Not many people in the F1 business have challenged the FIA’s authority over the years, so Flavio Briatore will be preening himself this week after a French civil court decreed that the sport’s governing body had exceeded its authority in handing down a lifetime ban on the former Renault F1 team principal.
Briatore, let’s remember, had been handed the ban for engineering Nelson Piquet junior’s deliberate crash during the 2008 Singapore GP, a shunt that ended up tactically assisting Fernando Alonso who went on to win the race. A similar five-year ban on Pat Symonds, Renault’s former executive director of engineering, was also set aside by the court in Paris.
Briatore, who clearly believes that former FIA president Max Mosley was waging a personal vendetta against him, relished the opportunity of seeing himself vindicated in such a public forum, particularly as the FIA was instructed to publicise the decision by means of advertisements in newspapers nominated by Briatore and Symonds.
Briatore claimed that he had been vindicated as the FIA had been found to have “rendered a decision that it was not competent to pronounce ,infringed its own articles of association, totally failed to respect my right to a fair defence, finally, entrusted the tasks of investigation, prosecution and judgment to a principal player known by all to be hostile to me.”
The FIA responded by making it plain that they regarded the verdict as far from vindicating Briatore, making the point that he had not been deemed innocent of his involvement in the ‘Crash-gate’ scandal, but that the court had simply decided the penalty was excessively harsh.
The FIA’s official statement read; “The Court has rejected the claims for damages made by Mr Briatore and Mr Symonds and their claim for an annulment of the FIA's decision. In particular, the Court did not examine the facts and has not reversed the FIA's finding that both Briatore and Symonds conspired to cause an intentional crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
“However, the Court did question the FIA's authority to impose bans upon Mr Briatore and Mr Symonds for procedural reasons and because they are not FIA licence holders and, according to the Court, are therefore not subject to any FIA rules. The FIA's ability to exclude those who intentionally put others' lives at risk has never before been put into doubt and the FIA is carefully considering its appeal options on this point.
“The Court’s decision is not enforceable until the FIA's appeal options have been exhausted. Until then, the World Motor Sport Council’s decision continues to apply.
“In addition, the FIA intends to consider appropriate actions to ensure that no persons who would engage, or who have engaged, in such dangerous activities or acts of intentional cheating will be allowed to participate in Formula One in the future.”
It’s my feeling that this little production has some way yet to run!