Flavio Briatore's success yesterday in having a French court overturn the lifelong ban imposed upon him last September by the FIA following the "Crashgate" race-rigging scandal leaves the question "where now?" for the colourful entrepreneur, and for motor sport's governing body.
Under the terms of the ban, which the court yesterday described as "irregular," Briatore could no longer work for Formula One teams, attend races in the paddock, or manage drivers. As things stand, he is now at liberty to do all those things, assuming that anyone would want to employ a man who has not been cleared of charges of staging a deliberate accident to influence the result of a race, that were brought against him. He can thus still be involved in the management of drivers such as Fernando Alonso, who stands to make a lot more money if he is successful at Ferrari than he did when he drove for Briatore at Renault, and Mark Webber, a winner last year at Red Bull.
The way is also clear for him to resume other Formula One activities. A recent report by the Pitpass website's business editor Chris Sylt, shows that one of Briatore's ventures, Stacourt, earned him £22m in recent years and paid him £6.5m in 2008 via ownership of the rights to broadcast Formula One on Spanish TV. That year alone Stacourt paid a £670,000 dividend and a £5.8m consultancy fee to Formula FB Business, Briatore's Virgin Islands management company, an increase of £600,000 over 2007. He is now also clear to continue his directorship at Queen's Park Rangers, where he may take a greater involvement if Formula One doors remain closed.
The FIA and the departed Max Mosley are left licking their wounds after the first instance of their autocratic modus operandi being challenged in an outside court, but Briatore's victory is pyrrhic, given the miniscule damages.
Insiders have indicated that the governing body will appeal against the court's judgement in order to take the first step in annulling it. It is also likely to amend its rules so that all senior managers in the sport must be licensed so that, especially in safety matters such as Nelson Piquet Jnr's deliberate crash in Singapore, third parties can be sanctioned in the way that Briatore and Symonds were prior to yesterday's decision. Then the FIA could call both to a fresh World Council meeting, to inflict a new penalty.