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Briatore takes FIA to court to lift lifetime ban
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Briatore takes FIA to court to lift lifetime ban
Posted By: James Allen  |  19 Oct 2009   |  6:50 pm GMT  |  43 comments

After a period of quiet reflection, disgraced former Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore is not taking his lifetime ban lying down and today (Monday) filed a civil law suit against the FIA in Paris. He has been given a date of November 24th for the hearing.

This extraordinary season of F1 still clearly has plenty of twists and turns in store before it comes to an end, with the FIA presidential election later this week, Max Mosley stepping down as president soon after and plenty of developments to come on the driver market and among the new teams.

Briatore is seeking to overturn the ban, by proving that the way in which he was treated by the FIA World Motor Sport Council was wrong. With the ban in place, Briatore is forced to drop his involvement in GP2 and GP3 as well as his driver management business. He also faces being ruled out as a director of Queens Park Rangers football club because the football authorities have a clause which prevents anyone from holding a significant stake in a club when serving a ban from another sport’s governing body. Even if he succeeds and the ban is reduced the football problem will still be there. Only a complete overturn of the ban would solve that problem.

Briatore issued a statement yesterday in which he was quite clear about what he sees as the real reason the Singapore crash hearing went the way it did; FIA president Max Mosley’s desire to be rid of him,

“In this case, the FIA has been used as a tool to exact vengeance on behalf of one man,” said his statement. “This decision is a legal absurdity and I have every confidence that the French courts will resolve the matter justly and impartially.”

Briatore’s lawyers believe that abuses of the FIA’s powers took place as well. He claims that a lifetime ban is ‘illegal”. He also says that the fundamental rights of the defence were breached because of a delay in the issue of the summons, a failure to state the charges in advance and a lack of access provided to prosecution document and to the key witness.

Briatore also plans to prove that “a lack of impartiality of the body passing judgement, the secret negotiation of the decision before the hearing and the granting of selective immunities,” meant that justice could not be done.

The timing of the law suit is of course, fascinating. Later this week the FIA will hold a secret ballot to elect a new president. We have already heard quite a bit from Mosley and his preferred candidate Jean Todt about the perceived threat to the FIA’s existence from the behaviour of the other candidate Ari Vatanen and now this attack is sure to spark more of that kind of thinking. On top of that, the Mail on Sunday has broken a story about threats being made against a club in Uganda which is supporting Vatanen.

Vatanen has written today to the presidents of the clubs around the world, who will vote on Friday, saying that if he elected he will “urgently introduce an
FIA Ethics Code to cover all senior officials, both elected and employees. Such codes of behaviour are the norm in the modern world of public life and business, where the need for ethical standards and transparent work practices are the key to public confidence. This should be no different in a global organisation of the FIA’s scale and scope.”

The scene is set for a very intense week in the run up to the election.

Returning to Briatore, Bernie Ecclestone has already said that he felt Briatore’s punishment was excessive. He feels that three years ban would be more appropriate. Briatore would be 62 by the time he could come back. Yesterday Ecclestone said “At the end of the day, the problem isn’t that Flavio is against the FIA, but against Max.”

Asked by the Gazzetta dello Sport whether he too had wanted Briatore out of the way because of his efforts on behalf of FOTA to organise a breakaway series in the summer, Ecclestone said, ” No. I knew from experience that the teams would never have been able to get themselves together to organise themselves into a business like F1.”

Ecclestone maintains that Briatore’s mistake was “first in the way he treated Nelsinho (Piquet) and then for the question of Singapore,” for which he still holds him responsible.

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43 Comments
  1. F1 Kitteh says:

    The timing is not surprising as it is wise only to proceed when Max is stepping away, seeing as probably most would agree that its a Max vs Flav thing and the rest of the FIA probably would not want to be troubled further/might not want to be associated with Max/knows the judgement won’t stand/are not as wily as Max himself. I agree with Max positions on many things that happened earlier this year, but I’m putting my money with Flav on this one. It’s good to keep the soap opera going now that the champsionship is settled!

  2. Werewolf says:

    There is little more galling than the guilty as sin finally laughing loudest because of incompetence [mod] on the part of the arbiters; and just as chief executives and politicians take early retirement with massive pay-offs, so will Mosley leave office with all the trappings and make a fortune from his book.

