BBC BLOGS - Andrew Benson
« Previous | Main | Next »

Briatore verdict leaves FIA in a pickle

Post categories:

Andrew Benson | 15:27 UK time, Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The decision by a French court to overturn the bans imposed on former Renault bosses Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds for fixing the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix leaves Formula 1 in a state of limbo.

The judgement effectively means that, for the time being at least, F1's governing body, the FIA, cannot hand down any punishments to members of F1 teams if they are found guilty of any wrongdoing.

The FIA has characterised the decision as "procedural not substantive", but I'm not so sure it's as simple as that.

What we're talking about here is that, following a scandal that the Times newspaper described as "the worst case of cheating in the history of sport", there has effectively been no punishment handed down by the governing body in question.

Judging from the FIA's statement on Tuesday - which talked about ensuring "no persons who would engage, or who have engaged, in such dangerous activities or acts of intentional cheating will be allowed to participate in F1 in the future" - new president Jean Todt does not intend to let that situation stand.

Briatore's ban stands for now while the FIA decides whether to appeal against the decision. If the FIA does appeal, it might win, and it might not. If it does not, Briatore and Symonds are free to do as they wish - although, having been found guilty of cheating, it would probably be wise to leave it some time before they go back to F1.

But even if it does appeal and wins, Todt clearly needs to change its administration of the sport to ensure the FIA can pass judgement on all participants. Given that Briatore won his case on the grounds that, as he was not an FIA licence holder, the FIA had no right to punish him, the most obvious way would be to extend the list of those who require licences.

Max Mosley and Flavio BriatoreFormer FIA president Max Mosley and Flavio Briatore rarely saw eye-to-eye

Todt's victory in last October's FIA elections was greeted with wariness by F1 teams who remember his divisive presence as Ferrari team boss for 15 years. But it has to be said that judging by his record so far the Frenchman's stewardship of the FIA has got off to a good start.

He has been careful to praise the efforts of his predecessor Max Mosley, who presided over the Singapore race-fixing case, but all Todt's actions have been to start a subtle but perceptible shift away from them.

Among them is a review of disciplinary procedures, which includes the setting up of a new independent body to deal with such issues (Mosley would contend that his World Council was independent; the problem was, few in F1 believed him, and credibility is all-important in these cases).

Certainly the French court decision was an indictment to some degree of Mosley's methods, with his role at the September World Council meeting that banned Briatore likened to being prosecutor, judge and jury all rolled into one.

Members of the F1 community have been expressing similar misgivings about Mosley's running of the World Council for years, so it might seem surprising that it has taken so long for someone who has fallen foul of it to challenge it in this manner.

The reason is that, in the Mosley years, F1 operated under a climate of fear - the general belief was that it was better to swallow whatever punishment Mosley came up with because by challenging it you risked it getting even worse.

This was certainly what was behind McLaren's decision not to challenge the absurdly large $100m fine levied on them for their role in 2007's 'Spy-gate' saga, and which many in F1 believed was rooted in personal vindictiveness on the part of Mosley towards McLaren boss Ron Dennis. Had they fought it, they worried Mosley would ban them from the sport, which would effectively have shut the team down.

It's true that Ferrari took the FIA to the French civil courts last summer in the course of the row over budget caps that ultimately led to Mosley's demise, but Ferrari are too powerful to have the same fears as others in the sport.

The same applies to some degree to Briatore, but clearly he was also encouraged in his fight by the fact that with Mosley gone - even if he remains on the FIA Senate - the risks of repercussions were greatly reduced; and, more importantly, having been banned for life, he had nothing to lose.

In some ways, though, the court case has distracted attention from what could be said to be the central issue here - which is that despite the high-profile investigation into the Singapore 2008 race-fixing allegations, there is still no definitive answer as to what exactly went on in one of the most shameful incidents in F1 history.

The FIA - and Renault's own internal investigation - found that Briatore and Symonds had conspired with Nelson Piquet Jr to cause a deliberate crash to aid team-mate Fernando Alonso's bid for victory. But only those three people really know what happened, and they can't agree on it.

Piquet says he was asked to crash by Briatore and Symonds. Symonds says it was Piquet's idea, but that he went along with it, a decision which he says is "to my eternal regret". Briatore, meanwhile, continues to protest his innocence, even if he does so in the strangled, practically opaque, language for which he is so famous.

So we have the three parties involved all saying different things. Faced with this contradiction, the FIA and Renault were able to come to their conclusions about the guilt for the conspiracy only thanks to the evidence of a fourth party, a whistleblower within the Renault F1 team.

The identity of this person has never been made public, but most people in F1 believe they know who it is. Whatever, this person - deemed "Witness X" in the World Council hearing - gave evidence that he had been told of the plan.

He said that Piquet had approached Symonds after qualifying in Singapore and suggested the idea of a deliberate crash; that Symonds mentioned it to Briatore; and that no-one else was involved.

This was the only independent evidence available to the FIA. The conclusion on the basis of it was to ban Briatore for life; Symonds for five years; and to let Piquet off on the grounds that he had been granted immunity for coming forward in the first place.

And here's the rub - in all the acres of coverage given to this event, remarkably little has focused on the role of Piquet.

