is abandoned. Back then logic and rational thought had left my head months before leaving just one idea swimming back and forth inside my mind.

I wanted out. No ifs, no buts, no maybes, I wanted out and I wanted out today.

I was a man with a beautiful, loving wife and three young children who meant the world to me. They were my life and yet I wanted to leave them behind to try and find a better place for me.

They’d be better off without me anyway. I wasn’t contributing much. I didn’t want my sadness to crush them.

Inexplicable thoughts (although they seemed perfectly sensible at the time) like that were running through my head day after miserable, stinking day. I was trapped in a maze of mood swings that made little sense.

I’d lost sight of what was good and positive in my life. I saw only misery and uncertainty ahead.

The people I worked with didn’t suspect a thing. I appeared normal to them. I would appear calm, in good humour, one of the lads, someone without a care in the world.

That was how it was in the world of professional football. You had to keep up appearances, join in the banter as most people at that time, in this macho, testosterone-filled world would view mental illness as a weakness rather than a problem that needed attention, a problem that demanded help.

I was good at keeping up appearances. I could be a livewire in the dressing room, laughing, shouting and bantering as loudly as anyone.

Inside I was dying though and I was gradually convincing myself that suicide was the best way to escape the torment.

I was a footballer at Charlton
Athletic coming to the end of a career that had included two spells in
the Premier League, an appearance at Wembley, a couple of promotions and
some memorable and magical moments.

But
I wasn’t really a footballer any more as I was permanently injured and
couldn’t string two games together for my latest club.

Scroll down for video…

Leon McKenzie of Norwich is foiled by Shay Given of Newcastle during the Barclays Premiership match between Norwich City and Newcastle United at Carrow Road on April 20, 2005

Boxer Clinton McKenzie, with his son Leon McKenzie, in the ring

Premier class: McKenzie is fouled by Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given (left) to win a Barclays Premier League penalty for Norwich in 2005 and in the ring with his British light welterweight champion boxer dad, Clinton (right). McKenzie's father saved his son after Leon attempted suicide at a south-east London hotel

LEON McKENZIE: Factfile…

Full name: Leon Mark McKenzie
Date of birth: May 17, 1978 (age 34)
Place of birth: Croydon
Height: 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)

Club information

Current club: Corby Town
Youth career: Crystal Palace

Senior career
Apps† Gls
1995–2000 Crystal Palace 85 7
1997 → Fulham (loan) 3 0
1998 → Peterborough (loan) 14 8
2000–2003 Peterborough 90 46
2003–2006 Norwich City 79 20
2006–2009 Coventry City 62 12
2009–2010 Charlton Athletic 12 0
2010–2011 Northampton Town 27 10
2011 Kettering Town 9 2
2012- Corby Town 10 3

People, fans especially, would still envy my lifestyle. They’d assume I was collecting a few grand a week and living comfortably for doing very little, but I hated my existence.

For as long as I could remember, or at least from the time that I chose football over the family tradition of boxing, I just wanted to score goals, I wanted to play at the highest level, I wanted to be loved.

I’d achieved it all, but now it had been taken away from me by a body struggling to the point of collapse with the demands of my work. That had led to my mind falling apart as well. Now I just couldn’t face the future.

After signing me, Charlton had put me up in a Marriott Hotel in Bexleyheath. I’d been there for four months, returning to an empty room after training in the early hours of the afternoon, collecting my room key, making sure the door was locked behind me, pulling the curtains, lying on the bed and either staring into space or just bursting into tears, usually the latter, often both.

I had no energy, no drive. All through my football career I’d flogged myself to the limits in training and on the pitch, and I generally lived a hectic life, but now I couldn’t even be bothered to switch the TV on in my room, or make a drink, or visit the bathroom.

The sheer weight of this illness is hard to explain to those who have never come into contact with it.

I wasn’t mad. I didn’t feel like I’d gone crazy and there was no chance of me making trouble for anyone. I didn’t have the passion that would make me rant and rave or to fight with anyone. My head was empty apart from that persistent thought of suicide.

Some sufferers of depression never get to the suicide stage. I seemed to arrive there quickly. Anxiety had used up most of my energy, and all of my fight.
I certainly didn’t want to be with anyone on those miserable afternoons. I had no idea what the Charlton players did after lunch because I didn’t mix with them once the chore of training had been completed.

Former glories: Leon McKenzie, who has battled depression throughout his career, poses at his Northamptonshire home in front of his collection of signed shirts

Former glories: Leon McKenzie, who has battled depression throughout his career, poses at his Northamptonshire home in front of his collection of signed shirts

Fighting on: McKenzie has battled back from his suicide bid and is now playing for Corby Town in the Blue Square North (Conference)

Fighting on: McKenzie has battled back from his suicide bid and is now playing for Corby Town in the Blue Square North (Conference)

Sofia, my wife, would call. She was living in the family home with our daughter in Northampton. I’d answer, but I wasn’t really there. I knew how hard I’d worked to make myself a Premier League footballer and now I was feeling desperately sorry for myself because my entire career was coming to an end.

No-one had prepared me for the end of my playing days. As my career had taken off, it was all big promises of fame and massive earnings. I was surrounded by sycophants and well wishers telling me nothing could go wrong now I’d made it to the big time. I was set up for life.

I wasn’t prepared for the reality of a career collapsing in a heap, the prospect of future obscurity , and God only knows what else.

Powerhouse: McKenzie celebrates after scoring the second goal for Norwich in a famous 2-0 win over Manchester United in April 2005

Powerhouse: McKenzie celebrates after scoring the second goal for Norwich in a famous 2-0 win over Manchester United in April 2005

This was tough and, in my head at least, I was dealing with it all on my own.

I was sick of players, coaching staff and fans staring at me. I knew what they were thinking: ‘look at Leon, he’s injured and not able to play again.’

After leaving Coventry to join Charlton, I’d also got myself into serious debt which obviously didn’t help my state of mind so now was the time to act.

It was an unremarkable Tuesday morning when I finally decided to put my suicide plan into operation. I was training well, I felt fit for a change and then my hamstring went.

I pulled up. I couldn’t run anymore. I was jinxed so what was the point in carrying on, in football or in life.

I
could sense everyone glaring at me. There was sympathy from people at
the club, but not everyone, and to be fair I felt embarrassed and guilty
myself.

I was embarrassed
because I was desperate to show this club how good I could be. Instead
my body was breaking down and I was crying inside.

