Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone has said he wants to run the sport for “as long as I can” after paying £60m to end his three-month bribery trial.

Bernie EcclestoneIn his first major interview since he avoided a possible 10-year prison sentence, Ecclestone, 83, said he always believed he would walk away a free man.

“I’m not scared of anything to be honest with you,” he said.

“It never bothered me because I knew I was innocent.”

Ecclestone went on trial in April, accused of paying German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky £26m to ensure that CVC, a private equity company he allegedly favoured, could buy F1, and he could remain in control of the sport.

Under German law, the billionaire was able to “buy” the termination of the trial, although he was declared neither innocent nor guilty.

When asked why he felt the need to pay a £60m settlement in order to walk free from Munich’s district court, Ecclestone said: “Because there’s a system in Germany which allows you to do that. It gets rid of things.

“It could have gone on. If they’d won, I’d have appealed. If I’d won they’d have appealed. It would have gone on until next year. I just had to pay to get rid of the case, that’s all.”

Speaking in his luxury motorhome at the Spa circuit before this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, Ecclestone is now back running the sport on a full-time basis.