The Brazilian told the FIA that he feared for his seat at Renault, and he thought that by going through with the crash it would persuade Briatore to keep him on for the 2009 season.

Clearly, whatever the circumstances, he should never have done what he did - I still find it difficult to comprehend that a man whose job it was to drive grand prix cars chose to crash one deliberately. He says now that he regrets his actions. Yet he was perfectly happy to keep quiet about them for 10 months - until he was sacked by Briatore following the Hungarian Grand Prix in July 2009.

In its justification for not punishing Piquet, the FIA said that it wanted whistleblowers to come forward without fear of prosecution. But it seems to me that this is something different from that.

This is not an innocent bystander coming forward to reveal a sinister plot, but fearing for the repercussions for himself. This is the man who committed the offence in the first place being let off in favour of punishing the two people who, depending on who you believe, either asked him to do it, or went along with his idea. Or, by Briatore's account, knew nothing about it at all.

As Renault's new number one driver, Robert Kubica, said at the time: "Normally if you go to the police and you say you killed someone but you know someone else who killed three people, you will still go to jail."

As he is pondering his approach to any similar events in the future, Todt may want to have a think about that.


  • Comment number 1.

    So many points of interest there...

    ... from the obvious, to the fact that you said, words to the effect, that Todt isn't doing a bad job so far.

    I just hope it doesn't end here!

  • Comment number 2.

    Find out all you can about Briatore, Symonds and Piquet (and anyone else who might be involved), their general history and the present question. Then ask yourself some questions.

    Is Briatore fit to run a team or participate in anything called sport?

    Would you appoint him to run a team?

    Would you accept a team run by him in F1?

    Ask similar questions for Symonds and for Piquet.

    Then decide what is just, what should be done and what must be done.

  • Comment number 3.

    Im not sure if im right in saying this but i would have thought that as racetracks are privately owned land that the owners of the tracks can refuse entry. Could the FIA simply not tell the tracks to not let Briatore and Symonds on to there land?

  • Comment number 4.

    Actually the deal they gave Piquet is pretty standard in quite a lot of fields. As an examples:

    - in the US a whistleblower is often given freedom from prosecution or a massively reduced sentence, provided that the crime was not violent (for violence, a guilty plea gets a reduction only) especially for financial / fraud type cases

    - if a member of a cartel reports it to the Eueopean Commission then it will exempt them from the fines levied on all other participants (same in most jurisdictions).

    The thinking is that the best way to break conspiracies is to give someone on the "inside" a big incentive to whistleblow. That is particulalrly the case where it would be very hard to prove a case "beyond a reasonable doubt" (or even "on balance of probabilities") if everyone involved just denied it - like a financial crime, a cartel or deliberately crashing a racing car, where there is often very limited "hard evidence".

    Also it means when the authorities get supicious they can put pressure on pretty easily. Put it this way, how long would you stay quiet if you knew that the first person to confess would get immunity, but the rest would get the book thrown at them?

    Which, conversely, is the reason why in English criminal law "plea bargains" are frowned on (and were illegal until recently) - as it gives someone an incentive to confess to something they did not do, or to implicate others who actually might have been much less involved or not involved at all.

    I assume that is part of Briatore's complaint/defence - that is arguing that Piquet implicated him not because he Briatore was involved, but because the FIA would only give Piquet immunity if he named the "big boss" as guilty.

  • Comment number 5.

    The decision just cements the arrogance of Moseley's presidency. Having been ousted Moseley went to far in forcing a life time ban for one of those he considered to be chief culprit, which is far to. draconian given the fact that they let the chief culprit namely Piquet get away with no punishment in exchange for grassin up his bosses. Even atheletics drugs cheats are not initially given a life time sentence. Given that McLaren did a lot worse then could be said that the FIA knew the punishment was not even fair.

    I'm just hoping that Todt can do a better job which isn't that difficult!

  • Comment number 6.

    Given that McLaren did a lot worse


    What did they do that was worse than deliberately endanger people?

    If the FIA wants Briatore to be banned for life, then it'll happen. All Todt has to do is to, as you quite rightly said, extend the list of people needing one and then refuse to give him one based on his previous actions. The ruling has not cleared him of guilt, only overturned the ruling, so that should stand as a legal defence for not allowing him a licence.

  • Comment number 7.

    For goodness sake, NOBODY would pile a million quids' worth of F1 car into a wall deliberately without the boss's say-so.

    I snesnse one of those lat night maybe alcohol fuelled chats:

    'Could really fix a race with a deliberate crash, last few laps, get the safety car out'
    'Yeah. you could'
    'Even time it with a pit stop'
    'Yeah you could'
    'We'd never do it though, would we?'

    IF the crash was deliberate Symonds as the engineer and strategist must have known (decided?) how and when to do it and Briatore must have sanctioned it as otherwise Piquet would have had his cards the next day - not several months later.

    What has been said is right. EVERYBODY involved in the direction or management of an F1 team - perhaps even the pit crew - should have an FIA licence and discipline can then be imposed.

    It's been suggested some pit lane cock-ups have been due to lingering influence of drink or drugs - so let's have check-ups and make sure people who are dealing with F1 are clean, responsible and safe.

  • Comment number 8.

