Briatore launches FIA legal action

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The Independent Online

Formula One is headed for more controversy after disgraced Renault team principal Flavio Briatore announced yesterday he is to commence proceedings against the FIA following his life ban for initiating the cheating that won Fernando Alonso the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

Briatore confirmed to French newspaper Journal du Dimanche that today he will start his legal action in the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance (France's high court) to challenge the World Motor Sport Council's decision of 21 September.

He cited the principal grounds that the FIA "deliberately breached his rights of defence, including the delay in the issue of the summons; the failure to state the charges in advance; the lack of access provided to prosecution documents and to the key witness." And breaches in the rules of natural justice, including: "the lack of impartiality of the body passing judgment; the secret negotiation of the decision content before the hearing; and the granting of selective immunities in order to build the prosecution's case."

Briatore will also argue that the governing body manifested "an abuse of power including: the penalty imposed on a non-licensee of the FIA; the disproportionate and illegal nature of an indefinite boycott decision; and the threat to refuse to renew the FIA licence in breach of the Federation's regulations and of the International Sporting Code."

He said that he intends to obtain an order from the court quashing the FIA's decision, as well as suitable damages.

"In this case, the FIA has been used as a tool to exact vengeance on behalf of one man," Briatore said. "This decision is a legal absurdity and I have every confidence that the French courts will resolve the matter justly and impartially".

The Formula One rights holder Bernie Ecclestone said he was unsure what powers the court would have.

"I've always thought the punishment was a little too harsh for the crime," Ecclestone, a friend and business partner of the Italian, said. "I don't know what the civil court will do, I don't know what powers they have."

Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jnr blew the lid off one of Formula One's biggest scandals after being dropped by Renault in July when he told the FIA that he had been ordered to crash deliberately at last year's race in Singapore.

He said he had done so to bring out the safety car and help his Spanish team-mate Alonso win the race.

Former champions Renault were handed a suspended permanent ban while engineering head Pat Symonds was banned for five years.

Briatore has said he felt betrayed by Formula One and will fight against the ban, promising to hold a big party should he eventually emerge victorious.

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