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Ecclestone opens the door for Briatore appeal
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Ecclestone opens the door for Briatore appeal
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Sep 2009   |  7:10 pm GMT  |  33 comments

Bernie Ecclestone has said in the last few days that he thinks that the penalty meted out to Flavio Briatore by the FIA World Motor Sport Council was too harsh.

Bernie
Ecclestone is a member of the WMSC himself and has a personal interest because Briatore is a close friend and business associate with whom Ecclestone spends his evenings at race meetings. Now, it seems their relationship is broken. Speaking at an LG press conference in Singapore today he said,
“He’s not talking to me, I don’t know. He thinks I should have defended him, which I couldn’t.”

But beyond that, reading between the lines of what he is saying here, it seems to me that he is laying the ground for an appeal by Briatore, from which he feels the Italian might emerge with a lesser sentence.

It’s just a hunch, but the wording looks quite significant to me. Max Mosley suggested the same thing yesterday, but Bernie’s message looks like some kind of signal. It’s curious. I’m hearing from my French colleagues that Briatore, having initially indicated that he wishes to pursue this in a civil court, is now coming around to the idea of an FIA appeal, having previously not wanted to have anything to do with the FIA.

“If you look at it sensibly, the people at the top had not the slightest idea,” said Ecclestone. “The people in the Renault F1 team had not the slightest idea.

“There were three people who knew what was going on and that is it. No one else was involved. Those people have been dealt with – in my view quite harshly in [regards to] Flavio. I don’t think it was necessary, but I was on the commission so I am probably just as guilty as anyone else. On reflection it wasn’t necessary. It was too much. Definitely too much.

“He should ask to be heard by the (FIA) court of appeal. If he goes to a civil court I don’t think he would win. Because the FIA would have to defend and somebody will say that he sent a young guy out to what could have been to his death. So it wouldn’t go down too well.”

Mind you, even if his sentence was cut to the level of Symonds’ that would still be a ban of five years and it seems unlikely that at the age of 64 Briatore would want to come back to racing.

There are suggestions that Briatore has been thinking of starting his own rival series to Formula 1, or trying to persuade the FOTA teams to follow though with the breakaway threat. But it’s hard to imagine.

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33 Comments
  1. " for sure " says:

    So Bernie (a WMSC member) says,… only three people knew what was going on…

    So witness X really is a figment of the FIA’s imagination?

    1. Just A Bloke (Martin) says:

      Three or four, it is barely credible that more engineers and strategists were not involved. Is there any evidence of team members questioning the uber agressive first fuel load ?

  2. Steve Price says:

    Nothing to do with the FA investigating whether or not they should be forcing a ban on Briatori from the board of QPR, which Ecclestone his mate happens to co-own.

  3. jeremy says:

    Interesting to see he is still after the breakaway. Would he be able to secure the GP2 series as well being the founder of the outfit? GP2 feeder into GP1!?

    Who would be the sanctioning body?

    1. Just A Bloke (Martin) says:

      Simply dont see this happening, the proliferations of single seaters in the lower formulae is too much for the current amount of sponsorship available. A1GP and Superleage Formula have hardly set the world on fire. Maybe, just maybe, if someone could go back to the post Mansell/Zanardi CART heyday and meld that with the current US Scenario of one open wheel formula a second global open wheel series might be viable. But in reality, come one, its not going to happen……………………….

  4. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    Who runs the FIA – Bernie? Don’t get me wrong, I am a great admirer of Ecclestone for his intelligence and savy, but he is going way to far. Has divorce really led Bernie to become so lonely that he has to manipulate Flavio back into the sport?

    This is frankly disgusting and I am unaware of this type of regulatory set up in any other sport. Ari Vatenen was right when he says that the relationship between the FIA and the race promoter is too cosy.

    Renault as a team were left relatively unpunished because it was deemed that the culpable individuals had been carried the can. Bernie now wants mercy for Briatore. So what should be meted out to PS – a suspended sentence? Flavio never put his hand up to admit he was a cheat. Ron Dennis did not put his hand up to SpyGate and McLaren got hammered with a $100mm fine.

    My message to BCE:
    Bernie, although you have no meter for justice I hope that you are sensitive to public opinion if only from a business perspective. Let Flavio go….find some other more reputable friends. Tar sticks.

    If you let FB back, you cannot spin your way out of this.