    @7 - Nothing wrong with that comment I could see.


    I just find the idea that it was a conspiracy between the 3 to be ridiculous. The idea that Fernando turns up to race on Sunday morning after qualifying outside the top 10, and therefore can put any fuel load he desires in the car and not want to know why the team has light fuelled him on a track that is going to be difficult to overtake is just beyond my comprehension. The same also applies to his race engineer and probably his pit crew as well.

    When this came to light it was obvious that knives came out for at least one person, and fairly apparent that other parties were protected because to loose them would 'damage the sport'.

    @5 - No I am sorry, what happened in Singapore was far worse than what McLaren did, simply because it put lives at risk. Not just Nelson's but other drivers, marshalls and fans.

  • Comment number 9.

    Playing devil's advocate here;

    If Briatori should be banned for life for instructing someone to crash then shouldn't Schumacher also be banned for life (at least twice over) for deliberately crashing into someone to stop another driver getting pole or to prevent another driver winning the championship?

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    I would think that FIA enroached outside of their area of responsibility. A more responsible issue was whether to annull the race and re-evaluate the Drivers' Championship points and appropriate the champion driver.

  • Comment number 12.

    If, as the secret witness apparently said, the idea of a crash was suggested by Piquet, then it's hard to see where the fury about his being "ordered" to crash is coming from. Indeed the whole affair has the smell of entrapment about it.

    As #9 points out, Schumacher's actions in deliberately taking out Damon Hill in '94 and Villeneuve in '97 were an order of magnitude more dangerous than spinning into a barrier with no one else nearby. (In the '94 case, Schumacher's action may well have changed the outcome of the Championship; in '97 Villeneuve won the Championship despite Schumacher's best efforts.) Given that the FIA (ie Mosely) abdicated their responsibility to deal with Schumacher appropriately on either occasion, it's hard to see any of their subsequent actions as anything but capricious and/or vindictive.

  • Comment number 13.

    First of all, I clarify that I hope that Todt continues to do a good job. My opinion is in agreement with those who have compared this case, to the McLaren case. How come one punishment for one and ...

    However, it is clear that some things may have changed, right?

  • Comment number 14.

    The scandal, and the crashes are the few remaining interests that F1 has.
    Cars going round in circles, rarely overtaking, and fuel stop strategy wins are dull.

  • Comment number 15.

    Personally,I believe it is more scandalous to have no penalty or even prosecution of a group of people who, might have in unfortunate circumstances, injured a spectator, driver, or marshall.

    As for the various incidents of Michael Schumacher ('94, '97), we could rattle on about those for hours, but in the case of '94, that was left to the opinion of Stewards and it is your opinion of whether it was legal (personally, and as a patriot, it was a desparate action and felt Schumacher was guilty). In the case of '97, that was dealt with in the same manner and tone of which I felt this should have been dealt with.

    Whether this is more or less controversial than the '07 Mclaren incident? Well, Renault should have had some other penalty for letting it's main management do such an act, and this has lowered the sport to an all new low.

    As for Renault, I believe things are looking up for Kubica, and with the team possibly changing names if a 100% buyout is applied by this insurance company, then F1 will lose another Manufacture, but not it's credibility.

  • Comment number 16.

    @ 9 & 12,

    If you want to play that game then we'd better strip the late great Ayrton Senna of his 1990 and 1991 titles - playing the same devils advocate as you, he would have been banned for life for deliberately crashing into Prost at Suzuka, an accident that a) he later admitted was deliberate and b) was far more dangerous than anything Schumacher did in '94 or '97.

  • Comment number 17.

    @ #7.

    In a sense you are correct in that it's a controversial issue, but since the stewards decided it was not an Illegal move, then it is left to opinion. Hopefully the ex-drivers in the stewards will help.

    When you say it's less dangerous, yes it was, but it's not just about that. It's about the moral integrity of the sport that matters on a full-scale picture.

  • Comment number 18.

    Apologies, At #16.

  • Comment number 19.

    Firstly i hope that this does not impact on the coming season. 2010 should be about the racing on track, not the politics off it. As fans we SHOULD want real wheel to wheel safe racing, like Mansell and Senna at Spain in 1991 something we are only occasionally getting and mainly on the traditional circuits.

    Secondly i believe that all people involved in this should have had some sort of penalty and should not hide behind being the "whistle blower" especially as the only reason Piquet said anything was because he had just lost his drive. 10 months he kept quiet then suddenly he tells all?.

    Thirdly Briatore and Symonds were the top guys at Renault with the experience the responsibility and the power to stop this idea even getting out of the driver briefing. Don't they have stewards at races.

    Finally the whole saga has shown that the men who run our beloved sport don't have the power they thought the had. "the worst case of cheating in the history of sport" said the Times so how can F1 attract new fans and keep the ones they have if the outside world think that F1 is all about cheating to get a head and be first. Lets stop the politics and throwing the rattle out of the cote and get back to man and machine on the limit.

  • Comment number 20.