I
went to the medical room for treatment. It was a path I knew well. I
was on my own in there for a while and I just sat there on a treatment
bed and roared my eyes out.

While
I was there, I casually asked the club doctor for some sleeping pills,
explaining that I was having too many restless nights and I was
struggling to get through training as a result.

He
gave me a batch to help me but like the rest of the club staff, he had
no idea that what I was really suffering was a lot worse than a bout of
insomnia. He also couldn’t have known that I already had a separate
batch of 20 sleeping pills back at the hotel.

I
had enough now to be sure of making my exit. I also had some
anti-inflammatories and there was an unopened bottle of Jack Daniels in
my hotel room to wash everything down.

Nothing
could stop me now. I drove to the hotel car park and rang my mum. I
burst into tears, telling her that I couldn’t take any more pain, any
more anguish. I was sick of being injured and scared about what the
future held for me.

Mum
started crying. She hated how unhappy I had become. She hated the fact
that injuries had started to interrupt my career on a regular basis and
she now decided she wanted me to give up playing.

Good old mum- always practical, always caring- but she hadn’t grasped what I was planning.

I fooled myself that the mental struggles I was experiencing ran deeper than a career that was coming to an inglorious end.

I tried to convince myself that I had nothing left to prove or achieve anyway. I’d found and married my soul-mate, I’d played football at the highest level, I’d scored 100 goals, I’d fathered three beautiful children.

What else was there Especially as my body had now given way.

I look back at those days now and cringe. I realise now that my ‘Queen B’, my name for Sofia, and my children were reason enough to keep going, but I must have been in a bad, dark place that particular night, a place I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

I decided the world was now horrible and unforgiving and I’d seen enough of it. I wanted to join my sister Tracey who had taken her own life aged 23 eight years earlier.

I had no professional help from
within or from outside of football while I struggled with my thoughts.
I’d seen no doctors or medical experts on depression and I didn’t feel
able to tell anyone within my sport as there appeared little chance of
finding any understanding.

I’d even pushed my loving wife away.

Read Neil Ashton's exclusive interview with Leon McKenzie from December 2011…
Click here to read the full exclusive interview

Now
it was time to go. I was sure of that. I had the means and there was
no-one to stop me. I put the phone down on mum and raced into the hotel.
I had to do this before I could change my mind.

I
lay on the bed and chucked one pill after another into my mouth, and
after each batch of five or six tablets, I took a decent swig of
whiskey.

I was relentless. I was dedicated to death. This was serious shit now. I couldn’t stop myself and I didn’t want to.

Inside five minutes 40 sleeping tablets and several antiinflammatories were in my system along with half a bottle of whiskey.

Leon McKenzie, Norwich City, celebrates scoring against Crystal Palace in 2005

Leon McKenzie of Norwich City jumps a tackle from Kenny Cunningham of Birmingham City

Leon McKenzie celebrates his goal in the 2-0 win for Peterborough over Cardiff

Life in the spotlight: McKenzie celebrates scoring Norwich's second in their April 2005 2-0 win over Manchester United (left), jumping a tackle from Kenny Cunningham of Birmingham City (centre) and celebrating scoring against Cardiff for Peterborough (right)

I’d surely done it. I don’t recall much, there was no memory of an inner-peace, no sense of relief, no life flashing before me, just a longing to fall asleep for one last time.

But then I thought of my dad. I needed to say thank you and goodbye to my big, powerful father who had always been there for me, supporting me during every step of the way in my life.

I had followed his path into professional sport and he was one of the major reasons why I had travelled as far as I had.

Even in my semi-conscious state, I told myself I had to speak to him one last time. I don’t believe it was a sub-conscious cry for help or one last attempt to get people to see and understand my problems as for all I knew my dad could have been on the other side of the country, unable to make a difference.

I wasn’t panicking. In fact, I was
eerily calm. I told dad I’d done something stupid. I told him I’d taken
loads of pills. He freaked out, while I crashed around the room before
collapsing on the bed and passing out.

In amongst it: McKenzie (centre in Norwich kit) competes for the ball in the West Brom box during a 2004 Premier League encounter at Carrow Road

In amongst it: McKenzie (centre in Norwich kit) competes for the ball in the West Brom box during a 2004 Premier League encounter at Carrow Road

Ledley King of Spurs clashes with Leon McKenzie of Norwich

Leon McKenzie (left) of Coventry and QPR's Peter Ramage

Cut and thrust: McKenzie challenges Tottenham legend Ledley King (left) and battles it out for Coventry City against QPR in the Championship (right)

It turned out dad was close by.

I
had been drifting in and out of consciousness for what seemed like
hours when dad burst in with a couple of members of the hotel staff.
I was groggy, my eyes were heavy and shut, but I could still hear.

Leon McKenzie: My Fight With Life

My dad’s voice was faint, but full of concern: ‘Champ, wake up,’ he was repeating over and over again.

Then my world went black and silent. I assumed this was death.

I was wrong. I came round the next
morning in hospital. Sofia was there with my mum, dad, cousins, Tracey’s
mum Kim, my elder sister Rebecca, everyone I loved deeply, they were
all there.

And they were
all in tears. They were expecting, hoping, to hear some words to suggest
I’d reached rock bottom and that I’d now fight my way back up.
'It didn’t work then,' I said, finally realising I was still alive.

My mum stormed out of the room, appalled at what I had just said.

And
I wasn’t joking. I was disappointed to still be around. The nurse said
that one or two more pills would have done the job and that I was lucky,
but that was the last thing I felt.

Dad
had been 10 minutes away when I called him and he’d arrived in the nick
of time. That was also lucky, but frustrating from my illogical point
of view.
I instantly regretted not blagging some more pills from the Charlton medical staff.

I’d failed to kill myself and I was still depressed. More so because of what I’d just put those I loved the most through. My nightmare was to continue.

I was discharged that morning, so I got up, picked up my kit and went off to the football ground for treatment on my hamstring.

Life must go on even if you didn’t want it to.

LEON McKENZIE: My Fight With Life, Published by MacAnthonyMedia, priced 7.99. Click here to buy your copy now…
VIDEO: McKenzie on his new autobiography…

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Eric Cantona sardine speech: the truth revealed

REVEALED: The truth behind Cantona's famous trawler speech (and the mystery of the piece of paper it was written on)

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UPDATED:

13:23 GMT, 27 November 2012

Eric Cantona delivered one of the most famous phrases football has ever known when he uttered the immortal and completely baffling words: 'When seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.'