    I could do with two copies: one to line the cat litter tray and the other to wrap my chips in but I will not be buying one.

    1. Werewolf says:

      Apologies, the moderated (inoffensive but legally problematic) word was meant to relate to comparable situations generally not specifically to the FIA.

  3. Who cares – JB World Champion

    Does the life time ban have an impact on the ownership one QPR with Bernie and the Steel man?

  4. Mr G says:

    Sorry to say as a fellow Italian but Briatore has no space in F1 or any other sport on this planet.
    If someone is willing to cheat others, risk the lives of drivers, pubblic and stewards, this person has lost sight of the general rule of living on this planet.
    I don’t care if winning a race will make money, I am an entrepeneur and consider money a part of success, but there is a limit and common sense, some sort of moral stand and most of all a deep sense of justice should prevent an individual like Flavio Briatore to even think or agree to act like he did in Singapore.
    The disturbing thing is that he reached a point were, I personally believe, he thought he was untouchable, nothing was going to come against his will.
    This is the perception that people outside the F1 circus has felt when all this happen.
    It might be wrong but Briatore has never done anything to calm things down, he has been always at the centre fo the F1 stage with his cars, drivers, girlfriends, sponsors and, right at the end, with one of the biggest car manufacturer.
    He came from the Borsa di Milano, the Milan exchange and he was one of the people buying and selling shares, does anyone see this before ???
    History sometimes repeats itself in very strange ways

  5. Niko says:

    Most F1 fans I know believe that whatever happened in Singapore 2008, it was a convenient pretext for the outgoing Mosley to conduct a witch-hunt against Briatore, one of the few individuals left in F1 with influence enough to counteract the FIA. I still believe this to be the case.

    But this being so, the fact remains that Briatore consented to an act of race-fixing, and sport has no place for men like that.

    1. Hanz says:

      Indeed the interesting point here is that there is no challenge to the guilty verdict rather a claim on the length of the ban, its very cunning of Briatore, he is in no position to say he didnt commit a crime but would rather barter on the length of the ban.

      The man must be thrown out of all sports for good.

      1. James Allen says:

        Not exactly, he is saying his rights of defence were not observed, so he is not admitting guilt as far as I can see. However Bernie holds him responsible, so he certainly accepts Flavio’s guilt.

      2. Hanz says:

        Perhaps, but wasnt it his own choice after consulting with his lawyers not to appear at the FIA hearings? Which means they did get a proper summons.

        Dont see any point to Flaivo’s claims of improper procedures or lack of time. What he really seems to be saying is that he really didnt have much room to escape this time.

  6. GP says:

    I’m beginning to think I may have to get a law degree to keep following F1…

    1. Werewolf says:

      So long as the racing still stirs you, the rest is irrelevant. It’s like remaining patriotic despite your own political views on the government of the day!

    2. Arun says:

      LOL!! Well said.. anyway, what do you call an enemy of my enemy when he’s also my enemy? enemy ^2?
      These men in suits and power have been embarrasment to a great pompous sport, have made even an ardent fan to think if I should go on hibernation till the parasites are removed from fia and start watching again after all comes down well!! Anyway, JB champ, and great race at Interlagos still pulls me by saying the nerves of ‘real’ racing pedegree has not died….yet….

  7. C.M. says:

    Briatore ain’t no saint but the way Max Mosley means FIA handled this crash-gate was just so wrong. It felt like mass-murderer convicted a murderer.

    About this Vatanen vs Todt & Mosley….it goes dirtier day after day. All this threatening Vatanen supporters in Uganda and not giving visa to Vatanen supporters in Sri Lanka and Alzeria. I just can’t believe I see this kind of behaviour in year 2009.

    And Schumacher and Massa both so strongly supporting Todt these last days, I’m 100% sure that Ferrari has his cards on Todt here and this so called breaking up with Ferrari was all made up. Never-ever would Massa or Schumacher say something or support someone without the support of Ferrari. Even Kimi’s speech was made up by Ferrari when it was clear that they broke up, then some days later Kimi told Finnish media that he never said these words that was on Ferrari press release.

    Todt winning, I can already see how Ferrari will have some secret agreements with FIA means Todt, oh you don’t even need any agreements then, you could even move FIA to Maranello then.

    1. Hanz says:

      The question of conflict between John Todt and Luca de Montezemlo is not even needed. It exists. It is a well documented power struggle.