    #16 & 17

    No arguments - I guess that my main point would be that, given the nature (and history) of F1, banning for life in one specific case seems a little ludicrous.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    interesting you mention that the only team who did not fear the FIA is ferrari. I think that if anything the FIA fears them! I might be biased because I'm a McLaren fan but in the 2008 season a lot of the stuards decisions did seem biased in Ferrari's favour. e.g. belgian GP result and Massa's incident with Boudais in Japan. It was the same for most of he decade when Ferrari always won. The FIA don't dare to challenge Ferrari because they have such a huge fan base and influence in the sport. I'd hate to think what would happen if Ferrari was fined $100000000 and disqualified from the constructors championship! then they would form a break away series. I'm praying that Jean Todt isn't biased because he was a Ferrari boss for so long. We'll just have to wait and see.

  • Comment number 23.

    I am never quite sure about the Ferrari/FIA conspiracy theories, they only seem to stand up when looked at with hindsight most of the time. I think part of the reason that Ferrari stood up to the FIA and got away with it last season was because they were part of a group that had the majority of the F1 teams agreeing with them. If a break-away championship had started then it wasn't just going to be Ferrari walking away but pretty much every big name in the sport.

    I am just waiting to see how Jean Todt deals with the Flavio situation and with F1 in general. I think that Mosely's reign at the top did a lot of damage to the sport at the end as he seemed to regard the sport as his personal fiefdom, where his (and Bernie's) thoughts should be taken as divine rulings handed down from on high and above questioning by the teams, drivers, fans or anyone else within the sport. From what Todt has said so far it seems he wants to distance himself from that kind of autocratic ruling and instead empower others to make decisions for which they will be answerable to him and the FIA for which seems like it could be a lot better.... Time will tell I feel.

  • Comment number 24.

    I am quite angry over the lack of precedent or retrospective thinking being shown generally. Yes Piquet stuffed his car into a (apparently vert robust) concrete wall, involving (perhaps by luck rather than judgement) no one else. This was done to aid the team as a tactic and affected very little other than give Renault a few points and a few squllion quid. I don't remember the same hubbub over a certain Mr Schumacher potentially decapitated Damon Hill and as a result won a world championship etc, etc. The same man used every tactic available to his benefit, tarnishing the reputation of the sport, yet we welcome him back with open arms!!! Couldn't be anything to do with Mr Schumacher being very profitable for all concerned, could it? And to those who say Schumacher 'v' Hill was too long ago, I suggest you ask how our 1997 4 x 400m boys feel about finally getting their gold medals.

  • Comment number 25.

    Andrew blog entry is sensationalist and not journalism. The ban was overturned because it was fistly disproportionate, but secondly that the way in which the decision was made was fundamentally flawed. It might be a technicality however that lies with the FIA failing to realise that it may be their sport to regulate but they are subject to due process. The deal with Renault and the comments of some members indicate that the outcome was largely negotiated prior to the hearing, with politics and economics, as always, foremost. They need not worry about making such decisions in future if they are legal and achieved in the procedural manner. That might in turn lead to similar punishments for all, when you have someone elses software for example.

  • Comment number 26.

    Nelson Piquet snr was a dirty driver (according to Mansell). Has it rubbed off? I'm not so sure. I dont think any driver wants to deliberately crash. Schuey & Senna famously did it to help their own standing, not another driver's. In all walks of life, what your boss says goes - you have to do it. Briatore is just a self serving, erm, cant print that here!

  • Comment number 27.

    Does anyone seriously believe Piquet junior actually suggested himself crashing just to help Alonso? That claim was surely just Flavio and Symonds trying to cover their backs and should be laughed off.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    I was actually going to mention the senna/prost incidents as well - and yes I think just like 'Schu. Senna should have been done for unsportmanslike conduct and docked points at least - If anything I would say one of the Senna prangs was ( I can't remeber the exact year ) was so obviously deliberate he should have been simply been turfed out of the competition. I also imagine an impressionable young german may have watched those races and drew a different conclusion on how to win had that been the case.

  • Comment number 30.

    Frankly, professional sports personalities are probably the most competitive people there are. It's highly unlikely that Piquet jnr opted to crash to assist his teammate, as pointed out by MGUK82 above. The only plausible option seems to be that the order came from upon high for the crash to happen. Either that, or we're looking at a freak accident that took place in the midst of talks about cheating...

    F1 took a pounding throughout 2009, what with budget caps, UK track tenders, the private like of Max Mosley, and so on. For 2010 to get off to this sort of start can only lead to more trouble. Things need to get sorted out, and fast! A1 GP seems to keep its nose clean!

  • Comment number 31.

    If you ask me, if you like cheating join Formula one, if you like lying, join Formula one!

  • Comment number 32.

    Me ander heem (briatore) issa guder mates. Heem issa guder for thee effu wown race an azzer heem the difing ander thee duking jail, juice liker mee. He hazzer orlwaiz the plaice ov myer hart ander sooner to ajoint me govement as rite handed man altho with thee shouter heel fure thee boot hite towler. Goder blessur yoo owl andu thee threeur hips ovu hooray!

  • Comment number 33.

    Piquet crashing did not guarantee Alonso winning.
    So whats the big deal!
    Coulthard pulling over and letting Hakkinen by just
    before the finishing line did!
    Thats what I call a big deal.

  • Comment number 34.

    It seems that the French Court is saying that the FIA should have punished Renault the team, not the two employees.
    This because the Renault Team was the FIA Member, not its employees.

