• Crashgate

Flavio Briatore's ban overturned by French court

ESPNF1 Staff
January 5, 2010 « Q&A with Renault team principal Eric Boullier | »

Flavio Briatore's indefinite ban from motorsport has been overturned by the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris.

The court reversed the decision of the World Motor Sports Council (WMSC), which hit Briatore with the ban for his part in conspiring to cause a deliberate crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. Briatore was also awarded €15,000 (US$21,600) compensation, although that figure was short of the €1 million (US$1.44m) he was seeking. The French court gave the FIA 15 days to pay or face a €10,000 per day fine.

Renault's ex-director of engineering, Pat Symonds, also had his five-year ban overturned for his part in the scandal. He was awarded US$7,200 compensation; again well short of the US$722,000 he had sought.

The verdict said that the FIA and WMSC did not have the authority to impose such a penalty on team members, such as Briatore and Symonds, as they do not hold a licence to compete.

"The FIA ... can sanction licence holders, leaders, members of an ASN [national motorsport authorities], but it cannot with respect to third parties, take measures equivalent to a sanction - in contravention of article 28 of its statutes," the verdict read. "The World Council, by forbidding FIA members and licences to work with Messrs Briatore and Symonds, on the one hand added a negative condition - to not work with them - which is not provided for within the FIA statutes."

Article 28 allows for the provision of an appeal of an FIA ruling by an external body, only if all areas of appeal have been exhausted within the sporting body. It goes on to state that this is what all licence holders agree to when taking part in an FIA sanctioned event, but technically neither Briatore or Symonds are licence holders.

The verdict added: "The decision of the World Council was presided over by the FIA president, who was well known to be in conflict with Briatore, with Mr Mosley having played a leading role in launching the enquiry and its investigation in violation of the principle of separation of the power of the bodies. The decision [of the FIA World Motor Sport Council] is not annulled but declared irregular, and rendered without effect in its provisions against Mr Briatore and Mr Symonds."

The judge told the court that the FIA's evidence was weak, and that lawyers were unable to question witnesses because their identity was withheld. He also told the FIA that it would have to publicise the verdict in the French press at its own expense.

"The FIA is consequently obliged to notify within two weeks it is lifting the provisions to its members and licence holders, particularly the 13 teams entered into the FIA Formula One world championship 2010," the verdict read. "This must be published in the French newspapers, of the choice of Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds - at the FIA's cost."

The FIA's lawyer Jean-Francois Prat told Associated Press that the governing body would likely launch an appeal, preventing Briatore from returning to the sport until the appeals process had run its course. However, if the judgement stands Briatore's lawyer Philippe Ouakrat said: "We are in a situation in which Mr Briatore is reinstated in all his capacities to act in Formula One or motorsport."

"We have the feeling that some justice has been reinstated," Ouakrat added. "I'm certain that the court was quite shocked by the way that the decision was made against Mr Briatore."

Renault got off relatively lightly from the original WMSC hearing, with a two-year suspended ban, and decided not to appeal. Driver Nelson Piquet Jnr was given immunity in exchange for evidence.