Details of the judgement in the Flavio Briatore case are emerging and it could lead to F1 team principals and senior engineers becoming FIA licence holders in future, just like drivers.
The court described the FIA’s disciplinary procedure in this case as “irregular” and decided that the FIA could not punish the men with bans as neither was a licence holder subject to their jurisdiction.
The result is that in this case, one of the worst cheating scandals in sporting history, none of the culprits currently has any punishment against them. Nelson Piquet, who crashed the car was given immunity, Renault, the licence holder, was given a suspended ban and Briatore and Symonds could not be sanctioned by the FIA.
It illustrates that the FIA needs to have some sanction over key decision makers. It has sanction over licence holders, such as drivers and teams, but not team members.
This could spark a change of status for team members with the possibility that key decision makers may need to hold an FIA licence. This would also help the FIA to install a “fit and proper person” test, which it currently does not have. It is something that has been discussed before in FIA circles. And it could well be the mechanism by which the FIA ensures that Briatore and Symonds stay out of F1, as the FIA would control who gets a licence.
All eyes will be on new FIA president Jean Todt to see how he reacts to the judgement and whether he decides to appeal. It’s a tough one for Todt and a big test of his style of presidency.
On the one hand he has to defend the FIA and its right to govern the sport as it sees fit – it is highly unusual for a sport’s governing body to be overruled by a civil court and it sets an awkward precedent. On the other hand this trial was the work of former president Max Mosley and Todt may want the FIA to be seen to move on. It might also indicate what level of influence Mosley has in the Todt regime, from his seat on the FIA Senate.
The judgement said,
“The FIA … can sanction licence holders.. members of the ASNs [national sporting authorities], but it cannot with respect to third parties, take measures equivalent to a sanction – in contravention of article 28 of its statutes,”
If you look at Article 28 of the FIA statutes, it speaks only of the FIA’s ability to sanction licence holders, executive officers or members of ASNs. As Briatore and Symonds were not licence holders (Renault was) that is the clause the court has hit upon.
“The World Council, by forbidding FIA members and licences to work with Messrs Briatore and Symonds, on the one hand added a negative condition – to not work with them – which is not provided for within the FIA statutes.”
The verdict also upheld Briatore’s assertion that the punishment was motivated by the long-running dispute between himself and Mosley, which escalated over FOTA’s proposed breakaway last summer and that Mosley had a conflict of interest in his role in the matter,
“The decision of the World Council was presided over by the FIA president, who was well known to be in conflict with Briatore, with Mr. Mosley having played a leading role in launching the enquiry and its investigation in violation of the principle of separation of the power of the bodies.
“The decision [of the FIA World Motor Sport Council] is not annulled but declared irregular, and rendered without effect in its provisions against Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds.
So they are still guilty of organising the plot to crash the car in Singapore, but the sanctions are ruled unlawful.
“The FIA is consequently obliged to notify within two weeks it is lifting the provisions to its members and licence holders, particularly the 13 teams entered into the FIA Formula 1 world championship 2010.
“This must be published in the French newspapers, of the choice of Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds – at the FIA’s cost, up to a limited cost of 15,000 and 5,000 respectively.”