    Renault the company took the steps to fire the two individuals as they are legally entitled to.

    The French Court makes it clear that it was not their role to judge if the individuals were guilty, but to ensure that due process (both based on the FIA's own rules and French Law as the FIA is subject to French Laws) were followed.
    The Court found they were not.


    Everything else is posturing.

    As far as banning anyone from "privately owned land", it is not as simple as that. First not all racetracks are privately owned. Second the law varies significantly from country to country.

  • Comment number 35.

    Frankly, professional sports personalities are probably the most competitive people there are. It's highly unlikely that Piquet jnr opted to crash to assist his teammate.


    Dont be stupid please. Sportsmen in most other sports are willimg to "take one for the team" at times, from footballers making professional fouls to pacemakers in athletics to domestiques in cycling. If Piquet genuinely felt that his place was under threat then he may well have come up with the idea in exchange for a continued employment.

  • Comment number 36.

    I think before letting Piquet jnr walk free the FIA should have considered his motive for bringing the incident to their attention. It was the most blatant case of sour grapes ever. "You sacked me, you're going to suffer like me." Really mature stuff.

    Had he brought the matter up straight after the race, letting him off the hook would be more understandable. But he didn't, and he should have been banned like Briatore and Symonds.

    Fair play to Symonds for having the good grace to come admit all. I hate the way Briatore is trying to act all innocent. He seems to inspire a cheating culture within a team. Remember all the trouble Benetton got into throughout that 1994 season (though if you believe some F1 insiders, it wasn't half as much trouble as they should have been in)? To try and deny all when others have admitted their part and all but condemned you to guilt is graceless, tactless and arrogant. Sadly this ruling backs his attitude up.

  • Comment number 37.

    The problem here is the French court - it really has no business involving itself in sporting bodies. British courts have repeatedly stated that they have no jurisdiction over the decisions of sporting bodies (e.g. R v Jockey Club and R v Football Association), and quite rightly so. The French court are well out of order here, and it will be a worry for any sports governing body that is based in France - cycling springs to mind - because any disciplinary measure can, and will, be appealed to the court. Just wait until the next cyclist is banned because of drugs ...

  • Comment number 38.

    It seems to me that only one person was responsible for putting the Renault into the wall and that was NP jnr.
    Whoever planned it, whoever conspired or cheated/lied etc. it was Nelson Piquet who elected to launch the car into the wall. He was in control.
    I am responsible for maintaining my car in a working condition, tyre pressures & brakes, making sure the any load is securely attached etc. It is the same for pilots, ship captains etc.
    If I am involved in an accident because of failed brakes or bald tyres, it remains my fault because it is my duty to check that the car is in a drivable state.
    If I agree with my partner to crash our car to claim on insurance, I would remain culpable, and rightly so.
    As for keeping his place in the team as mitigation for his actions... how feeble is that? Either he is fast enough or he is not. No amount of Stock car driving is going to adjust for a lack of talent.

  • Comment number 39.

    I agree with certain ponts made by others. Senna deliberately crashed into Prost, he admitted it I think, Schumacher deliberately crashed into another car at least once, and was punished for it, Piquet deliberately crashed into a wall. Which is the more dangerous to other lives. So why is Schumacher still racing please or do we accept that in the heat of the moment people do stupid things.

    If this fourth person is believed then without a doubt Flavio Briatore is the least guilty of himself, Piquet and Symonds. I would like to have this matter genuinely investigated by an outside agency and not by an FIA tribunal nor Renault. Then we may comment on it. To my mind letting Piquet off but banning Briatore for life was ridiculous.

  • Comment number 40.

    Strangely enough I think it puts the FIA in a stronger position, because now they will ensure everyone will have to have some kind of licence to participate in F1, and these licences can be withdrawn.

  • Comment number 41.

    Could you please clarify; Briatore claimed that he did not receive a fair trial and his punishment was unlawful. The court upheld the latter but did they agree that the trial was unfair.

  • Comment number 42.

    It is simply a legal issue! I am an ex-senior policeman and was in charge of prosecutions. When the FIA banned Flavio Briatore they breached the principals of natural justice. These hold that you cannot punish anyone with out first giving them a chance to defend themselves against those charges laid against them and giving them a chance to mitigate. This is especially true when the penalty might or will affect a person’s livelihood. Renault were present at the enquiry, as was Picquet, and both were pleading guilty, therefore any sanction against them was legal. It would appear that in their absence, no doubt after their resignations had been required by Renault, Briatore and Symonds were offered as sacrificial goats to carry the blame and shame for Renault. Briatore was not present or represented therefore the law requires that he could not be found guilty and punished in his absence. To convict and sentence anyone to a life ban from their employment on the evidence of one ex-employee, (who has just been convicted of the same offence,) and who could not in any way be presumed to be unbiased is pure madness. If such a system of justice were the general way of things none of us would be safe. There are many stated cases from all over the world to uphold this legal principal. As a lawyer Max Mosley would be well aware of this legal point and he and any other lawyer involved would have known that any appeal was bound to succeed. The most common remedy in cases of this sort is to refer the matter back to the original judges, require them to re-hear the case with any defence evidence that might be produced and then reconsider their verdict. The only trouble with this is that it rather leaves the accused guilty until proven innocent, which is not a good way towards an unbiased judgement as the judges have to admit they were wrong for a different outcome to be the result. In a high profile case like this it would not be very likely. Could it be they presumed that if Briatore were guilty then he would not appeal but if not guilty then he would. This puts the pressure on the Briatore to be willing to risk the expense and the possibility of the case still being found against him. Logic says Briatore must either know that he is not guilty or that the case cannot be proved against him, which, as we are all innocent until proven guilty, amounts to the same thing.