Now, over 17 years from the Frenchman's infamous press conference after an appeal hearing at Croydon Magistrates’ Court following his assault on Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons, former Manchester United director Maurice Watkins has revealed the inspiration behind Cantona's choice of phrase.

At the time it seemed like a bizarre off-the-cuff remark before former Manchester United forward ended his brief press conference.

Scroll down to watch the video

Gone fishing: Cantona - with Watkins (left) watching on - walks out of his press conference after reading his famous 'sardine' line following the quashing of his two-week prison sentence

Gone fishing: Cantona – with Watkins (left) watching on – walks out of his press conference after reading his famous 'sardine' line following the quashing of his two-week prison sentence

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Later, it was revealed to be the
Frenchman’s assessment of the media pack following him around on the
hunt for a story. And according to Watkins – who was sat next to Cantona
during the press conference – the Frenchman knew what he was going to
say all along.

Maverick: Cantona took the Premier League by storm

Maverick: Cantona took the Premier League by storm

'The
whole case had been so big I felt Eric had to say something,' said
Watkins, at the time a United director and their legal advisor.

'We started to draft a speech on a piece of paper and he asked what the boat was that catches fish. Then he asked what the birds were that fly over the sea.

'Eric went on writing then showed me what he wanted to say.

'Everyone thinks because of the expression on my face that I didn’t know what he was going to say.

But I did and I often wonder what happened to that piece of paper.'

Cantona’s words brought some kind of closure to one of the most infamous chapters in football history.

Sent off for a challenge on Palace defender Richard Shaw in January 1995, Cantona was making his way to the dressing rooms in the corner of Selhurst Park when he heard Simmons shout at him.

Cantona launched himself at the supporter with a kung-fu kick, before following up with a couple of well-aimed punches.

'I was having a cup of tea in the directors’ room before being called to the dressing room because police were contemplating some sort of action,' said Watkins.

'From then it became clear what a significant event it was. Legally, I will probably never have a case like that again.'

Kung-Fu fighting: Cantona attacks Matthew Simmons at Selhurst Park back in 1995

Kung-Fu fighting: Cantona attacks Matthew Simmons at Selhurst Park back in 1995

Almost immediately, United banned
Cantona for the remainder of the season – a total of 21 matches – which
the Football Association increased to eight months.

Watkins, and Sir Alex Ferguson, remain of the view that the additional punishment was unfair and borne out of the FA’s need to look as though they were actually doing something.

Yet the loss of Cantona’s liberty was almost worse.

'We made an immediate mistake on the day of the case because we decided to walk to the court with a police escort,' said Watkins.

'It was only 100 yards but there were so many press people about it was very difficult to move. I was nearly knocked down on more than one occasion.

'We thought it was going rather well until the magistrate sentenced Eric to two weeks in prison.

Circus: Cantona dominated the headlines throughout 1995

Circus: Cantona dominated the headlines throughout 1995

Circus: Cantona dominated the headlines throughout 1995

Circus: Cantona dominated the headlines throughout 1995

'We lodged an immediate appeal and bail application but Eric was pretty upset when he was whipped down to the cells.'

There then followed an almost comic three-and-a-half hours during which a bail application to the same bench was turned down, forcing Watkins and his legal team to dash up the road to the nearby crown court to make a further attempt to get Cantona released.

'It was a mad three hours,' said Watkins.

'I did manage to see Eric for a little while but there was not much time to do anything.

'The thing was, whilst you go prepared for anything we were surprised at the sentence because it went against all the established protocols.'

American Grand Prix preview

F1 is back on the menu as stars head to Austin, but will America bite

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 15 November 2012

An entrepreneurial bond trader, Formula One’s leading circuit designer, the favoured lieutenant of an octogenarian Texan billionaire, and a few locals lunch together in a boots-and-cowboy joint called Wild Bubba’s.

Today’s special: road kill chili, comprising antelope and wild boar.

The restaurant is situated amid scrubland in Elroy on the unfashionable south-eastern fringe of Austin, close to the airport. When the owner, Bubba no less, heard that the American Grand Prix was coming to the area he immediately took himself downtown to see the bond trader, aka Bobby Epstein, chairman of the whole enterprise, and introduced himself as the mayor of Elroy.

Big weekend: Wyman Gilliam, owner of Wild Bubba's in downtown Elroy, Texas

Big weekend: Wyman Gilliam, owner of Wild Bubba's in downtown Elroy, Texas

‘Really You’re the mayor of Elroy’ exclaimed Epstein.

Bubba’s deadpan response: ‘Self-proclaimed, sir.’ Bubba, a laconic 55-year-old wearing a red cap bearing the Circuit of the Americas insignia, saw the potential in a 250million project that brings Formula One back to the United States for the first time since 2007. He is now counting profits that are 80 per cent up in the past year.

‘I’m not buying a new boat,’ he said, ‘but I am paying the electricity bill.’

Perhaps exaggerating a touch, he added: ‘Maybe 99 per cent of people have totally embraced what’s taking place. There is some opposition from people who want to keep a quiet situation. But we could have got a new city dump out here or a new state prison. I am happy to say we have got Formula One.’

Bubba has even renamed his beer garden the Tilke Biergarten in honour of Hermann Tilke, the circuit designer from Germany who has used the natural undulations of the land to confect one of his more promising tracks.

Promising much: The track in Austin has been praised ahead of the race on Sunday

Promising much: The track in Austin has been praised ahead of the race on Sunday

Promising much: The track in Austin has been praised ahead of the race on Sunday

The short sprint up to the first left-hand corner and down again is instantly impressive even when you are riding in a truck driven by the affable Rad Weaver, the aforementioned lieutenant to the 85-year-old car-dealing, sports team-owning, oil-drilling, real estate-developing mogul Red McCombs, who along with Epstein and the acrimoniously discarded former racer Tavo Hellmund, is a founding father of Austin’s Formula One gambit.

There is an infectious pride among Bubba’s lunch crowd. They love the circuit. They take you to see the enviable number of turns visible from certain vantage points. Their welcome is warm.

Yet the local newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, reports unrest among the 800,000 Austinites. ‘Keep Austin weird’ is a self-styled slogan in this defiantly hip, liberal, green, unglitzy, student city known for the University of Texas and officially declaring itself ‘The Live Music Capital of the World’.

Epstein counters that Formula One leads the way in developing green technologies. He also believes the circuit, which is due to host other series including Moto GP, could annually generate 500m for the city.

