Bernie Ecclestone was one of a 'minority' of FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) members who voted against
a lifetime ban for disgraced former Renault F1 managing director Flavio Briatore in Paris last week, FIA President Max Mosley has revealed.
Ecclestone has come under fire within the F1 paddock – most prominently from CVC Capital Partners shareholder Sir Martin Sorrell [see separate story – click here
] – for describing the penalty meted out to his friend and Queens Park Rangers (QPR) co-owner Briatore for his part in the Marina Bay race-fixing scandal as overly 'harsh'.
The flamboyant Italian has been outlawed from having any involvement in any FIA-sanctioned form of motorsport for an indefinite period, including driver-management. Former Renault F1 executive director of engineering Pat Symonds – Briatore's deputy at the Enstone-based outfit and 'Singapore-gate' partner-in-crime – received a similar five-year exclusion for his role in the controversy that saw both men instruct Nelsinho Piquet to deliberately crash out of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, thereby enabling team-mate Fernando Alonso to triumph in the top flight's inaugural night race from a disadvantaged grid position following an engine failure in qualifying.
Ecclestone was part of the WMSC panel that convicted Briatore – and Mosley admits that the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive was reluctant to punish the 59-year-old quite so wholeheartedly.
“The council did not vote unanimously,” the 69-year-old told London newspaper the Evening Standard
. “All 26 members were not there – the figure was 20 – and there were proxies. A substantial majority were in favour of punishing Briatore, but Bernie was in a minority.”
Renault, for its part, received a two-year suspended ban, which many in the sport deemed to be a cop-out by the governing body to prevent the French manufacturer from joining Honda and BMW in heading for the exit door.
Mosley, however, refutes that suggestion, and explains that he was impressed by the company's honesty and transparency and the way in which it reacted once presented with the evidence and complied with the FIA's investigations – as well as the manner in which it swiftly dismissed the two key perpetrators from their leading roles.
“It took them completely by surprise,” the Englishman underlined. “When we sent Renault the dossier of evidence they made no attempt to cover up. They immediately instituted an internal investigation headed by a top lawyer. What they did was impeccable.”