  • Comment number 43.

    They didn't comment on that, because that wasn't the case in front of them. The simply upheld that his ban was unlawful under French law.

  • Comment number 44.

    @42 Couldn't it also be that Flavio had legal advice telling him that the ban against him was unlawful, and regardless of his innocence or guilt (my feelings are that he was involved so the latter, but as it hasn't been proven in a court of law the old addage innocent until proven otherwise should apply!) he had a case worth fighting.....

  • Comment number 45.

    I'm glad the ban got overturned. It was clear just put in place by Heir Max as a final act to destroy the livelihood of his enemy, much like the agreement for Ron Denis to step down after Oz to prevent further punishment of McLaren.

    I am however disappointed that the issue remains unresolved. Piquet should have been punished, but, as others here have said, others have done far worse in the passed and got off with nothing. Even Flavio and Ross Brawn did far worse at Benetton (t.c. and refueling anyone???) and got off.

  • Comment number 46.


    The mclaren 2007 scandal was about taking a cheeky peak at ferrris designs (basically, may have glossed over some of the finer details) How is that worse than someone crashing a car deliberatly into a wall.

    That is effectively saying that Fraud is worse than Murder.

    Just to let you know I am not condoning what McLaren did in 2007 before you start suggesting that, merely commenting on your suggestion that what they did is more punishable than what this terrible threesome unleashed upon the F1 Singapore race. Neither am I suggesting that Fraud is perfectly OK.

    As for Briatore being let off, I kind of agree with that, because there is no way he was going to get a fair trial from Mr Mosely EX-President of the FIA. As I believe Moseley was searching for a way to get rid of him ever since the whole break away series threat saga occured. Considering he actually pointed out in a BBC interview that he felt Briatore wanted to take his job!

    Sorry for the ranting i never meant for this post to be so long, but I seem to have developed a bad case of word vomit (in typing form).

  • Comment number 47.

    By the way that was written under the assumption that there will be a re-trial of my Briatore without Moseley there to try and influence anything.

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    The FIA made a real pig's ear with the whole scandal. It was whether Max Mosely's handbag was big enough to finally clobber one over Briatore in one last desperate act before relinquishing power.
    Piquet Junior's immunity from prosecution was ill-judged and smelt of a desperate attempt at getting to Briatore by Mosely, no matter what the cost.
    To knowingly put yourself and others in danger in this sport is non-negotiable. Piquet Junior must face official sanctions never to return to race in Formula 1, going as far as whether his participation in any form of motor racing should be allowed.
    However,as much as I abhor the amateurish way the incident was dealt with by the FIA, I cannot help but surmise that this was the only course it could take - I'm thinking the evidence given by "Deep Throat" to be a bit of a red herring, as I believe the testament of one man's evidence is that of a great many, considering the laughable belief that the 3 were the ONLY ones involved. The paddock gossip and suspicion behind Alonso's win must have been rife after the race - the telemetries and Renault race engineers involved must have twigged that this was no ordinary win - other engineers and drivers were deeply suspicious after the race...
    Gone are the days of Ancient Egyptian ways of killing off slaves and killing those who killed the slaves who knew where the Pharaoh's burial chambers lay, for if that law was evoked the only person left bewildered in the pit lane that night in Singapore with the ensuing shenanigans would have been ... Ted Kravitz!

  • Comment number 50.

    @49 - The whole mess should have been properly and at least semi publicly investigated, this was a hugely dangerous event that was allegedly pre-planned; which does set it above those actions of Schumacher and Senna (not to belittle the actions of those drivers who should have faced far harsher sanctions for deliberately crashing into opponents). The punishments handed out for this were farcical, and did as much damage to the sport as the alleged cheating itself did.

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 53.

    maybe it was just that its the weekend. sorry.

  • Comment number 54.

    sorry, maybe it was just its the weekend.

  • Comment number 55.

    Maybe I'm being thoroughly naive here, but I'm not entirely convinced what the fuss is with the 'race-fixing.'

    You can look at it as a race strategy. Often, teams will build in a safety car period into their strategy. One can argue that all Renault did was a variation of that planning.

  • Comment number 56.

    Its true race strategy is something teams have, but race strategy usually consists of less dangerous things than driving a car into a wall where marshals are. That is what the "fuss" is about. Teams do factor in what to do in case of a safety car, but they dont deliberately cause a safety car period. Is this making anything clearer?

    Traditional race strategy consists of:
    How much fuel do we put into the car?
    What tyres should we start on, and which tyre should we use more?
    What to do IF (note keyword = if) a safety car is brought out?

    Race strategy does not include, How can we cause a safety car to come out.

    Hope that has cleared up what is wrong with Briatore's race fixing actions

  • Comment number 57.

