F1 managing director Flavio Briatore is free to return to the sport after the lifetime ban he received for his leading role in the 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal was overturned by the French High Court today (Tuesday).
Briatore was barred indefinitely from all future involvement in any FIA-sanctioned form of motorsport by the governing body's World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) back in September, after being found guilty in absentia
of the crime of ordering 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 night race from a disadvantaged grid position.
However, the Italian subsequently revealed that then FIA President Max Mosley had personally advised him against
attending the WMSC reunion, and furiously described the hearing as a 'sham', 'a legal absurdity' and 'a tool to exact vengeance on one man'. He claimed that the council had committed a 'deliberate breach of the rights of defence', a 'breach of the rules of natural justice' and a 'manifest excess and abuse of power' in denying him the right to a free and fair trial.
Moreover, the 59-year-old accused Mosley in particular of having been 'blinded by a desire for personal revenge' after the pair fell out spectacularly over the bitter FIA/FOTA civil war during the summer, when the Englishman had controversially characterised his nemesis as the leader of 'the loonies'.
Mosley might have dismissed Briatore's recourse to legal redress as doomed to fail in asserting that the team chief 'knew damn well he was guilty' [see separate story – click here
], but the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris clearly disagreed, describing the punishment meted out as 'irregular' and, worse still, 'illegal' – and awarding the claimant €20,000 (£13,500) in damages, albeit some way short of the €1 million he had been seeking.
The outcome of the separate appeal lodged by erstwhile Renault
F1 executive director of engineering Pat Symonds against his own five-year ban over the controversy culminated in the same ruling – with the Englishman receiving a lesser sum of €5,000 (£4,500) by way of compensation – with both men now at liberty to return to working in the sport.
As to the fate of the other leading players in the saga, Piquet was granted immunity from prosecution by the FIA for lifting the lid on the episode in the first place, whilst Renault
itself escaped with a two-year suspended permanent ban.
The High Court's verdict is likely also to preserve Briatore's position as co-owner of London football club Queens Park Rangers (QPR) – where he had been in danger of transgressing the Football League's fit and proper person test had his ban not been quashed – although the FIA has hinted that it might yet appeal the Tribunal de Grande Instance's decision. As he now eyes a way back into F1, the driver manager has been linked with new Spanish outfit Campos Meta 1.