Looking at the hotel prices, they may do that in one weekend. Seriously, it is 700 a night at the Hilton, where the McLaren team are staying. That larceny is mirrored across downtown.

Race is on: Sebastian Vettel (right) and Fernando Alonso will resume their title fight again

Race is on: Sebastian Vettel (right) and Fernando Alonso will resume their title fight again

All 120,000 tickets are sold, at between 100 and 300. Another 200,000 visitors are expected in town for the party. Streets have been cordoned off for 70 live acts, including Aerosmith and Enrique Iglesias.

Talk to taxi drivers and they fear congestion. We Londoners remember that refrain from 99 out of 100 cabbies before the Olympics. But speak to most folk here and they are either positively excited or faintly open-minded about the extravaganza. In truth, they are not totally sure what they have got themselves into.

Take Epstein. He wanted to know what Bernie Ecclestone, who has agreed a 10-year deal with Austin, would have his eyes on when he arrived for Thursday’s inspection. I told him neatness, straight lines, no litter. Not easy because the grass was still being laid this week and some of the apparently temporary hospitality units needed further work.

Take America’s relationship with Formula One. The country has traditionally preferred the belching, muscular saloons of Nascar. That championship’s final round falls on Sunday and is sure to attract more domestic TV viewers than the Grand Prix, that unloved, occasional caller from Europe.

Two wheels better than four Jenson Button takes a look at the track

Two wheels better than four Jenson Button takes a look at the track

Incidentally, nobody in Austin has yet been well-versed enough in the sport to have talked to me about the title fight between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, a year-long struggle that could be resolved here.

On Formula One’s last venture into this vast land, the Indianapolis Star asked locals what they knew about life over the pond. ‘Who is the British prime minister’ they inquired.

‘Albert Einstein,’ came the response.

‘That’s not bad,’ said Epstein on hearing the story. ‘We are such an egotistical people that 50 per cent of us would not know who the vice-president is. Formula One is opening Austin up in so many ways.’

Some teams arrived here to find the garages smaller than usual. That quibble makes little difference to Formula One’s chances of survival in a market crucial to manufacturers of cars and, in Red Bull’s case, drinks. But what will be more damaging is if punters get soaked. There is a 20 per cent chance of rain on Sunday, and that makes front-page news in a desert like this.

Another fear concerns how the public roads suddenly go down to one lane on the approach to the circuit. Old Silverstone-style traffic jams would be just the road kill that Bobby, Red and Rad do not want or deserve.

Joey Barton invites Ousmane Dabo for dinner after being branded a coward

Let's settle this! Barton invites Dabo for dinner after being branded a coward

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UPDATED:

08:56 GMT, 4 September 2012

Joey Barton wants to meet Ousmane Dabo in Marseille so they can discuss the violent confrontation of five years ago which left the French midfielder in hospital.

The pair were involved in a bust up at Manchester City's training ground, Dabo suffered a detached retina and Barton was given a four-month suspended jail sentence for his involvement.

The controversial midfielder has now moved to the South of France to join Marseille and reacted on Twitter to claims he deserved his bad boy image.

Allez! Barton is looking for a new start after moving to France with Marseille

Allez! Barton is looking for a new start after moving to France with Marseille

Barton said: 'I see Dabo is yet to move on, I feel for him. What happened was unfortunate. Next time he should think twice about throwing his weight about.

'If Ousmane wants to come to a Marseille game, have dinner and discuss it like adults, he's more than welcome anytime. For me now, its over!'

But Dabo believes the 12-match ban Barton received after his meltdown at the Etihad Stadium on the last day of last season is proof enough that he hasn't changed.

Dabo told French newspaper L'Equipe:
'Barton is lying about what happened on the training pitch at Manchester
City. It is unbelievable. I am shocked.

Battered and bruised: Dabo after his confrontation with Barton

Battered and bruised: Dabo after his confrontation with Barton

'There was a trial, he pleaded guilty, and got a four-months suspended prison sentence. When he is talking, he denies it, he stated I have started it all. It is fake. All my team-mates that were present during the attack gave evidence for me during the trial.

'He tackled me, I replied by tackling him too. We found ourselves face-to-face. I had no intention to fight. I jostled him, but I didn’t hit him. So I turned back and then he struck me to the side of the head.

'I lost consciousness and, being on the ground, he jumped at me and went on hitting me in the face about 10 times.

'He says he is a man, a bad boy, but he is just a coward. I don’t want to give my truth, but the truth. Once again there was a trial.'

Dabo added: 'He is nasty, a traitor. Sometimes I feel people roll out the red carpet for him. So I talk to remind people Joey Barton is a very violent player, far away from the image he tries to give since he joined Marseille.

'It wears me out to talk again about that story five years later.'

Reunion: Barton has invited Dabo for dinner, six years after their court showdown

Reunion: Barton has invited Dabo for dinner, six years after their court showdown

Meet Barton has invited Dabo for dinner, four years after their court showdown

London 2012 Olympics: Bradley Wiggins rides into history

Simply the best! Just a blur of perfection as Wiggins rides into history on day of glory

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UPDATED:

22:50 GMT, 1 August 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

It was beautiful, so beautiful. It
was brilliant, quite, quite brilliant. And it was British. Uniquely,
insanely, just joyously British.

There are points of reference in our
sporting history — Steve Redgrave in a boat, Sebastian Coe on the
track, but being a home Olympics, somehow this had more.

Do you know the film The Italian Job It was like that.

Glittering career: Bradley Wiggins shows off his gold medal with Tony Martin (left) and Chris Froome

Glittering career: Bradley Wiggins shows off his gold medal with Tony Martin (left) and Chris Froome

What a feeling: Bradley Wiggins powers towards the finish line at the individual time trial

What a feeling: Bradley Wiggins powers towards the finish line at the individual time trial

There is a perfect moment when the heist has come off and the news has reached home shores. Its criminal mastermind, Mr Bridger, played with impeccable bearing by Noel Coward, walks from the plushly appointed cell to the acclaim of his fellow prison inmates. As one, they bang their metal mugs on the balcony, in a showing of national pride. Rat-tat, rat-tat-tat, rat-tat-tat-tat: England.

The same rhythm, the same sentiment echoed around the grounds of Hampton Court Palace yesterday, except this time it was all for one man. The crowd beat their tattoo on the boards lining the last leg of his route. Rat-tat, rat-tat-tat, rat-tat-tat-tat: Wiggins.

Bradley Wiggins had brought home, not the first gold medal for Great Britain at these Games, but almost certainly the most memorable. Whatever happens from here it will be hard to top this.

