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Briatore could be back in F1 in under three years
Briatore could be back in F1 in under three years
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Apr 2010   |  10:33 pm GMT  |  114 comments

Flavio Briatore has struck an out of court deal with the FIA whereby the governing body withdraws its appeal against his successful challenge of a lifetime ban over the Singapore crash affair and allows him to return to F1 in 2013.

In return he accepts responsibility for the Singapore crash as the boss of the Renault team, but accepts no personal guilt. Former Renault engineering director Pat Symonds has a similar deal, even though he accepted guilt at the time. He has made it clear, however that the deal allows him to act as a consultant to a team in the interim.

A statement from Briatore this evening said that he had “Informed the FIA of his intention not to undertake any operational role in Formula One before the end of 2012, nor in any other FIA Championship, before the end of the Racing Season 2011.

“He confirmed his acceptance to bear his share of responsibility in the Singapore events in his capacity of Managing Director of the Renault F1 Team, at the time they happened, without any admission of a personal guilt in these events and without any recognition of the fact that the decision of the World Council rendered against him would have been well-founded. ”

According to the FIA, Briatore was, “Recognising his share of responsibility for the deliberate crash involving the driver Nelson Piquet Junior at the 2008 Grand Prix of Singapore, as “Team Principal” of Renault F1 where Mr Flavio Briatore is concerned, they have expressed their regrets and presented their apologies to the FIA. ”

The key to the breakthrough in the case possibly lies in the final paragraph of the FIA’s statement, where it says, “The FIA President has considered that it is in the best interests of the FIA not to allow the perpetuation of these legal disputes, which have received a great deal of media coverage and which, regardless of the outcome, are very prejudicial to the image of the FIA and of motor sport, and thus to accept this settlement solution, thereby putting an end to this affair. ”

This looks like another piece of Jean Todt pragmatism and of his light touch, in contrast to his predecessor as FIA President. As a long time survivor in the Piranha tank of F1 politics, Todt knows that, as it says in the Art of War, you only pick the battles you know you can win.

Although the FIA World Council mandated Todt to pursue justice in this case at its most recent meeting in March, clearly this was going nowhere and was only going to cause more damage, so both sides have reached a deal. The FIA has also agreed to drop the case against the pair in perpetuity, so even if new evidence comes to light in future there will be no further prosecution.

This is an unsatisfactory outcome in many ways as it means that no-one has been properly prosecuted for the worst piece of cheating in the sport’s history. The FIA has had to accept that this has more to do with the unusual way in which the FIA disciplinary system was structured under Mosley than anything else and take it on the chin.

The driver, Nelson Piquet walked away with immunity and the FIA could find no evidence of anyone else involved beyond Symonds and Briatore, who has always denied it. Symonds pleaded guilty in a statement during the trial and said that the incident had destroyed his reputation. But he has since benefitted from Briatore’s chutzpah and legal challenge. He is known to be keen to get back into F1 as soon as possible and one would imagine teams will be fighting over themselves in two years time to hire one of the most savvy operators in the sport.

Todt, hosted a press meeting in Bahrain, which I attended, at which he and one of his deputies, Graham Stoker, made it clear that the new regime planned to make the disciplinary process more transparent than it was under Max Mosley, who prosecuted Briatore in this case. The crucial separation now is that the president can call for a disciplinary process, but can have no part in the judging of it.

The timing of the end of Briatore’s exile is interesting and possibly significant, as the current Concorde Agreement runs to the end of 2012 and a new one will be in place by the start of the 2013 season. Quite how (and if) Briatore fits into that picture either on the team side or on the commercial side, will be interesting to see.

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Go on Martin and Ron we are behind you!


a good call by todt in my opinion. this was the best thing he could have done following the biased proceedings of mr mosely. if anything, pat symonds should have been dealt with a little more harshly, as one who admitted guilt to being complicit with the plans of NP Jr. Flav has always protested his innocence, and his involvement has never been proven. NP Jr was granted immunity by mosely in his delight at the possibility of getting rid of flav, so this could not be retrospectively overturned by todt, but it looks like we’ll never see him in any top flight form of motorsport again anyway.

i don’t especially like flav but i think justice has now finally been done, and todt has allowed F1 to draw a line under this whole sorry episode.


I miss Flav – I’d have him back today.

And I don’t see where people are coming from attacking Todt’s decision – finally some common sense and deftness of touch are being employed at the helm of the FIA, and not yet more heavy-handed bullying. Let’s not forget, if Flav had successfully fought the FIA in the civil courts, Todt could conceivably have faced the genuine nightmare of McLaren seeking recompense for a certain $100m.

This was Mosley’s fight, and every time it reared its head in the papers F1 took another image battering. Todt’s done the sensible thing and moved everyones’ agenda on.


So wouldn’t it be worth McLaren fighting their penalty retrospectively? – Or as usual are there hidden agendas (conspiracy theories don’t you love em?)


Honestly I’d love them to! They should never have been fined it, and for them to challenge it now, in light of the crash episode, would be a thrilling piece of political theatre….

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

What does Ari Vatenen have to say about all of this now?!!


