Flavio Briatore is welcome to return to the F1 paddock after winning his French court action against the FIA’s imposition of a lifetime motor racing ban, Bernie Ecclestone has said.
The F1 chief executive, a personal friend and business partner of the 59-year-old Italian, was speaking after Paris’ Tribunal de Grande Instance ruled on Tuesday that there had been “irregularities” in the imposition of Briatore and Pat Symonds’ crashgate penalties.
“I said at the time that even murderers don’t get life sentences these days and the court seems to agree,” Ecclestone is quoted as saying by the UK newspaper Express.
“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,” Ecclestone added.
In the Sun, the 79-year-old Briton said in relation to Briatore: “He’s happy he’s won, of course. But I don’t think he wants to be back. It’s difficult for somebody who’s been punished for doing something wrong to get back.”
It is believed that while Briatore may not return to running F1 teams for now, he will resume his management of drivers while devoting more time to the London football club Queens Park Rangers.
But the FIA, now run by Jean Todt who last year succeeded Max Mosley, clarified that Briatore is not yet free to return to motor sport.
“The Court’s decision is not enforceable until the FIA’s appeal options have been exhausted,” read a statement. “Until then, the World Motor Sport Council’s decision continues to apply.”
The Paris body added that the court did not disagree that Briatore and Symonds conspired with Nelson Piquet to crash deliberately during the 2008 Singapore grand prix, but rather only questioned the bans “for procedural reasons”.
“The FIA’s ability to exclude those who intentionally put others’ lives at risk has never before been put into doubt and the FIA is carefully considering its appeal options on this point,” the FIA said.
Briatore said he has no intention to immediately come back to F1 anyway.
“My attention is on my family then we’ll see,” he told Italian television RAI.
Ecclestone expects the saga to continue to develop.
“It’s not over by a long way,” he said. “Just because a bloody judge has said what he’s said doesn’t make any difference.
“The court said it was wrong, so the FIA can start all over again and it will go on and on.”
Briatore’s lawyer Philippe Ouakrat, who ironically represented Mosley during the sex scandal of 2008, predicted it would be “very difficult” for the FIA to win an appeal.
“I think the decision is very well-structured. It is going to be very difficult for the FIA to appeal against it,” he told the Guardian, adding that there is “a door open” to even more legal action.