    1. James Allen says:

      BE used to be an FIA vice president before the EU competition commission had their say

      1. rpaco says:

        Obviously the EU competition commission did not go far enough. For Bernie to be controlling the commercial side and sit on the board deciding the rules and the punishments is patently a conflict of conflict of interest in the fairness of the sport.
        Never mind Bernie if Flav is not talking, just buy some new friends.

  5. John says:

    Personal bias much, Bernie?

    In my opinion, the FIA should stick to its guns, or risk losing even more credibility. There’s already a lot of negative opinion based on the “light” sentence to Renault. If they were to reduce Briatore’s penalty, I think it would not look good.

    1. Bryan Saull says:

      John how i agree with that, you would do well to read Mike Lawrence’ article at pitpass.com, ”good riddance” it wll give you a better insight to the man……
      As every decent fan is trying to say, clean up F1 the FIA included, the stench of corruption and egomania is overwhelming.

  6. Silverstoned says:

    Cynics might ask “Could it be Flav has something on Max?” and their guess may be that Maxy will relent alittle, or alot, depending on what that is.

  7. Steve JR says:

    One can’t help thinking that an action that puts the lives of ordinary people at risk should be severely punished and being permanently removed from the sport is about the most the FIA could have hoped to do to Briatore.

    Presumably Bernie doesn’t like it when his mate doesn’t call him any more and is feeling the heat from the prospect of Briatore being evicted from QPR

    If Briatore is back on a race track after a slapped wrist within a couple of years because his mate works a bit of (financial) magic with those who make decisions then it would merely serves to reinforce the concept of a corrupt sport. In fact, if Bernie manages to pull it off he is ironically demonstrating the kind of corrupt behavior that drives things like race fixing in the first place.

    I think Mad Max should add Bernie’s scalp to the growing list before his own curtain call.

  8. F1 Kitteh says:

    Does Mr E really thinks Flav has no chance in a real court ? Or thinks he does and is therefore trying to discourage him from doing so to stop more info from coming out?

    1. Lew says:

      Spot on F1 Kitteh! Flav,by lodging an appeal with this mob,would be effectively recognizing their power to have found someone “guilty” and to impose a draconian penalty without the accused having been given the benefit of natural justice by being heard. Much better to fire-up his lawyers and sue them ’till they bleed and I’m sure that BE can see just that happening.

    2. Just A Bloke (Martin) says:

      As manager of NPJ I would have thought that any court would take a dim view of FB as he “appears to have ” effectively sanctioned a strategy which significantly increased the risk to his client. However I think he might have a chance in some sort of EU court as the ban effectively stops him from plying his trade which I think is illegal.

      Anyway at 64 why bother.

  9. Karen says:

    What a total crock. Briatore fixed a race and should be banned for life. Pete Rose was banned just for betting on baseball not fixing games. Just because Ecclestone has lost a friend doesn’t mean that Briatore’s punishment should be lessened. Makes it look too much like an old boys club. F1 is starting to look like a joke. Not sure anymore if it’s worth getting up early (live in Canada) to watch the races anymore if the fix is going to already be in.

  10. Neil Barr says:

    As a lifelong F1 defender I can bear the stench of corruption so long as there is reason to believe that the system can be shamed into correction. I hope Mr. E’s guidance of Mr. B toward the potential benefit of an appeal is his motivated by a fear that transparency would wreck “Bernie’s (and Max’s) Game”. Incredible, isn’t it, that it has taken this long for me to draw a line in the sand? A civil court action would hopefully display what actually motivates the mechanisms of FIA goverance under Mosley/Ecclestone. Imagine if Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s effusive support of Mosley’s pre-hearing negotiation and adjudication were put under the microscope in court and all its implications investigated and used in defence of the indefensible Briatore. Is this how the revolution begins? Or, if Bernie’s soft option is taken up, is this how the revulsion increases until one must look away?

  11. Leslie says:

    Is Bernie calling from the Elvis B52 or what.

    Those guys are lucky not to be going to gaol and they would be if there were any real justice for multi-millionaires.

    Maybe Bernie should check out the two sponsors which have just jumped ship and see how much they want to have the odious Briatore back.

    Get help Bernie.

  12. Leslie says:

    Can we get Bernie to tell us the results for the next 4 races so I don’t have to stay up late to watch several bloody processions.

    1. rpaco says:

      “Next 4 races” Once he has Jean Todt in position, something he is now openly campaigning for, he will be able to tell us the whole of next season.

      Should we feel more uneasy about another of Bernie’s “money club” pals being on the exec board of the FIA.?