And he's off: Bradley Wiggins starts his bid for time trial glory at Hampton Court Palace

And he's off: Bradley Wiggins starts his bid for time trial glory at Hampton Court Palace

What a setting: The time trial started and finished at Hampton Court Palace

What a setting: The time trial started and finished at Hampton Court Palace

Home support: British fans lined the streets to cheer on Bradley Wiggins in the time trial

Home support: British fans lined the streets to cheer on Bradley Wiggins in the time trial

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MEDAL TABLE

See full medals table

Here was a stunning display of strength,
speed and endurance, a performance of pure domination, Wiggins the
winner by a street, quite literally considering this was a road race. He
would not look out of place in The Italian Job, either. Not with those
sideburns.

He threw his head back on the podium and raised his arms in the air. His
medal total now makes him the most decorated Olympian in British
history.

We have already had one debate this summer about whether
Wiggins is the greatest sportsman this country has produced; now there
is sure to be another. This time, however, he has the facts to make the
case, as much as individual opinions.

This was Wiggins’s fourth Olympic gold medal, to add to a silver and two
bronze. No British athlete has won seven. Redgrave claimed six. The
greatest Increasingly, the tag is irresistible.

Fittingly, the medallists at Hampton Court Palace were given seats on
purple and gold thrones. They were supposed to imply majesty, but looked
more like a reminder of David Beckham’s wedding. They did not seem
quite Wiggins’s style. Instead of resting, he set off back down the
course to find his wife, Cath, and his family, passing the rows of
spectators who had cheered him home. He had a lot of thank-yous to say.

Team spirit: Bradley Wiggins' fellow British rider Chris Froome

Team spirit: Bradley Wiggins' fellow British rider Chris Froome

That's my boy: Bradley Wiggins gets a hug from his wife Cath after winning the time trial

That's my boy: Bradley Wiggins gets a hug from his wife Cath after winning the time trial

Peace: Wiggins celebrates his time-trial triumph

Peace: Wiggins celebrates his time-trial triumph

Wiggins adores cycling, possesses a passion for it that has endured
since childhood. To see his sport, so long at the margins, now at the
heart of British life must fill his heart with joy. The feeling is
mutual.

After so many near misses this week, so many stumbles and frustrations,
yesterday’s gold medals were emphatic. This time Great Britain’s coach
did not end up dangling over a cliff, the gold tantalisingly out of
reach. It was not like the ending of that film at all.

Rowers Heather Stanning and Helen Glover had triumphed in fine style at
Eton Dorney in the morning, and Wiggins won his 27.3-mile race by a
quite incredible 42 seconds.

Time it. Look at your watch and let that hand tick past. Imagine if the
riders had started together and you were standing at the finishing line
waiting for silver medallist Tony Martin of Germany to come through.
Some delay, isn’t it

Banished are the thoughts that this could be an anti-climatic Olympics
for Great Britain. If it is believed that one success inspires another,
then Wiggins is the nation’s catalyst. Already a hero as the first
winner of the Tour de France, his presence and better weather than
predicted brought out some people who risked considerably more than a
sportsman’s injury for the best vantage point on Hampton Court Road.

They clambered on to roofs and small balconies to cheer him down the
final straight and he did not disappoint. It had already been announced
to roars that Wiggins had closed the physical gap on Martin — not his
time differential, which was already well inside — to 800 metres and he
was fast approaching.

Sealed with a kiss: Bradley Wiggins celebrates his triumph

Sealed with a kiss: Bradley Wiggins celebrates his triumph

Feelgood factor: Fans watching on screens at the Olympic park celebrate as Bradley Wiggins wins

Feelgood factor: Fans watching on screens at the Olympic park celebrate as Bradley Wiggins wins

Martin came through, better than Chris Froome’s time to take silver, at
worst. Then, almost immediately, Wiggins arrived. Legs pumping, body
perfectly still, a slim frame on a slim frame.

Impossibly fast, given
the screaming resistance a time-trialist will feel from every muscle by
this stage in the race, he was a blur of Olympic perfection.

If the Queen has time to go parachuting with James Bond, she could have
done worse than to drop in here at that moment, sword at the ready.
Arise Sir Bradley Why even wait How comfortably that inevitability
will sit with a chap who was more thrilled to get a congratulatory text
from Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr than a royal blessing when he won the
Tour de France, it is hard to say.

Wiggins still goes out with a target on the front of his cycling helmet,
a nod to his status as King of the Mods. It is part of his charm, a
British fixation that few beyond these shores will understand. How to
explain to a European disciple of road cycling that your other bike is a
Vespa Not that he could go much faster on one, mind you.

Watching him, it is possible to forget that only last Saturday he
remained at the front of a strength-sapping peloton to try to get his
team-mate Mark Cavendish a medal in the road race, or that he had spent
his summer traversing France as Europe’s most successful cyclist.

Flying the flag: Bradley Wiggins

‘We’ve not seen the best of him yet,’ said Sean Yates, one of his
coaches, but how can that be What can he do to out-strip the pure
emotion of yesterday Even Wiggins seemed confused.

‘I don’t think my sporting career will ever top this now,’ he said.
‘That’s it. It will never, ever get better. Incredible. It had to be
gold today or nothing. What’s the point of seven medals if they’re not
the right colour So, mainly it’s about the four golds.’ And then,
without missing a beat: ‘Now I have to go to Rio and go for five.’

That is what it is like, being Britain’s greatest Olympian, that is what
drives a man: an insatiable thirst, a quite incomprehensible desire to
achieve, and keep achieving, no matter how much it hurts.

For never forget that it hurts. It hurts a lot. It may look like fun, it
may be a moment we think we all share, but only one of us has broken
the pain barrier to cross that line. And do it again. And again. And one
more time. And then some more. And keep doing it until he has flown
past the markers set by every competitor in British Olympic history. /08/01/article-2182103-1453EE64000005DC-881_306x432.jpg” width=”306″ height=”432″ alt=”Take the weight off: Bradley Wiggins on his throne after the race” class=”blkBorder” />

Get snapping: Bradley Wiggins gives photographers a winning shot

Arise Sir Bradley Olympic and Tour de France hero Wiggins is now a 1/2 shot to be knighted

Mechanical failure: Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez Gil needed a new bike just yards from the start

Mechanical failure: Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez Gil needed a new bike just yards from the start

London 2012 Olympics: Rowing team going for gold

In Grob we trust! Legend coach back with rowing team to take on the world

|

UPDATED:

01:56 GMT, 28 July 2012

Olympics 2012

They have long since put on hold careers such as soldier, Treasury official, PE teacher or prison officer to come together as what has been proclaimed ‘the best team British rowing has brought to the Games’.

