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Briatore: No reason to come back to F1
29 April 2013
Flavio Briatore says that he is unlikely to ever return to F1, having found other business interests to fill his time since being caught up in the 'crashgate' scandal of 2008.
The flamboyant Italian was suspended by the FIA in the wake of revelations that Nelson Piquet Jr was asked to aid the team's bid for an elusive victory - amid rumours that Renault was considering pulling its backing – by crashing and causing a safety car during the Singapore Grand Prix. Team-mate Fernando Alonso had qualified badly after mechanical problems, but benefited from an early pit-stop and the ensuing pace car period to duly win the race.
The allegations came to light a year later, after Piquet had been fired by the team, and resulted in both Briatore and head of engineering Pat Symonds being suspended by the FIA, Briatore indefinitely and Symonds for five years. The ruling was subsequently overturned, although both men agreed not to work in the top flight until 2013.
Symonds has since returned as a consultant to the Marussia team, but Briatore insists that he is happy to focus on his business interests outside the sport.
“I'm working 20 hours a day for different businesses, different investments, different situations, both here and over in America [and] I'm very happy,” the Italian told F1 Racing magazine, “I was in F1 for 20 years, won seven championships with two different teams; discovered the two biggest stars after Ayrton Senna: Schumi and Fernando. I know everything that's going on and I know that to have a team at this moment makes no sense financially. So there is no reason for me to come back to F1.”
Briatore admits that the whole 'crashgate' affair was a difficult period in his life, but says that the successful appeal against his life ban proved that he had had no involvement in instructing Piquet to make an early exit in the Singapore race.
“If what people claimed about Singapore was true, then why did I fire Piquet in the middle of the next season? Why take that risk?” he asked, “Why not renew the contract because it would be 30 or 40 per cent less money and there would be no trouble if all this was true. I had Fernando back and, for me, the second driver was not important.
"I respect what was said in the court. After that, I have an agreement with Jean Todt that the FIA will not appeal. I stayed away with no problem at all. I had the moral responsibility because I was in charge of the team, but now it is gone."
The Italian also insisted that he had considered stepping out of the F1 limelight prior to the fateful season, but was persuaded to stay on by Alonso's return from his fractious year as team-mate to Lewis Hamilton at McLaren.
“The year before, I had wanted to stop but Fernando came back from McLaren, so it would not have been right for me to finish then,” he explained, “But I was happy to stop. F1 was finished for me at that time. For sure, it was hard because people treat you like a criminal. It was unfair.
“In the FIA investigation, they had this Witness X, but nobody knows who he was. Mr X was the proof, basically, but he never signed the statement. The FIA signed the statement, but he didn't.
“For me, it was easier to say I respected exactly what the appeal court says and leave it at that. These things make you strong. I had a fantastic time in F1. Now I have a fantastic time with my family. I'm very lucky because I have very good health. I'm not jealous. I don't have a vendetta with anyone; there is no drama. I enjoy myself and this is the most important thing.”