It was no surprise to learn that Flavio Briatore was to sue the FIA. The former Renault team principal alleges that the World Council, chaired by then-president of the FIA Max Mosley, was ‘clearly blinded by an excessive desire for personal revenge’ when it banned him from motor sport for life following the Piquet ‘crash-gate’ affair in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. Significantly Pat Symonds, formerly director of engineering at Renault, who was banned for five years, is to join Briatore in his appeal, on the grounds that the original WMSC hearings were conducted in an improper fashion.
The case is to be heard in France’s high court, the Tribunal de Grande Instance, on November 24. Briatore and Symonds will claim that many of the procedures followed during the investigation and hearing were not in accordance with either the FIA’s own International Sporting Code or, indeed, the laws of France, in which the governing body’s HQ is situated. Among other things, Briatore claims that the ‘obligation to boycott’ him (imposed effectively upon everyone working in the sport) is not a sanction authorised by the Sporting Code. As things stand, not only may Flavio not be associated with any team in an FIA-sanctioned series, but also he may not act as manager or agent to any of its participants
Mosley really might have guessed that Briatore would not go quietly: Flavio – like Max – is fundamentally a gloves-off streetfighter. While his cognisance of the plan for Piquet to crash deliberately is not seriously in doubt, there are very considerable doubts that he was the instigator of the plot – Symonds, in his original testimony, was adamant that the idea had come from Piquet himself.
In the event, neither Piquet (who was granted immunity by the FIA) nor Renault suffered any punishment, the axe falling only on Briatore and Symonds. Even Flavio’s biggest detractors thought his lifetime ban excessive, but few were surprised by it. Ever since the formation of FOTA, he had been in the front line in the constant battles with the FIA, and this of course did not go down well in the Place de la Concorde.
Briatore is also suing the FIA for a minimum of a million Euros, in compensation for the damage to his reputation and image. This is small change to Flav, of course, a merely symbolic token, but he is very serious indeed about righting what he perceives to be an injustice against him. In light of the fact that Briatore has given public voice to an opinion privately expressed for years in the Formula 1 paddock – dared to speak out, in other words – there will be not a few folk rooting for him and Symonds on November 24.