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Flavio’s ban harshest ever in F1 history

india Updated: Sep 25, 2009 02:17 IST
Steve Slater

There is a bustle around the Singapore GP circuit. Journalists cluster around drivers at media events, decorators are busy putting the finishing touches to hospitality suites and the pitlane garages are alive with the sound of mechanics unpacking and assembling the cars for this weekend's race.

That buzz and excitement is, however, over for three men. Flavio Briatore's lifetime ban is the harshest ever punishment meted out by the sport's organising body. The FIA ban extends far beyond Formula One and quite simply, Briatore is not allowed to take part in any FIA-affiliated sport.

Organisers have been instructed to bar him from events. Any team or company that signs deals with him in the future would lose their licence to compete.

That even extends to the drivers contracted to his management company. In recent years, Flavio has had a nice little earner from the percentage of wages of Heikki Kovalainen, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.

The FIA has ruled that if those drivers don't sever their contacts with Briatore, they will not renew their Super licences for the new season.

Not that Flavio will suffer too much. He made his fortune in the 1980s as a partner in the Benetton fashion group. He then, with typical modesty, started his own fashion label, Billionaire. Last year, he spent over GBP 68 million on his yacht Force Blue.

Meanwhile, Nelson Piquet Junior may have been granted immunity from further sanction by the FIA, no right-minded team will take him on after this - unless of course he comes with a large raft of his father's money.

Nelson Junior has been trying hard to position himself as a weak-minded kid who was brow-beaten into being the fall-guy; then blew the whistle to allow justice to be served. Who does he think he is kidding with?

There is no doubt that Piquet has talent, but he simply couldn't use it in the current generation Formula One cars. Throughout his career he achieved his ultimate pace by doing more testing than any other driver, mostly in teams funded by his three-time world champion father.

Among the 91 pages of evidence that the FIA have made public there is a suggestion that Piquet himself suggested the accident, after Alonso qualified 15th following a fuel pump failure.

The Brazilian denied, but a mysterious fourth man, "Witness X", is quoted as contradicting Piquet's statement that it was Chief Engineer Pat Symonds' idea, just before the race on Sunday. The witness apparently said he didn't want to hear any more of it and walked out of the meeting.

(Steve Slater is an F1 commentator with STAR Sports)