Disgraced former Renault F1 managing director Flavio Briatore contends that he was 'betrayed' and has vowed to have the last laugh in the 'Singapore-gate' controversy that has rocked the already scandal-riven F1 in recent weeks – as Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley both stunned the paddock in advising the flamboyant Italian to appeal against his lifetime ban from the sport.
After being deemed guilty of race-fixing by instructing Nelsinho Piquet to deliberately crash out of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in order to enable team-mate Fernando Alonso to triumph in the top flight's inaugural floodlit event from a lowly grid slot following an engine failure in qualifying, Briatore has been banned from all FIA-sanctioned championships for an indefinite period, and also from driver management, with current clients including Alonso, Red Bull Racing star Mark Webber, McLaren-Mercedes ace Heikki Kovalainen and Renault rookie Romain Grosjean.
Briatore – who left his post at the head of the French manufacturer's F1 operation before the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) met to deliberate over the incident last week, and was not in Paris to either defend himself or learn of his fate – is adamant that the truth will ultimately out to clear his name and re-establish his trampled-upon reputation.
“I've been betrayed by my own world,” the 59-year-old is quoted as having said by British newspaper The Times
, speaking from his yacht in the Mediterranean. “In the end I will win and, you'll see, we'll have a great party. It will be organised well and we'll invite all those people who have stayed close to me during these tough times.
“[This response] is just a matter of good manners, because I don't want to say absolutely nothing. I'm not giving any quotes. I will talk only at the right time, assuming that they still allow me to talk. Look at the verdict the FIA has put online – it is not about me.”
Moreover, both Ecclestone – a WMSC vice-president and one of the 26 council members – and Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo have argued that the sentence handed down to Briatore was overly 'harsh', for which the former has been rebuked by F1 commercial rights-holders and his employers CVC [see separate story – click here
]. Sources in Italy claim that FIA President Mosley, who chaired the WMSC reunion, similarly telephoned the Queens Park Rangers (QPR) co-owner to suggest that he might want to appeal against the punishment.
“What Flavio did was wrong, no question,” Ecclestone – Briatore's QPR co-owner – is quoted as having said by the Daily Mail
, “but if I were Flavio, I'd appeal the ban. Go to the FIA Court of Appeal and get it overturned. Certainly, the bit about him not being a driver-manager – that should be looked at.
“It was quite harsh on Flavio. I don't think it was necessary, but I was on the commission so I'm just as guilty as anyone. A year's ban is enough in my view. The sport needs colourful characters. Flav was one of those. Now we've lost Ron Dennis and Flav. It's a great shame.
“He's not talking to me. He thinks I should have defended him, which I couldn't. He should have taken my advice on how to deal with it. Firstly, he was invited to appear in front of the World Motor Sport Council, but his lawyers said the FIA have no jurisdiction as far as he is concerned, which was probably right.
“It was not the right thing to say no. It would have been just as easy to go, to say 'I was caught with my hand in the till – it seemed a good idea at the time and I am sorry'.”
It is felt that Ecclestone has somewhat undermined the WMSC ruling by seemingly suggesting the governing body got it wrong, but the 78-year-old added that Briatore – who continues to protest his innocence in the conspiracy – would do well not to seek legal redress against the FIA, which the former ski instructor has hinted he intends to do.
“The FIA would say you sent a boy to what might have been his death,” he opined.