    Simon #55

    It's always annoyed me that this has been reported as a race-fixing row. Because it isn't. An example of race-fixing would be Austria 2002, where Barichello pulled over and let schumacher through on the home straight. The outcome of Renault's plan was more speculative than this; they knew it would get them a better result, but not necessarily the win.

    In terms of of sportsmanship it's very similar to Schumacher parking at Rascasse in Qualifying at Monaco 2006. All he had to do was park it gently to cause the yellow flag, and prevent his pole time being beaten. Where the Singapore case differs is that Piquet was asked to CRASH to cause a safety car. They pin-pointed an area where there were no cranes, so vehicles would have to be dispatched on to the circuit to remove it. He also had to do enough damage so that he could not get back to the pits under his own power. Hitting the barrier at that speed put Piquet, the Marshals and Spectators at risk, which is why the incident is so sickening. Would Flavio be in this situation if a spectator had died or been injured? No, because the legal ramifications for Piquet and Renault would be so huge it's most likely the incident would never have come to light.

  • Comment number 58.

    Seems that Campos Meta F1 may not be on the grid come Bahrain. Events during the Christmas break have been interesting like:

    Tues 21st December: Teams abandoning plans to unveil all cars at a joint launch cos many teams won't have their cars ready. Of course, many teams would not have their cars ready it is better to have the teams have an indivial launch. Also USF1 and Campos Meta denying that they won't be on the grid. Then again USF1 will probably but I myself have doubts about Campos Meta chances of racing in Bahrain.

    Wed 22nd December: Renault pick Eric Bouiller as team principal lets hope that he does not cheat unlike Flavio.
    Michael Schumacher signs for Mercedes making up for a even more exciting season ahead.

    Events during the weekend say that USF1 will make their test debut in Alabama. and Kovalainen is upbeat about Lotus's chances.

  • Comment number 59.

    "In some ways, though, the court case has distracted attention from what could be said to be the central issue here - which is that despite the high-profile investigation into the Singapore 2008 race-fixing allegations, there is still no definitive answer as to what exactly went on in one of the most shameful incidents in F1 history."

    The central issue here being that you can't have a group of people dressed up like Morris men in some masonic ritual making judgements that effects peoples livelihoods within the EU.

    Go back, sort out the procedures and do things in an appropriate manner. The French courts judgement says nothing about the right and wrong regarding crashgate, just that it is impossible to tell impartially, given the kangaroo court where Briatore was pronounced guilty.

  • Comment number 60.

    just on a complete tangent...
    Now that Lewis is without his Pussy, is this the wane of what promised to be a potentially glittering career for Hamilton?
    Answers on a postcard please....

  • Comment number 61.

    @ 11 Bala - what a laughable (and sadly typical) reaction from a tifoso! Never mind that the "gang of three" put lives at risk, the person we should really punish is Lewis Hamilton for having the temerity of winning the WDC when clearly Massa should have been allowed to win.

    Utter nonsense. Massa went out of this race owing to incompetence in the Ferrari pit. That is a shame for him, but not a good reason for robbing Lewis of his title.

    The main difference between tifosi and other F1 fans is that tifosi seem happy to win titles through cosy backroom deals at the FIA, whereas other fans want the title decided on the track.

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 64.

    "The identity of this person has never been made public, but most people in F1 believe they know who it is. Whatever, this person - deemed "Witness X" in the World Council hearing - gave evidence that he had been told of the plan. "

    ...Did "witness Y" tell you this Andrew?

    We all know the problem with anonymous "witnesses": It removes transparency from the proceedings and can be a way for people to spread malicious gossip or lies.
    That's why proper courts are reluctant to accept such testimonies except in special circumstances (such as mafia trials where a witness has good reason to fear for their life).

    On the subject of transparency, whatever happened to that $100m that the FIA squeezed out of McLaren ?
    That is, who controls the bank account(s) that it went in to?

  • Comment number 65.

    The judgement on Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds seems extremely completely justified due to the comparison with the Schumacher incidents which allowed him to win two championships and Ayrton Senna with Prost which didn't even get a response from the FIA and actually happened during a Race as well. So why did the FIA react this way to this 'incident? Definitely 'over the top' and inconsistent as it was always down to the Drivers to complete the process, wether it was decided from the Pits or just by th Driver. None of the resulting actions have actually caused an injury or death, they may have done, but they didn't. Everything has revolved around Piquet's statement that he was instructed, has annyone actually verified this? because the whole FIA action was as aresult of this, but nobody has challenged this. I am not suggesting that what he said was untrue, but Flavio and Pat's actions when it all started rather suggested that they had a hand in this, which seems to be why the FIA reacted the way that they did. I could agree if someone had got injured or killed, but they haven't. So the FIA inconsistency should be completely irradicated by Jean Todd and the matter dropped accordingly.

  • Comment number 66.

    @65, so you think its ok because no one got hurt? Sorry but F1 has changed beyond all recognition over the last 40 years just to stop people being hurt and killed, was that all a mistake?

