- Crashgate fallout
'Much more of a personal issue than people think'
The French court's decision to overturn Flavio Briatore's ban from motorsport has split opinion in the world of Formula One. ESPNF1 spoke to F1 expert and former team manager Tony Jardine, former driver Eddie Irvine and renowned F1 author Alan Henry about their views.
"The ruling is not what I expected and I am very disappointed," said Jardine. "I was hoping we had seen the back of this. I think it's alarming that a civil court has set a precedent of interfering in what is purely a sporting matter."
Outspoken Irvine takes the opposite view, "I'm actually glad the court has overturned Flavio's ban, because I thought a lifetime ban from the sport was over the top. Max Mosley is a clever guy and he was running F1 like it was his private property. I think it was much more of a personal issue than people think."
Henry, however, takes a middle-ground view: "I don't think many people were surprised at the decision, if for no other reason than it is unreasonable to prevent somebody from pursuing a legitimate means of earning their living. The battleground will now be over whether or not Briatore can continue in a hands-on management role with the various F1 drivers who are signed up with his company. It could be a long old slog."
"Everyone has cheated to a certain extent in F1," added Irvine. "We've all done it at some point it's just a question of where you draw the line. Getting someone to deliberately crash to bring out a safety car may be pushing the envelope. How many times have we seen a driver ordered to pull over to let his team-mate win the race? Is that not cheating? Where do you draw the line?"
"I think if the FIA were to introduce its version of a 'fit and proper persons' test, it would be a great idea. This is the perfect opportunity for Jean Todt to review the procedures. I think he has made a lot of good moves already in his presidency and I think he will be keen to sort this out quickly."
He goes on to compare the Briatore case with the inquiry into Ayrton Senna's death, which saw Frank Williams and other team officials charged with manslaughter by Italian authorities: "I would hate to see this matter taking on a similar line to the Dangerous Sports laws in Italy, where someone must be to blame for an accident. That goes as far back as Jim Clark, and of course we can't forget how many times the guys from Williams were pulled back to face questioning over Senna's death."
Both Jardine and Irvine agree on one thing, that Briatore brought a certain element of fun to F1.
"If you put the ruling aside, the one thing he has brought to the sport is a flamboyance and a sense of entertainment," Jardine said. "He has always said that F1 should be more about the show rather than chassis numbers, and I think he is right. If you look at what people want to see this year its Schumacher and Hamilton going wheel to wheel, they don't care about a double diffuser.
"I think he would love Bernie's [Ecclestone's] job as the promoter of the sport, but I am not sure if F1, or more importantly CVC [which own Formula One Management], would accept him."
"F1 needs characters and Flavio was great for the sport," Irvine added. "It says a lot that he was probably the most famous man in the sport after Michael [Schumacher] retired and he was a team principal. Other team principals such as Ron Dennis and Jean Todt would be working all hours through the night in the factory, the epitome of seriousness and focus. Then you'd have Flavio hanging out with models, drinking champagne and still winning championships. It was brilliant."
Despite all his positive comments, Irvine still had one negative thing to say about Briatore: "I like Flavio a lot and would love to see him back - but I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him!"
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