      What people fail to notice is that the ferrari team has a mind of its own. And that is very tough even for the top echelons (Montezemlo) to meddle and divide.

  8. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    No doubt that Bernie has been advising Flavio along the way. BCE has recently made noises about Nelson Jr being hireable….is this his way of getting cheat Flavio back into the fold?

    So the message he is sending out is “cheat if you must – just make sure that you’re a friend of Bernie’s”

    Renault will get away with basically a zero reprimand:

    1) They get to keep their win and championship points for 2008. When MSC was found guilty of Jerez 1997 he had his championship standing wiped for that year.

    2) NPJ gets off lightly and thanks to the terrible Grosjean flattering his past performances, he finds a seat at a pay-driver team

    3) The FIA went out of their way to exhonerate Alonso. Not just say that they did not have adequate evidence that he was involved…they actually stated that they do not believe that he was involved.

    4) Flavio comes back with the help of Bernie Ecclestone. He even seems to be dressing Bernie these days with his garish Billionaire brand. See this link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xW0uLbEYRJo

    THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT BCE’S STYLE!

    5) Pat “Option 13″ Symonds gets to come back because Flavio is let back

    1. Dave P says:

      Please everyone watch this interview….. is this the person the teams want to represent them to the world…. It’s unbelievable…. how can they keep on praising him? Anything he had is now lost… they need a new person in to advocate them…

  9. Darren says:

    He is a horrible man, And most fans will be glad to see the back of him.

  10. monktonnik says:

    If Flavio overturns the whole ban, and Piquet is taken back by one of the teams I think that the FIA will have failed the sport and the fans in a big way.

    I think a lifetime ban is excesive, unless all three men were given the same. I am sure he can appeal that, but to be honest he has shown that he really shouldn’t be allowed to take up work as a manager and mentor of young men.

    I also can’t believe any team would want to hire NPJ. Why would they want to be associated with a cheat.

  11. Michael Grievson says:

    Personally I’d like to see everyone invlolved prosecuted and banned. This means , Max, Flav, Piquets, charlie whiting etc. Using the excuse that jnr has to come forward is rediculous. If you go to the police and report a crime they dont say that person needs to come forward.

    There was a lot more at stake and could well have cost Massa the championship. There’s the image to the sport and not to mension the money for the constructors.

    Lets just hope these theatrics come to an end soon and we can have a season focusing on racing next year. Although I have a feeling that wont happen

  12. Harveyeight says:

    Flav’s history in the sport is not exemplary. There have been consistent accusations of cheating from the days of traction control and fuel rig doctoring through to last season. Despite him bringing a bit of controversy and interest into the pitlane I am glad to see him go.

    However, he must be treated justly otherwise those with the authority are just as culpable, if not more so.

    What this highlights is that the sport has been poorly managed over the years. So much has been ignored. The cop out, that the sport cannot investigate where there is no complaint, is so wrong at every level that by saying it one feels a 151c is committed.

    A list of blind-eye turning would take up most of the bandwidth but let’s just run with Option 13, Toyota’s purloining of Ferrari data, Norberto Fontana’s accusation, and, just to be difficult, one where an official complaint was made and ignored, Renault purloining confidential, and legally protected, data. If these allegations are true – and in the case of Toyota it was tested in a proper court – they demonstrate an underlying acceptance of corrupt behaviour. And one must mention Flav’s contracts with so many drivers whilst he was running a team.

    If you were the boss of any large, medium or small company and ignored these suggestions of dishonesty you would not remain in position for long. To do nothing after such allegations is to be complicit in them.

    Whilst the working party on overtaking (an admission of a whole series of errors if ever there was one) would appear, after Sunday, to be effective, how much more important would be a working party on corrupt procedures?

    A problem is not solved by punishing people. Or, in the case of the fuel rig doctoring, hardly punishing them at all. Whilst I accept that Piquet crashing did put people at risk – there was a small fire at one stage – how much worse was the fire at the German GP. That could have killed lots of people, and that’s not to mention F1 as well.

    If Flav has been dealt with improperly then I hope that this is exposed and the person responsible for doing so stopped from making the same error of judgement again.

    My feeling is that I don’t want Flav back in the sport, but it’s not my choice. Nor is it anyone’s without proper and fair procedures.