That was the description applied this week by performance director David Tanner to the group of 47 athletes who will row down the 2,000-metre lanes at Eton Dorney in pursuit of their place in history.

At the top end of the course, sheep grazing in nearby fields will be visible. Then, as the muscles start to burn, the rowers will soon enough hit a wall of sound when approaching the corridor of huge metal stands housing 20,000 spectators. It will be a sporting theatre of very British contrasts.

Going for gold: The men's coxless fours look set to be among the medals

Going for gold: The men's coxless fours look set to be among the medals

If Tanner is right, this man-made lake will contain a rich seam of medals for GB. Rowing is the only sport that has delivered at least one gold to Britain in every Olympics since 1984 and the last three Games have seen the tally of medals go from three to four to a haul of six in Beijing four years ago.

GB rowing fans use the phrase ‘In Grob we trust’, putting their faith in the famed ability of head coach Jurgen Grobler to bring his crews to peak at the right time.

The current crop of rowers do not enjoy the same profile as the country’s cyclists, but if things go well they could come close to making a similarly weighty contribution to Great Britain’s aggregate total of medals.

‘We are never going to have the fantastic year-on-year things like the Tour de France, and none of us are going to be buying mansions off the back of this, but we accept our lot,’ says Andy Triggs Hodge, stroke of the coxless four and, with his shock of blond hair, one of the more recognisable figures.

Main man: Coach Jurgen Grobler

Main man: Coach Jurgen Grobler

‘But in terms of high performance and commitment we are up there with anybody. This is what we’ve been working for and there is a great feeling in the squad.’

The four has been the symbol of British excellence since Sydney 2000, seeing off all-comers at each Olympics and three of them — Triggs Hodge, Pete Reed and Tom James — are back to defend their title. (Incongruously, the other from 2008, Steve Williams, was last seen winning the final of Dancing On Ice Goes Gold).

They won by dramatically rowing down the Australians in the last 250 metres, although those same rivals believe they can reverse that result this year, with some Ashes-style sledging from veteran Drew Ginn spicing things up.

Ginn maintains that the GB four were ‘scared as hell’ by losing the most recent World Cup in Munich six weeks ago, when the Australians beat them in the semis and final.

A mixed bag of British performances in Germany slightly dampened original expectations that the home Games will bring a bumper haul, with the cognoscenti believing the count is likely to end up being between six and eight medals of different colours.

None of Grobler’s gold medal-winning crews have ever won the main regatta preceding the Olympics, so Munich may not be an accurate form guide. Since then there have been training camps in Austria and Portugal, designed to bring out the best when it matters most.

If anyone is most favoured for gold, possibly in any sport involving GB, it is the women’s double scull of Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger, who have proved unbeatable in the past three years.

There will not be a dry eye in the house next Friday if the immensely popular Grainger ends up with something better than the silver medals she has taken home from the last three Olympics.

Less conspicuously in the pairs, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning have emerged from opposite ends of the kingdom — they were born in Cornwall and Scotland respectively — as genuine chances for a gold after an excellent build-up and they are first off in Saturday morning’s heats.

The latter, an all-round sportswoman who enjoys sailing and surfboarding, is a Sandhurst-trained Royal Artillery officer who could find herself in Afghanistan before the end of the year.

Golden girls: Heather Stanning (right) and Helen Glover have enjoyed an impressive build-up

Golden girls: Heather Stanning (right) and Helen Glover have enjoyed an impressive build-up

There are longer shots for gold, such as defending champions in the men’s lightweight double Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter, whose form has been ropier than expected, or their underrated fellow lightweights in the four.

British rowing is trying to shake off its fairly staid and middle class image and the poster boy for its growing diversity is Mohamed Sbihi, one of the powerhouses in the unpredictable and eclectic men’s eight, who on a given day might trouble the German favourites.

With a Moroccan heritage but brought up in Surbiton, Sbihi is GB’s first rower who is a practising Muslim, and has elected to postpone his fasting during the current Ramadan after discussions with his family and religious figures.

Instead, he has made a sizeable donation to a charity that gives food to deprived children in Morocco and he will visit there later in the year.

The challenges for GB will come from far and wide, with small nations like New Zealand especially strong in rowing.

The Olympics is the summit in this sport and while there is no name as celebrated as Pinsent or Redgrave among the GB 47, there is no greater chance to forge one than at a home Games.

The rowing coverage will be unlike ever before on TV, with the use of a 250,000 camera developed by the US military that follows the boats down the course. The camera is suspended on three wires stretched between two 92 metre towers at either end of the lake. The camera can rotate 360 degrees and drops to just eight metres above the boats.
BRITS TO WATCH

Women’s Coxless Pair — Heather Stanning and Helen Glover

The West Country-based duo have impressed in the three World Cups this year and won silver at the 2011 World Championships. Feared by their rivals, but they need to watch out for New Zealand in particular.

Men’s Eight

Injuries have meant reshuffling but they gave Germany a scare at the World Cup in Belgrade and are more settled after the return of stroke Constantine Louloudis. The eight includes Greg Searle MBE, who competed in his first Games in 1992 and came out of retirement three years ago.

Men’s lightweight coxless four

Chris Bartley, Rob Williams and brothers Pete and Richard Chambers have improved greatly this year and could upset Australia and Denmark.

Rowing London 2012 Olympics

London 2012: Yamile Aldama – I wouldn"t have been a Plastic Brit if I"d come here to sweep streets

Yamile Aldama: I wouldn't have been a Plastic Brit if I'd come here to sweep streets

|

UPDATED:

20:08 GMT, 14 July 2012

Up for it: Yamile Aldama

Up for it: Yamile Aldama

Yamile Aldama, just 16 days away from
stepping on to the Olympic triple-jump runway, admits that the injustice
of the 'Plastic Brit' taunts she has endured still hurts.

'If I'd come here and said I wanted
to sweep the streets, then they would have been happy for me to do that,
but they aren't happy to let me compete That's sad,' she said.

The Cuban-born triple jumper competed
for Sudan at the 2004 Olympics while her British husband was serving a
15-year prison sentence for a drugsmuggling offence. But, as she
explained last week, she felt she had no choice.

