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.