    When crashes are caused deliberately they risk the lives of the drivers, stewards and fans. The fact that no one died is down to a whole load of factors of which luck plays a large part (just ask anyone who saw Massa's horrific accident last season, or the Surtees family) everything else comes down to the systems that have been put in place to protect all those involved, these aren't just down to car and circuit design they are also about the rules governing the sport.

    What Renault did was to deliberately plan to cause an avoidable accident in such a manner to bring out the safety car, regardless of the risk to the driver (who was complicit) the stewards and fans spectating at that place, the stewards who then had to go on track to clean up the accident, the drivers who had to drive through the debris risking tyre damage and punctures that could cause further accidents e.t.c. Yes other drivers have done in this in the past and gotten away with it (to varying degrees, MS did have a seasons results stripped from him).

    Just because no one died doesn't mean there is no foul. Look at what has happened to Frank Williams and co post the death of Senna, which was either an accident or driver error and imagine what would be happening had someone died as a result of Renault's and Piquet's actions.

    In order to stop these kind of decisions you have to affect the cons and benefits equations that went into the decision making, you have to make the costs so prohibitive that the option is null and void.

  • Comment number 67.

    So ... secret witness X ?

    Possibly the same the person who went to FIA about the Mclaren/Ferrari spygate affair ? It's the only way he could keep his name clear with FIA by getting the same deal as Piquet !

  • Comment number 68.

    has alonso ever publicly given his opinion, over why he had a low fuel level so far back on the grid, on a circuit that was very difficult to pass and possibly more fuel would have been prudent? cos if he did not know about piquet crashing, then why the low fuel?

  • Comment number 69.

    @68 - as far as I am aware he has remained mute on the subject. However you should be aware that Max Mosely and the FIA did a proper investigation of Fernando's role in the affair as they were putting together their kangaroo court to hang Flavio.

  • Comment number 70.

    Excellent post. Not least because it repeats a point I've previously only heard Ted Kravitz have the guts to make: namely that at least one of Briatore, Symonds and Piquet are still lying about the nature of their involvement.

    The only other point I'd like to make is that however reprehensible Piquet's involvement, even if he and/or his father, came up with the idea, Briatore must take the greatest part of the blame, assuming he knew about the plot at all. He was the _manager_ after all - not just of the Renault team, but also, of Piquet personally.

  • Comment number 71.

    Anyone who has followed F1 for only a few seasons will be aware that no correct actions/punishments appropriate to the offence is ever awarded.

    There is no precedent or comparison to make as what was ok then is not ok the next day.

    If the same incident occurs again this coming season what would everyone like to happen? Would the same 3 people be kicked out of the sport and that's it? Surely people would want more because of the damn nerve of doing such a thing again.

    As is the norm, speculation will go on for years unless THE person with the idea owns up (yeah right!), the same shady world will continue.

    Unfortunately the only thing that we know will happen is there will be a - ahem - 'gentlemans' agreement not to employ any persons involved with the Singapore incident. The sport is too political to do anything morally right, it's about who has got it in for who.

    What a sad thought.

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 73.

    I felt that Alonso's body language was very interesting when congratulated on the win by Briatore. Did he look sheepish or even embarrassed ??, I thought so !

  • Comment number 74.

    As I wrote on the 7th january - the law is simple - Briatore was given no chance to defend himself from the case made against him therefore any conviction is not possible. Had the FIA informed him of the full content of the evidence given in the matter then given him the chance to cross examine all or any of the witnesses and make any statement or submission of his own then the procedure would be correct and his appeal would have failed. This embarrassment is purely the FIA's (and by that read Max Mosley's) fault. He is a lawyer and should have known better.

  • Comment number 75.

    Having read above about all the other drivers who crashed on purpose and were/were not punished I remembered a French GP a few years ago before they changed the track when there was a right angle bend onto the start finish straight and the finishing line was just around the corner. Senna had been following another car for a good few laps unable to overtake. On the last corner he overtook it at excessive speed knowing that after having gained the place and crossed the line he would then not be able to fully take the corner and would crash into the pit wall. Senna must have formed this plan during the preceeding laps so as to be able to posision his car to do it. The car he had just passed could have easily become involved in that accident, but luckily was not. That incident was far more dangerous to all concerned than Piquet's or any of the others mentioned and was premeditated and deliberate. Did we have radio transcripts in those days? Did he suggest the idea to his pit and tell them he was going to wreck the car? Did they say OK, do it? If so that would have been a conspiracy as serious as the Renault one. Did the stewards or the FIA look into it? No sanctions were ever applied!

  • Comment number 76.

    It’s not like Piquet was the first driver to stick it in the wall on purpose. Anyone remember Michel Schumacher in Monaco?? Or does the fact that Mike was reasonably talented as opposed to Piquet the milk float driver got anything to do with it? Or was it because, as the BBC point out, that Ferrari is so powerful?

    I find it interesting that in F1 the punishment levied against a team depends upon how powerful they are. Every time any action is taken against Ferrari, there are reports of mafia threats in the papers. It makes me wonder if F1 is really a sport or just an organised crime.

    A further case and point is Mosley having "Nazi" sex with a group of hookers. How this man can be allowed to remain in a position of power following revelations of this nature is simply a joke, similar in magnitude to the UK having a PM that no one voted for.

    Frankly, unless Todt can do a better job I fear that F1 is circling the drain.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.