      We should stop calling it F1 and start calling it B1

  13. Werewolf says:

    I wonder if the breakaway threat is the main concern. With the Concorde Agreement having a three-year lifespan, Briatore would have plenty of time to organize his alternative for 2013 start; and the bargaining power of the F1 teams, who could simply switch over, in the negotiations leading up to the next agreement would be phenomenal.

    Whether sufficient major stakeholders would want to be associated with Briatore is another matter but time heals and the risk to the FIA and CVC could be perceived as considerable.

    1. rpaco says:

      I doubt it, who would want to go into a new series run by a bloke who fixes races. If he has co-directors in GP2 other than BE then they must be thinking of ousting him. Drivers in GP2 must be getting nervous.

  14. Rusty0256 says:

    So that is now Briatore and Hitler that have Bernie’s qualified endorsments.

    Not exactly the Billionaire’s Club is it?

    1. rpaco says:

      As always, one law for the rich and one for the rest of us.

  15. Rudy Pyatt says:

    Money talks when sponsors walk. Or teams.

    Be in no doubt that the hideous stench around this entire episode is the rotting corpse of F1 as we know it — that stertorous wheeze the final gasps of a beast fighting against extinction, a victim of its own success, overfeeding until nothing is left to feed upon.

    The feed of course being money, the cubic corporate dollars that Bernie and Max brought into F1 for their own purposes. Recall that until B&M fully consolidated their power, sportscar racing was at least as significant as F1. More, actually, because that’s where the factories remained for decades, even without F1 participation.

    That made sense, as they got no less R&D benefit, and as much, or greater, prestige and marketing value. Very few people worldwide think of F1 and Porsche in the same sentence. Ferrari’s legend was built at LeMans and other endurance classics no less than in F1.

    The factories came into F1, moving away from sports/endurance racing, at Bernie’s instigation, bringing the money and R&D from that discipline (and others — in modern terms, Mercedes, Toyota and Honda were all active in CART before moving to F1, M-B leaving Penske in a trail of smoky, underpowered, unreliability en route to McLaren back in 1997) with them. Lots of money. But it has to leave, because F1 has gotten too big, bloated, unwieldy and embarrassing to survive.

    Corporations simply don’t deal very well with embarrassment, especially in something that for them is fundamentally a marketing exercise. They can get that marketing, as they always did, via sportscar racing; a discipline that has more technical freedom than F1 and, therefore, more R&D relevance. Again, one need only look at Porsche, Audi, Ford, Chevrolet, Honda and BMW, to name a few, all of whom have burnished their image and gotten valuable R&D benefits (Audi’s diesel racers an obvious example). BMW and Honda departing F1 is neither embarrassing or tragic. It is simply logical, a chance to get better return on investment. For now anyway, its free of the moral, ethical, financial, image problems of F1.

    And if car manufacturer money is the blood of F1, corporate sponsorship is its air. The air supply is decreasing. The most recent scandals have already driven ING out as a team sponsor. Others will leave, again, too embarrassed to continue. Bad for corporate image to remain involved, no matter what Bernie says about viewing figures.

  16. Trent says:

    James,

    The events of 1994 seem an age ago now, but at the time there were deeply held suspicions over the Benetton B194, and the suggestion that it utilised a banned traction control system that was buried deep in it’s electronic code. This team was also run by Briatore. Do you think these events begin to take on a new light after all this time, given we now know what’s possible under the leadhership of this man?

    1. James Allen says:

      You are not the first person to make that point. It certainly makes you wonder.

    2. rpaco says:

      The Tom Walkinshaw of F1!

  17. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    Bernie, send Flavio some flowers and a box of Maltesers and ask for his forgiveness. It’s a lot less politically expensive that weasling him back into the sport.

  18. Martin Collyer says:

    How does this process work James?

    Briatore was not at the WMSC hearing, so how can he ask to be heard at the International Court of appeal?

    The WMSC comprises 30-ish members, if they all turn up. Who decides on Briatore’s request to be heard by the ICA, if he makes one?

  19. James,

    I’m not trying to be smart, but do the likes of Ecclestone and FIA council members actually pay attention to how the sport is currently being painted?

    Surely even they should know that the reputation of Formula 1 has never been lower in the eyes of the public.

    1. Werewolf says:

      Part of the problem, Leigh, is us. F1′s core fanbase is now so big and dedicated, it is perceived to be a given, providing the top teams and drivers remain onboard.

  20. ashley edwards says:

    James should Ecclestone been on the borad with him being friends with Briatore?

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