Another chapter of the 2009 Crashgate scandal has been brought to a close. Flavio Briatore’s lifetime ban from Formula 1 has been overturned by a French judge. Briatore, the former team principal of the Renault team, had received the ban by the FIA for his alleged participation in a race-fixing scheme at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. According to allegations, Renault driver Nelson Piquet, Jr was directed by Briatore to deliberately crash his car in order to bring out a saftey car. Renault’s director of engineering, Pat Symonds, was also implicated in the scandal.
Briatore’s ban not only prohibited him from direct team management, it would also have precluded his participation in any ancillary F1 enterprises, such as driver management, which is a very lucrative business for Briatore. He currently manages Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen, taking a sizable slice from their annual salaries; and formerly he has had Jarno Trulli, Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso under contract. Also, drivers who were part of the Renault Driver Development program (e.g. Romain Grosjean and Nelson Piquet, Jr) during Briatore’s tenure there were automatically folded into by Briatore’s stable of drivers, through his FFBB driver management company.
As reported in The Guardian, in overturning the ban, the judge ruled that the sanction imposed by the FIA “was illegal.” In rendering the judgment, the court released the following statement: “The decision [regarding the ban] was taken while the [motor sport] council was chaired by [Max Mosley], who had notoriously come into conflict with Mr Briatore. Mr Mosley played a key role in launching [both] the inquiry and the legal process, violating the principle of a separation of the bodies that are responsible for the investigation and for the judgment.”
In addition, Briatore and Symonds (whose five-year ban from the sport was also overturned) have been awarded cash settlements of 15,000 and 5,000 euros, respectively. These sums were considerably less than the compensation for damages the two men had initially sought, which were 1,000,000 and 500,000 euros, respectively. Per the direction of the judge, the FIA now have 15 days to remit the awarded sums. If they fail to do so, they’ll be liable for a penalty of 10,000 euros per day for non-payment.
A lawyer representing the FIA, Jean-François Prat, said it was “very likely” that the FIA would appeal the decision. He declined to make any further comment.