F1 governing body the FIA has confirmed that it is to appeal against the French High Court ruling that sensationally overturned ex-Renault F1 managing director Flavio Briatore's lifetime ban from the top flight – in an effort, it reveals, to 'ensure the continuing integrity and safety of the sport'.
F1 was plunged into shock last week when the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris upheld Briatore's claim that the initial FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) reunion into the 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal had been a 'sham' and had not granted him a free and fair trial.
The Italian had accused the governing body of having 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' – and accused former FIA President Max Mosley in particular of having been 'blinded by a desire for personal revenge' in administering the punishment.
Mosley, however, responded in indignant fashion to the High Court verdict, insisting that Briatore would not ultimately get away with having presided over one of the most infamous instances of cheating in sporting memory and affirming that the sorry saga is 'very far from over' [see separate story – click here
] – and now it looks as though that threat might yet come to fruition.
The basis of the FIA's appeal is that High Court ruled only that the procedural nature of the WMSC hearing had been 'illegal' – and that the guilt of Briatore and fellow 'Singapore-gate' protagonist, former Renault F1 executive director of engineering Pat Symonds, had not been disputed. The court concluded that the FIA cannot penalise non licence-holders – something the governing body is adamant will be addressed for the future.
'The President of the FIA has consulted the FIA Senate and the FIA's lawyers about the decision of the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris of 5 January,' the official statement read. 'It was unanimously agreed that an appeal would be prepared.
'In his election campaign last summer, FIA President Jean Todt and his team announced that new measures for constructive change, including a disciplinary procedure, would be introduced. Work on this is well-advanced. Once in-place, this will address the issues in the Court's judgement. Nonetheless, an appeal is merited.
'While the appeal is underway, the Word Motor Sport Council's decision of 21 September, 2009 remains in full effect. However, in view of the uncertainty that this may create for drivers who may be affected by this decision, the FIA President and FIA Senate have decided that, pending the outcome of the FIA's appeal, Superlicences will continue to be issued to qualifying drivers in the usual way.
'The FIA President, the FIA Senate, the World Motor Sport Council and the FIA's Member Clubs from all countries will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the continuing integrity and safety of the sport.'