    One thing that has been apparent of late: isn’t the pitlane getting bland. Whitmarsh has done very well with McLaren, getting the car to a competitive level after starting with such a dog, but he does come over as a really nice chap. We’ve had Brawn clearly demonstrating that he might be human and Patrick Head smiling. That leaves Bernie, with his suggesting that the only thing wrong with Hitler was his interpersonal skills and that had Senna not died he would have shot him for financial reasons (hello, moderator. How are you today?) – at least that was my interpretation of his comments – able to bring controversy. I am not suggesting Flav’s orange aura will be missed but we could do with some colour in the pits.

  13. Glen Slagg says:

    People scream and shout about Flavio and how the Singapore scandal was “unprecedented” and even though it is acknowledged that cheating has previously occurred in F1, this was “very serious” because “lives were put at risk” etc.
    Er….I am quite old but does no one else remember St Ayrton of Senna and St Mikey of the Shoes, both of whom crashed into other drivers (not just the wall) in order to secure the WDC?
    And, they got away with it at least once each.
    I am not saying that Flav shouldn’t be punished but, as usual, FIA punishments are a tad inconsistent. If you let off Senna, Schumacher et al-an Prost (without even a slapped wrist), then you have to do the same for Symonds and Briatore. I understand that the application of law is based on precedent and there is precedent in this case.

    1. monktonnik says:

      I think that the issue is the conspiracy and cover up. Senna and Schumacher acted on their own.

  14. Just A Bloke (Martin) says:

    If an external court re examines the evidence, judgement and sentence, will the original FiA immunity be called into question ? Will we ever find out who witness x was, will anybody still believe Alonso did not know ?

    1. Rich C says:

      I doubt that the FIA’s immunity applies to a real court of law.
      The rules of a private organization do not have the force of the actual Laws of a country.

  15. LeighJW says:

    I know neither Max or Flav personally yet I dislike their public personas in equal amounts.

    However, I have to say that I thought the Crashgate hearing to be a mockery of law. It was a kangaroo court of the highest order.

    Guilty or innocent, Flav did not get a fair trial.

  16. jed says:

    It really does appear that the FIA acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

    If briatore proves this in court, which from the facts we the public know on how the trial went, with leakages and lack of due process, Flavio has a real case in his hands.

    The result would be the annulment of the results of that hearing, as the verdict in effect deprived briatore of substantial rights.

    Whether or not he conspired to that crash in singapore is irrelevant, the way the FIA handled the prosecution of Briatore might actually lift his ban and restore his rights in f1.

    Thus, any miscarriage of justice will boil soley down to the FIA.

    1. Werewolf says:

      The legal point in a nutshell. The issue now is not Briatore’s guilt but the FIA’s handling, processes and procedures.

    2. john g says:

      this is my concern as well. under what supervision did the FIA come to their decisions in analysing and acting upon the testimony’s of NPJr, Symmonds, Flav, and Permaine. what sort of procedure or court was used to consider the evidence, from a legal point of view.

      flavio still maintains his innocence, if evidence from everyone else clearly proved he was lying, surely he’d have given up these protests by now? i don’t recall all of the content of the statements released by the FIA but certainly the only person that claimed symmonds and flav came up with the idea and forced NPJr to go through with it was NPJr. everyone else involved say that it was the drivers idea. yet the FIA side with NPJr?

      i would like to see this appeal and the evidence go through a proper legal procedure, and clearly flav believes he has nothing to fear from this, with everything coming out into the open, so i be inclined to believe him. he wants to clear his name and reputation, it’s not like he needs the money.

      whilst i don’t think flav is cleaner than clean, he’s certainly cleaner than max.

  17. Gulfie says:

    Oddly enough, though I’m not a Flavio fan, this chimes right in with the Ari Vattanen position if Flavio’s comments are accurate. No body like the FIA should be conducting its business in secret, and at the risk of polluting the thread, I don’t think that FIA employees and appointees should be endorsing any one candidate.

    That said I also agree with the other comments here, that a blatent cheat has no place in F1, and when you add in the threat of legal action over what actually turned out to be, shock horror, the truth, well… I won’t miss him.

  18. StJimmyL says:

    James – Great article – I’ve loved your blog all year – so congrats for bouncing back after the BBC made a massively huge error in not requesting your services! Your blog definitely enhances the F1 fans experience – you should get credit for this!!!

