Jean Todt’s first test as newly elected president of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile is not to be taken lightly.
In a hugely embarrassing decision this week, a French court overturned Flavio Briatore’s lifetime ban from international Motorsport handed down by the World Motor Sport Council last year in the Crashgate affair.
It was revealed last summer that Renault team bosses conspired with driver Nelson Piquet to stage a crash to ensure his teammate Fernando Alonso's strategy would deliver a win in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
Now that the French court ruled the punishment illegitimate, the former Renault boss likely intends to pursue legal action against the Piquet family.
But he laid the blame for his lifetime ban squarely at the feet of Todt’s predecessor, Max Mosley: “The fact that the World Automobile Sport Council had been utilized to deal with a personal agenda aimed at pushing me out of the world of competition left me no other choice.”
This is important because several other incidents were dealt with in a similar fashion, with Mosley
To make matters worse, F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone has his arms wide open for Briatore’s return.
“I said at the time that even murderers don't get life sentences these days and the court seems to agree,” Ecclestone told the Daily Express newspaper.
“He is welcome to come back to the paddock. He was a great character in F1 but I am not sure if that is what he wants to do now. I think he will move on from that. It's good for him but it is not good for the FIA when you read the verdict.”
For its part, the FIA released a statement which made it clear that it feels the grounds for the ban were valid: “The Court has rejected the claims for damages made by Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds and their claim for an annulment of the FIA's decision. In particular, the Court did not examine the facts and has not reversed the FIA's finding that both Briatore and Symonds conspired to cause an intentional crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.”
Many feel the FIA may simply take pragmatic approach and rectify the problem which apparently led to the overturning of the ban, which is the fact that it does not licence team personnel in the same way it does with the teams and drivers.
This is something it hinted at in its statement.
“The Court did question the FIA's authority to impose bans upon Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds for procedural reasons and because they are not FIA licence holders and, according to the Court, are therefore not subject to any FIA rules … In addition, the FIA intends to consider appropriate actions to ensure that no persons who would engage, or who have engaged, in such dangerous activities or acts of intentional cheating will be allowed to participate in Formula One in the future.”
This is far from over…
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