'I had to compete for Sudan because I couldn't get a British passport,'
she said. 'I was on my own with a seven-month-old baby. I was in a new
country, where I didn't have any money or family. I didn't want to rely
on other people, so I had to compete to survive.'

Eight years on, during which time she has lived in London and supported
herself, a British passport has finally arrived, followed by British
Olympic selection. She is not bitter, just puzzled at the scorn she has
received.

'I was obeying all the rules,' she said. 'I will have been here for 12 years in November. My children grew up here. I didn't fast-track anything. When I applied for my citizenship, I didn't know the Olympics would be here. It was two years before they were even awarded!'

In March she became world indoor champion and, having recovered from a shoulder injury, she goes into the London Olympics 'ready, prepared and focused'.

It was not the case at her first Olympics in Atlanta, in 1996. She failed to make the final then but believes it will be different this time, as she heads to Portugal to work 'in a bubble' to ensure her final preparations are not distracted, even if it means being separated from her young family.

F1 Bernie Ecclestone is still motorsport"s Mr Big

He's 81 and 5ft 3in but Ecclestone is still motorsport's Mr Big

|

UPDATED:

22:34 GMT, 6 July 2012

There is now a buzzer on the wall next to the door at the bottom of the dark-glass tower near Hyde Park that is Bernie Ecclestone's mint. My identity established, the door opens and I walk down a corridor to a desk.

I ask to speak to Mr Ecclestone. He is known as Bernie around the globe, but that is not how he is referred to in his office. I am Mr McEvoy to them in this James Bond-style world.

Serious business: Ecclestone has been at the forefront of Formula One for more than 30 years

Serious business: Ecclestone has been at the forefront of Formula One for more than 30 years

They lead me into a meeting room. A light wood table surrounded by racing car seats sits in the middle. A fireman's helmet, an artwork depicting a million dollars piled high, a certificate honouring Mr Ecclestone's 2008 honorary.

Doctor of Science degree from Imperial College, a striking, purple-dominated modern painting and a picture of him and Niki Lauda at Monaco in perhaps the Seventies, inscribed by Lauda, the thrice champion of the world, with the words: 'A lot of people are tall. Only few have a big heart. You are one of them. You make us look small.'

The door opens and Bernard Charles Ecclestone, 81, 5ft 3in tall, wearing a well-pressed open-neck white shirt, mop-haired, squinting slightly behind those John Lennon glasses, comes in.

'Get out of here,' he says. 'The builders are working outside the window. Let's go next door. They're nice chaps and they're only doing their jobs, but the noise is a problem.'

He grasps my hand as if to shake it, but almost pulls me into the corridor and ushers me through another door a few feet away.

Fabiana Flosi with Bernie Ecclestone

Ecclestone and fiancee Fabiana Flosi

Before talking Margaret Thatcher, his unsuitability for a German prison cell, his 'lavish' wedding plans, his disapproval of daughter Tamara's television parade of wealth, his plans for a genuine grand prix in London and, would you credit it, contemplation for the first time that Formula One is planning for a future without him, why the buzzer

'We had a new girl on the switchboard,' he says, typically sotto voce. 'She let these blokes in wearing helmets. You have been here a few times. You couldn't find the lift, could you No. They walked straight up to the lift and up to the fourth floor. They looked around the floor.

'They went down into the basement, which is bizarre because it doesn't say basement. They opened up the back door, which has locks all over it. We saw it on CCTV and went down to have a look. They said they were supposed to be looking for a laptop. We asked who their boss was. They wouldn't say anything. I said we'd better call the police.

'The police looked at the images. One of
the guys was out on licence. The police said we have to be a bit more
secure than before, so we got that buzzer.'

Havoc: The wet track caused chaos at Silverstone

Taking a spin: Wet weather caused havoc on first day of British Grand Prix

It was in November 2010 that Ecclestone was mugged outside this very building as he and his then Brazilian girlfriend, now his 35-year-old fiance, Fabiana Flosi, went out. Was this intrusion connected No, he says, the police had already locked up the culprits who kicked and punched him in one of around 25 such cases in the area that the Met would rather we did not read about.

Ecclestone is spry. He sleeps
six-and-a-half hours a night and works ferociously hard when he is
awake. But despite that, he knows that CVC, the private equity firm who
own Formula One, are pondering the long term. Ecclestone's boss, since
selling the sport's commercial rights to CVC and running the business as
its chief executive, is Donald Mackenzie.

'Donald is happy about me doing what I
do,' says Ecclestone. 'But what to do when I'm gone is a concern for
him. If I'm dead or if I run away, he'll obviously need to sort out some
kind of succession.

'I
told him that he should run it in a different way. If I wasn't here it
wouldn't be one person running things but more like a few people.'

So when will Ecclestone stop 'Past
100, I'm definitely out. I don't know who should do it – honestly
there's nobody I despise enough that I would wish this on them.'

How is his health, following a triple coronary bypass in 1999 'Fine.
No problems.' Does he have a regular health check 'Thanks for reminding
me. I should have gone last year. I go to a place in Austria. The days
of a doctor feeling your pulse are over. They put you in a tube and the
machine does the rest.'

Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa greets Bernie Ecclestone before the Bahrain Grand Prix

Money matters: Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa and Bernie Ecclestone before the Bahrain Grand Prix

Conversation turns to the London
Grand Prix. Two schemes have materialised: one around the Olympic
Stadium, which is unlikely to win approval from the London Legacy
Development Corporation, and a fanciful notion attached to a
publicity-hungry bank whose name we shall not mention more than we have
to.

Ecclestone: 'A long
time ago we really looked at it properly with the old mayor and a lot of
people from the City. I said, “I need you guys to put some money in
because it will obviously be bringing a lot of money in”. They did
eventually decide they could, possibly, find 3million – perhaps. I said
with the number of meetings we'd need to have it wouldn't pay for the
mineral water so we need to get serious, which we never did.

'What's been put to me more recently is something around the Olympic
area. These people, (the bidders, Intelligent Transport Solutions Ltd
from Wanstead, east London), wanted my permission to go with a race
proposal. It looks a bit complicated. Someone is going to take over the
site and they probably won't want F1 charging through there.

Bernie Ecclestone

'Then this other thing came up, which was a Santander publicity stunt. They devised a computer-generated London race. They showed me their idea two or three months ago and said, “It looks good. It looks exciting. It's good publicity for the British Grand Prix and Santander”.

'I said you're bloody right it is. And before I knew it I was apparently the one who was behind it. I didn't know about it to be honest, but I accepted the credit.