What a sham, such a total failure by the FIA to stand up to such a shoddy opperator; how can the fans and media have any respect for this organisation? Let alone the other teams who competed along side Flav at the time?

Very disapointing.

We need the FIA to get this feedback from the fans – what effect does this have on the viwers at a time when there a such questions of sustainability etc going arround…


How is this any worse than Senna deliberately driving Prost off the road? Or Schumacher’s similar attempt? At the end of the day, even if Flav or Pat asked Piquet to pull that move, he’s a bloody grown man with his own mind (or is he?), and the vast majority of blame should fall on him. He committed the crime. (I wonder did Nelson Snr know?)

Everyone here denigrating Briatore and Symonds as the worst criminals in history need to quit the faux indignation that seems to be endemic on the internet these days.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Yes. What Senna and Schumacher did was open and obvious. Briatore and Symonds covertly defrauded everyone.


“This is an unsatisfactory outcome in many ways as it means that no-one has been properly prosecuted for the worst piece of cheating in the sport’s history. “

Well said.

I believe also Piquet’s license should be permanently revoked.


It’s a bit of a joke for Todt on the one hand to promulgate the idea that the disciplinary process should all be independent and then on the other hand preclude any present / future attempt to discipline Briatore for these alleged offences. It’s like saying, ‘look at these great new independent Courts’ but adding a rider ‘but we’ll decide who appears in them’.

More specifically, the whole thing smacks of an unprincipled whitewash … and the fact of Bernie’s long-standing friendship with Briatore does not help the idea of transparent justice a jot.


I am shocked at some reactions where most people seem to blame BRIATORE much more than SYMONDS. Both are guilty and equally guilty I would add. So it is a disgrace that both of them get back to F1 later on.

As for the little ban, the point is MAX MOSLEY banned them from FORMULA 1 without having any right to do so. Team principal, engineers and any employee of any formula 1 team are employees of the FORMULA 1 team and not employees of the FIA so how could the FIA ban them from working for these teams !?

The FIA has only the right to penalise RENAULT and they didn’t do so to keep FORMULA 1 from loosing too many teams under a global economical crisis plus an engine supplier. Add to that that a lot of jobs could have been lost as a consequence and the FIA found itself in a situation where it had to make RENAULT stay on the grid and yet punish the culprits… The FIA decision is morally very sound but legally completely rubbish.

As James pointed out, Jean TODT pragmatism and smartness is showing up here because he finds himself (as the FIA chairman) in a no win situation. Carrying on the legal dispute would have only added salt to the injury without the certainty of any success plus the bad publicity.

So he did what he had to do look forward and take a lesson from what happened by applying licenses to senior staff members (the decision makers) in the teams. By doing so, the next BRIATORE and SYMONDS won’t escape the penalty.

Right now, their reputation is damaged but I won’t rule out the return of any of them in the future. It won’t be easy because they are senior figures in the team and their reputation might harm their sponsors and that’s what FORMULA 1 is all about…. But time erases a lot of things and 3 years are a long deal of time….

…To be continued.


and what about Alonso?

How come he didnt knew!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!


Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Alonso is too intelligent not to have known.

His team put him on a crazy strategy for that race and he would have had to have wanted to know why.


and how come alonso & dela rosa knew they were using FERRARI data while at mclaren & lewis hamilton testified he didn’t know


Did he need to know?


But there are still legal disputes between the Piquets & Briatori pending so, won’t the whole incident be debated in (open court) with evidence & cross examination, for the first time?

The FIA say that they want to call a halt to negative publicity but I kind of sense that this is far from over as a media story… may be real truth behind the planning of this incident will come out in these libel cases…


Good point


James, please.

There were far worse examples of cheating in F1 than this.

It’s just that, back then, it was all “just part of the game.”


James, thoughtful and thought-provoking analysis, as always.

Todt did the right thing by putting an end to the fight on the best terms possible. The previous regime made such a mess of the process, there was no better outcome possible.

I was always amazed that a team principal could also manage drivers. The conflicts of interest are outrageous: consider how much money Briatore made for himself by sending Alonso from Renault to McLaren — in the process giving away the star driver of Renault, the team whose interests he is supposed to be defending in every way possible. Can this happen in any other sport worthy of the name?

Anyway, I think it took guts to Todt to make it go away, and I’m glad. Let’s put Max behind us, ASAP. I wanted Vatinen to win but now I’m feeling better about Todt.


Think Todt had no choice, legally they were never present to defend themselves. The FIA would need to try them and it would be a legal mess.


This is a case of Todt not seeing the wood for the trees.

In other words; sure, not dragging the whole thing through the courts again will mean it’s probably not covered much outside of F1 press right now, but what impact is it going to have on the sport if Briatore comes back in 2013? That’s when it’ll hit the mainstream headlines and cause the damage.

Todt looks decidedly weak from this, it’s definitely a victory to Briatore.


Bad? Yes, this is a bad decision. However, it is also the right one.

Think about this – Flav won his case, the FIA appealed. If the FIA won, Flav would have appealed again. If they lost, it would have made a mockery of the FIA justice system, and Flav would be allowed back in now.