    [mod]

  19. Robert says:

    Massively off point here James, but with all this talk of who is a worthy world champion I wondered who had been the best driver of the year. Firstly I wondered what your opinion taking into account the relative strengths of the different cars. Secondly do you know who did the most on track overtaking? And also who was overtaken the most? I thought these would be interesting stats and highlight who was actually the best performing driver. (I do realise that someone who spent the season at the front has less chance to overtake but thought it would give a good indication)

    1. James Allen says:

      I’ll look into the overtaking. As for the driver of the year, we’ll be doing that at the end of the season and I’ll be inviting your comments, maybe even do a vote for a Jamesalleonf1.com Top 10.

    2. David Hodge says:

      I could not be 100% sure but I think the most overtakes is probably the WDC for 2009. Clearly at the start of the season he had nobody to overtake since he was running P1 anyway. However, where he played catchup in the middle part of the season, there were the damage-limitation races where he picked up 5th or 6th place and he did one or two overtakes in those races. So my vote is for Jenson.

      Nice idea for a top 10 James. Although I am over the moon ((c) J Legard) that Jenson is the champ, my actual driver of the year is… well, I guess we will all have a chance to air our opinions in due course.

      1. Robert says:

        Thank you for replying and i look forward to the stats if and when you can get them.

        For me the drvier of the year has to be Button. Everyone has flattered to deceive, Rosberg, Vettel, Webber, Barrichello, Kimi even Hamilton have all made too many mistakes. No one has really out performed their car this year except perhaps Kimi and he was poor at the start. The drive of the year has to Fisi at Spa, but for the Ferrari KERS he would have won which would have been an exceptional achievement. As an aside I think Kobayashi was dangerous in Brazil he took ot Nakajima and was weaving around like I do on the playstation.

        Do you think that Red Bull might be tempted to go for Kimi? They have the money and Webber (despite two wins) has in my opinion been quite poor.

  20. Michael Brown says:

    Lots of people seem to have he idea that “crashgate” and “liegate” were just ways for Max to get rid of (from F1) the two people he disliked most in the paddock, Flavio Briatore and Ron Dennis respectively. However, they only have themselves to blame for presenting Mosley with an opportunity to chuck them out. Without those opportunities, Mosley would have had to tolerate them whether he liked them or not.

    As for Flav, he was ultimately responsible for Singapore ’08 so he should carry the can, and the fact that Max wanted to get rid of him (if that was in fact the case) is neither here nor there.

  21. Olivier says:

    So … at the end no one got really punished!?

    Is there a chance to re-open the Singapore investigation and have a fair* verdict?!

    *fair=at least annul the Singapore GP. If possible, strip Renault of the 2008 Constructor’s Championship points.

  22. Jonathan Dye says:

    Even if the ban is lifted, I cant see any sponsor wanting to be associated with Briatore any team he is with.

    But this is about him being able to carry on his other businesses (driver management, GP2, GP3, QPR), although Im sure he could sell them all off and live a reasonably comfortable life.

  23. ade says:

    Come off it, everyone. F1 *needs* Flavio and his incisive, illuminating insights into the workings of F1. After all, he was the one that described Jenson Button as being as fast a concrete post and look how accurate that turned out to be…
    Oh…

  24. ade says:

    By the way, I’m loving your header graphics this season, James. But you’ve missed out the words “Get In There!” on this latest “Jenson Button | World Champion” image. ;-)

  25. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    James, off topic I know…but can we have your views on Kimi’s potential moves? Best wishes.

    1. James Allen says:

      Hard to say. From what I hear McLaren less likely than before, Toyota want him but does he want them. Otherwise he may call it a day

  26. Rick J says:

    If I were the FIA I would go hunting for a lawyer with the tenacity of a bulldog equalled only by a fanatical hunger to see the predominance of his own versions of truth and justice. Why, I would hire Max Mosley! I suspect he will happily work for the continuation of his expense budget (or the direct deposit to his account of some of the mega fines the FIA hands out) and will do his best to keep Mr. Briatore tied up in legal knots and away from drivers and racetracks, for years to come. Flavio at some point will undoubtedly say something libelous and at that point Max will slap him with a countersuit.

    All of which should be good fun to watch.

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