'I did say – not in relation to that one – that if we could have a race in London, we would be prepared to pay 35m to make it happen.

'I will try to resurrect what we originally discussed with the sports minister and the old mayor, er, er, what's his name, Mr Ken Livingstone, some years ago. I will try to get that back on track.'

Those plans are in Formula One Management's archives at Biggin Hill and Ecclestone is in the process of digging them out. He will talk to Boris Johnson about the idea.

'Whatever we do in London, it won't harm Silverstone,' he says.

'They have done the work they needed to do. It took them 20-odd years
to get round to it but everything's fine now. When I got them out of
financial trouble with the people they were involved with about 10 years
ago, they had enough money to have done what they needed to do, but
they didn't. Now they have and it's great. Super.'

Ecclestone is relaxed, his humour sardonic. He laughs with a smile
rather than a roar. You would little know from his demeanour that he is
connected to a bribery case in Germany that has seen a former banker
called Gerhard Gribkowsky jailed for eight-and-a-half years.

Gribkowsky, who was the chief risk
officer at BayernLB, was accused of accepting $44m (now 28m) from
Ecclestone as a bribe to undervalue Formula One's shares when the
business was sold to CVC in 2006. Ecclestone denies this, saying that
he gave Gribkowsky the money because the German had threatened to go to
HM Revenue & Customs with 'false evidence' claiming that Ecclestone
was more involved in the running of his family trust, Bambini Holdings,
than he should have been.

Gribkowsky confessed last month to tax evasion, breach of trust towards
his former employer and being in receipt of corrupt payments.

So will Ecclestone be charged Will he go to jail 'No. I don't think I'd like it, so why would I go' he smiles.

'Seriously, it's nothing to do with
us. My lawyers say we shouldn't discuss it. In the end I travelled over
to be a witness at the trial. There were 41 other witnesses and the guy
has been dealt with. They haven't finished with him yet because he's
appealing.

'I haven't done
anything wrong. Absolutely. No, I didn't bribe anybody. I've told them I
would willingly go there to be a witness again. Three times I've been
purely to help already.'

He would rather talk about those Formula One pioneers Colin Chapman and
Enzo Ferrari, always referred to by him as Mr Ferrari. They help inform
how Ecclestone, who has built the sport into his own billion dollar
empire over more than 30 years – having been a team owner before – acts
in a life that mixes sport and business.

Former BayernLB chief risk officer Gerhard Gribkowsky (L) arrives guarded by a German police officer

Connection: Former banker Gerhard Gribkowsky (left)

He reveals that the 2013-2020 Concorde Agreement, the contract that binds the teams, Ecclestone's commercial rights holders and the governing FIA to the sport, is agreed in all its commercial elements. Even Mercedes, who had threatened to walk out on Formula One if they did not receive a larger slice of money, are on side.

'Total agreement,' he confirms. 'We are just talking to the lawyers -“why have you used this word, that word”. Typical lawyers but everything's fine. Commercially it's done.

'Now what we've got to do is look at how the technical regulations are made. It should be the teams, though not all the teams, who do that. They are the people who have to come up with the money, not the FIA. It would be the established teams who are here to stay – Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes and probably Williams as old timers – deciding what to do.'

For all the high-rolling Ecclestone
represents – he is 'ready to push the button' on a stock market
floatation of Formula One 'when the markets are right' – he lives an
unflashy life.

Go to
dinner with him and he will order an omelette. He might sip at the wine
but he really prefers a cool beer to relax at home, his shoes kicked
off.

Bernie and daughter Tamara

Bernie and daughter Tamara

That life is now shared with Flosi, whom he first met at the Brazilian Grand Prix. They are engaged, so, surely, a billionaire's glitzy wedding awaits. 'We don't have a date for it,' he says. 'Will it be lavish I've been trying to find a venue – and I've been looking everywhere, not just London – that is a nice restaurant, which doesn't have too many people in it, for a table for two. It will be a miniscule wedding.'

Yet he adds: 'I got in trouble with my ex (Slavica) and she was quite right. We got married in a register office. I had to ring Max (Mosley) to get his secretary to be a witness. And then I went straight back to the office. Not very romantic. No photographs. And I feel sorry for her.'

His daughters, who remain fiercely loyal to their mother but are at least partly reconciled to Flosi's arrival, are not so reticent with displays of wealth. Petra married in a 5m extravaganza of live music and fireworks in a castle.

'It was a big party that happened to have a wedding,' says Ecclestone. 'I don't like those sort of parties. She wanted it that way. It was what her mum wanted to achieve after I was a miserable b*****d about our wedding. I was happy for them both.

'I had to do something at the time that upset me. I had to give her away. I'd rather have sold her. It all went very well.

'My relations with the girls are super, super. It is difficult for them to accept a new woman in my life while their mother is still there. I'm glad they are close to her. She can point them in the right direction.'

Speaking of which, what did Ecclestone make of his older daughter Tamara starring in Channel 5's Billion $$ Girl, a programme that chronicled the 'naked truth about the life of the billionaire heiress and socialite'.

'I watched half of one of the programmes and turned it off. I thought it was a totally unnecessary thing to do. And I told her that at the time. It is good for people watching but not for her. That was my opinion. She was happy because she got a lot of publicity.

'Actually, she does an enormous amount of charity work. We don't talk about that. She is behind the money we raise for Great Ormond Street Hospital. The young lady I am with ran the marathon because of it and raised thousands.'

How much has he donated to good work over the years Millions 'Sure. Over a long time. We have built schools and hospitals in Brazil.' So is he politically aware Does he vote 'No, no.' Never 'No. I find the right guy usually comes out on top.

'Actually, I did vote for Boris. He's doing a good job. I liked Margaret Thatcher, too. Leaders like her and Churchill – the real greats – got things done. They really ran the country. The buck stopped there. Now there are too many compromises.'

It is his style. A usually benign dictatorship, you might say.

His enjoyment is derived from 'getting the job done in the right way'. He has his walkie-talkie with him at Silverstone, micro and macro managing at the same time.

'I tell you something. This is what I like more than anything at the moment: you can't tell who's going to win any race. It could be four or five drivers at Silverstone. Probably Seb (Vettel). It would be nice to see him win. Or Michael (Schumacher). He is my hero – my favourite of the last decade.

'When I play Seb at backgammon he gets so aggravated when he loses. I tell him he should not get so angry because he loses most of the time.' That's Bernie Ecclestone. Still winning at 81.