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Accidental hero?

NEWS STORY
04/12/2009

Over the past month accusations of bias in the FIA's World Council have been thick in the air following it handing a lifetime ban from F1 to Flavio Briatore. The accusations are nothing new and similar sentiments have been widely reported in the press many times before. However, this time an unprecedented step has been taken as in recent days Briatore has been challenging his ban in a French court. No one has ever attacked the FIA in an independent court with such strong allegations and having been gifted a ban by the FIA itself, Briatore has nothing to lose. If he wins it will almost certainly mark a watershed in the history of F1 because of the possibility of a spate of copycat cases against the FIA. Make no mistake; the very fabric of F1 is at stake.

The slanging match began soon after Briatore was banned by the WMSC in September but it was a time bomb which had been ticking for some time. Briatore had been accused of fixing the result of last year's Singapore Grand Prix by allowing Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash. Piquet blew the whistle on this after he was sacked by Renault and it followed a series of outbursts he made against Briatore. As if this situation wasn't strained enough, the ban was handed out by Max Mosley, the then-FIA president who, earlier in the year, had accused Briatore of being associated with "loonies" over his work with FOTA. Clearly there would be a backlash from Briatore after the ban and he didn't disappoint.

According to leaked extracts of his pleadings, Briatore argues that the ban was not imposed by an impartial judge because of his strained relationship with Mosley. "Briatore had, in the constructors' names, in fact threatened the FIA... to instigate a parallel competition, organised without the FIA," the statement reportedly says adding that there had been "some extremely violent disputes" between Briatore and Mosley. As a result, Briatore has reportedly accused Mosley of being "clearly blinded by an excessive desire for personal revenge."

However, reports have revealed perhaps the most severe allegations from Briatore's statement which are that Mosley "assumed the roles of complainant, investigator, prosecutor and judge." If true, it could put a question mark over the independence of the WMSC itself which could in turn call into question previous decisions it has made. Adding fuel to this fire, Briatore also reportedly claims that F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone should not have been able to vote at the WMSC hearing due to an apparent conflict of interest.

According to the report, Ecclestone "took part and was able to vote in the deliberations of the World Council, and was a directly interested party in Renault not suffering a sanction that might discourage it from continuing its participation in the Formula One world championship and could, moreover, be hostile to Mr Briatore as a result of stances taken by him during the previous year on behalf of the constructors involved in Formula One." If this allegation is proven to be true it too could put a question mark over the independence of the WMSC itself which could also in turn call into question previous decisions it has made.

Briatore is clearly going in to the court case all guns a blazing. The appeal is his last chance of staying in the sport and maintaining a lifestyle in the limelight to which he has grown accustomed. Naturally the FIA is taking a defensive stance and in response it released a statement saying that it "condemns the selective leaking of extracts from Mr Briatore's pleadings to the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris."

It added that "the FIA rejects the allegations made in these leaks and confirms that the decision to impose a sanction against Mr Briatore was made by an overwhelming majority of the attending World Motor Sport Council members."

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