They just don't get it


Speaking to reporters in Singapore, Bernie Ecclestone has described the life ban from (FIA sanctioned) motorsport meted out to Flavio Briatore as "harsh".

The life-time ban, which was revealed on Monday following an extraordinary meeting of the FIA's World Motor Sport Council, is punishment for Briatore's involvement in the fixing of the result of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. In addition to being banned from involvement with race teams or series - he is part owner of the GP2 and GP3 Series - Briatore must give up his role as manager to a number of drivers including Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.

Speaking at the scene of the crime - so to speak - just one year later, Ecclestone believes Briatore's punishment is overly harsh.

"In my opinion it was quite harsh on Flavio," said the F1 supremo. "I don't think it was necessary, but I was on the commission so I am probably just as guilty as anyone else. On reflection it wasn't necessary."

Asked if F1 will miss Briatore, Ecclestone was adamant; "Absolutely," he replied, "we need people like him."

Reflecting on Monday's hearing, Ecclestone is convinced that Briatore would have been better served by appearing, or even following the example of Pat Symonds who issued a letter of regret for his actions.

"He was invited to appear and his lawyers said the FIA have no jurisdiction as far as he is concerned, which was probably right," said Ecclestone. "But it was not the right thing to say.

"It would have been just as easy to say 'I was caught with my hand in the till, it seemed a good idea at the time, and I am sorry'," the Englishman continued. "There is an organisation that works very, very well on that idea, where the people go to a box and confess.

"Honestly, I am a friend of Flavio's. He has just handled the whole thing badly. He could have handled it in a completely different way, and that would have been the end of it."

While the Italian mulls what action to take, with claims that he intends to fight the ban in the courts and perhaps even start a rival series, Ecclestone believes that Briatore would be best served by appealing to the FIA.

"He should ask to be heard by the court of appeal. He should appeal to the FIA," he said. "If he goes to a civil court the FIA would have to defend and somebody will say that he sent a young guy out to what could have been to his death. It wouldn't go down too well, I wouldn't think."

Much like the recent expenses scandal or even the on-going row over the attorney general Baroness Scotland, what is even worse than the 'crime' is the complete lack of contrition on the part of those involved and, when it comes to the powers that be, the total failure to understand why the public is so appalled.

It is precisely because of the numerous scandals under the current leadership of the sport, both at the FIA and Prince's Gate, that Formula One - the self-styled pinnacle of motorsport, has, according to Sport Business, to resort to enlisting "top international music stars including Beyonce Knowles, No Doubt, Black Eyed Peas, Travis, Simple Minds, ZZ Top and Chaka Khan to ensure the (Singapore) race is a major success".

Surely the race should be the attraction, not Beyonce Knowles. She certainly wasn't needed last weekend to get millions of viewers tuning in to watch the game between Manchester United and Manchester City or Chelsea and Tottenham.

They just don't get it.

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Published: 24/09/2009
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