MOTORSPORT chiefs were bracing themselves for another legal battle last night after their decision to hand former Renault Formula One boss Flavio Briatore a lifetime ban was deemed illegal by a French court.
The Italian was banned by the sport’s governing body, the FIA, in October for his part in Nelson Piquet Jnr’s deliberate crash to alter the result of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
But the French high court yesterday overturned Briatore’s ban on appeal and awarded the supremo €15,000 (£13,500) in compensation.
“The court ruled the sanction was illegal,” the judge told the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI) in Paris.
The TGI also awarded in favour of Briatore’s former engineering head Pat Symonds, who had his five-year ban overturned. He was also awarded compensation of €5,000 (£4,500).
The FIA now has 15 days to pay the pair, but representatives said last night they intend to appeal the decision.
Briatore, himself, was delighted with the decision, but insisted he wanted to revel in his “moment of happiness” before deciding whether or not to return to F1.
“I would like to express my great joy with the decision,” he said. “[It] restores to me the dignity and freedom certain people had arbitrarily attempted to deprive me of. I believe justice has been done.”
Briatore, inset, and Symonds left their positions at Renault in September last year – just five days before the team were due before the World Motor Sport Council to explain their actions in Singapore. There, the pair were involved in a conspiracy which saw Piquet Jnr deliberately crash in order to help team-mate Fernando Alonso win the race.
Piquet Jnr was released by the team a month before the revelations, while he and his father, Nelson Piquet Snr, were threatened with legal action by Briatore, although that was later dropped. On receiving the lifetime ban, Briatore, 59, claimed the FIA World Council, chaired by Max Mosley, was out for “personal revenge” on him following reports of plans to set-up a rival breakaway series.
The TGI’s decision also has a knock-on effect for Briatore’s ownership of Queens Park Rangers Football Club as, if upheld, the Italian is no longer in danger of breaching the Football League’s fit and proper person test to run one of their clubs.