This way, both men still receive a punishment, a blot on their records. The main instigator according to both Symonds and witness X was Piquet, who suggested the crash. However this was the man who went unpunished.

Now the FIA, under Todt, can get it’s house in order and get the system in place where punishments can be handed out and enforced. This settlement also draws a line under the scandle. The media won’t report on it anymore, and it won’t drag F1 into a dark spot again.

Yes it’s not a great ruling, but for the future of the sport, and the limit to the damage it can cause, it’s the best solution.

But if this had happened while Todt was in charge, instead of Max, i don’t think we’d be here now.


Who knows whether there will be an “F1” series in its current format after 2012??

neil murgatroyd

I think Todt has taken pragmatism too far. Briatore is allowed to deny he had any part of it? Despite 3 witnesses (Piquet, Symonds, “unnamed engineer”). Surely a lack of an admission of his active role should preclude his return to F1. Otherwise, what’s next?

A little research on Briatore reveals a ‘colourful’ past, and not just in F1, can it really be worth the risk of letting him back in? And Pat Symonds’ punishment is now the same as Briatore’s, clearly his previous candid statement has counted against him, that’s not a good portent for the future.

One can only hope that openness and a consistent application of rules across all teams in the future can drag F1’s reputation back towards respectability. It’s looking pretty shabby right now, vindictive (to some), partial (to some), and viciously inconsistent. Todt must be thanking Moseley for that inheritance.


Do you think McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes or Renault would touch Pat Symonds?

Personally I think it’s a shame that he’s out the sport as his guile added something to the teams he worked at; but surely given his confession along with the sponsorship sensitive nature of the sport would rule him out of ever working for a top team again?

Zobra Wambleska

He may not start out with a top team, but he is capable of bring ing a lower level team up into the top league.


Am I the only one here missing the Flav and Pat?

F1 has always been about pushing the envelop to the extreme. I consider strategy to be part of it.

I really do miss the cunning tactics of Symonds injecting a bt of uncertainty in the races.

I miss Flav’s big mouth. Martin, Stefano and Ross aren’t as charismatic enough. Only Christian Horner seems to have a not so corporate approach to F1 these days.

The only thng I am disappointed with is that they did not foresee Piquet Jr would open his mouth once sacked. Schoolboy error, really.


Quite a U-turn from Todt, did he not say that the perpetrators cannot escape unpunished a little while ago? I’d imagine Bernie was twisting some arms behind the scenes and this looks like setting up Flav to be playing some significant role, or even replacing Bernie the man himself in a few years time?


This sorry affair just keeps rolling doesn’t it. I don’t agree with this let off.

What sort of a message does it send? It was deliberate cheating and I don’t think for a minute those people should be allowed back in. Personal opinion but I feel very strong about it.


Despite all the blemishes on Briatore’s and Symonds’ characters, Piquet was the man who deliberately risked lives and the greatest share of the blame should fall on him. But I personally was quite happy with all three of them receiving a lifetime ban and disappointed when the FIA was not able to achieve that. Whether this was in some way Mosley’s fault I don’t think is clear, especially since Todt has shown himself even less capable. I also suspect that, considering the number of dodgy events which occurred in 1994-6 at Benetton, Briatore is a confirmed and shameless cheat and I will not enjoy seeing him back in F1 in any capacity.


I do not agree that this was the worst case of cheating in the history of the spot. The presence of Allen Donnelly and the match fixing that was done by Ferrari and the FIA over so many years and at so many races out strips this by so many miles I am astounded that you would even begin classify this single crash in the same category!

And quite frankly denial that this match fixing took place is even more preposterous than Briatories denial of orchestrating Jnr’s crash in Singapore.

nad lets not forget the $400 000 000 secret deal between Bernie and Ferrari that saw 5 chamionships come Ferrari’s way…



How does ecclestone have the power to throw championships? and with such a limp dollar figure? Engage the brain, mate.


You only reveal your own ignorance. Ferrari agreed to sign with FOM and not stand with the manufacturers break away in exchange for $80 000 000 paid to them over and above the standard prize money IF they won the championship. What good would this agreement be if they did not know that they win? Amazingly it just happened to turn out that they won 5 in row, a complete coincidence and nothing to do with the money or being in partnership with the FIA/FOM.

Sorry what was that you wanted me to engage?


still have no idea what you’re talking about. Ferrari came to the agreement in 2005 to get paid out, which effectively ended the breakaway threat at that time (that had to do with teams’ discruntlement with revenue distribution).

following your “reasoning”, they were being paid, giving their assurance to ecclestone that they would win championships they already won.


Let’s have more details please!!!


Are you unaware that Allen Donnelly was both the owner of the PR company representing Ferrari as well as the FIA’s permanent steward? Did you not see the publicity surrounding many very controversial decisions at numerous races during this period of time all of which went in favour of Ferrari and its drivers? To many observers this was simply match fixing. In 2008 some media reports counted as many as 25 points that were awarded to Filipe Massa as a result of the outcome of controversial decisions.


Keep him banned for good. This doesn’t look good for formula 1. Banned for life then suddenly only a few years. F1 needs to be strict on cheats

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