Briatore strikes deal to allow his return to F1

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The Independent Online

Former Renault team principal Flavio Briatore and his partner-in-crime Pat Symonds, who were thrown out of Formula One for rigging the result of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, could return to the sport in less than three years after reaching a settlement yesterday with the sport's governing body, the FIA.

The pair yesterday admitted to their involvement in the notorious race-fixing affair that became known as "Crashgate", and in return the FIA agreed to drop its appeal against the decision by the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris on 5 January, which overturned the governing body's right to hand down life bans to Briatore and his former director of engineering.

Under the deal with both men, each will end their legal actions against the FIA. They have also acknowledged their complicity in and responsibility for the deliberate crash staged by driver Nelson Piquet Jr in Singapore, which enabled his team-mate, Fernando Alonso, to take advantage of unusual strategy to win the race. According to an FIA statement yesterday, "they have expressed their regrets and presented their apologies to the FIA".

They have also agreed to "abstain from any operational role" in Formula One until the end of 2012, and in any other competitions registered on the FIA calendars until the end of 2011. Effectively, this means that each has been banned for three years rather than for life, overturning the original punishment levied by controversial former president, Max Mosley.

Although the FIA has dropped its appeal, the governing body still refuses to recognise the validity of the criticisms levelled against the World Motor Sport Council's decision of 21 September 2009 by the Tribunal de Grande Instance. The FIA claims the decision revealed "a poor understanding of how the disciplinary procedure before the World Motor Sport Council works," and added that in accordance with the undertakings made by the FIA President, Jean Todt, during his election campaign, the next General Assembly, which will be held at the end of the year, will generate a reform of the FIA structures to prevent further misunderstandings.

But in the new spirit of limiting political controversy that has thus far differentiated Todt's term of office from that of Mosley, the new president believed that it was in the FIA's best interests to terminate this ongoing legal dispute, which has generated a great deal of negative publicity and which, regardless of the outcome, has been prejudicial to the image of motorsport in general and the FIA in particular.

The solution is pragmatic, but it remains to be seen whether the FIA subsequently creates new procedures to obviate future misunderstandings or questioning of its authority. It has been suggested that it could take the form of operational licences for team principals, along the lines of the superlicences that drivers must hold, which could be revoked indefinitely in the event of another Crashgate.