Paris court overturns Briatore ban

PARIS - Flamboyant former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore declared justice had been done after a French court overturned his life ban from Formula One on Tuesday.

However, the sport's governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) said the decision was not enforceable until all appeal options had been exhausted.

It added that it would "consider appropriate actions to ensure that no persons who would engage, or who have engaged, in such dangerous activities or acts of intentional cheating will be allowed to participate in Formula One in the future."

Briatore was banned in September by the FIA after former Renault driver Nelson Piquet told the ruling body he had been ordered to crash deliberately at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to help his Spanish team mate Fernando Alonso win the race.

"The court ruled the sanction was illegal," said a judge at the Tribunal de Grande Instance, with the court questioning the FIA's ability to impose bans on individuals who were not licence holders.

Briatore, who had sought damages of 1 million euros, was awarded 15,000 euros and the FIA was ordered to notify all its members of the outcome or pay 10,000 euros for every day's delay.

The Italian said in a statement that "the decision handed down today restores to me the dignity and freedom that certain people had arbitrarily attempted to deprive me of.

"Let me take a little time to enjoy this moment of happiness after this difficult period. As concerns my possible return to F1, there is plenty of time to talk about this," he added.

FIA APPEAL

The FIA noted the court had not reversed the governing body's finding that both Briatore and Renault's former engineering head Pat Symonds had conspired to cause an intentional crash.

"The Court did question the FIA's authority to impose bans upon Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds for procedural reasons and because they are not FIA licence holders and, according to the Court, are therefore not subject to any FIA rules," it said.

"The FIA's ability to exclude those who intentionally put others' lives at risk has never before been put into doubt and the FIA is carefully considering its appeal options on this point."

Brazilian Piquet triggered one of Formula One's biggest scandals when he was dropped by Renault in July and then went to the FIA.

Former champions Renault were handed a suspended permanent ban and Symonds, who left the team with Briatore before the FIA hearing, was banned for five years. The court overturned Symonds's punishment and awarded the Briton 5,000 euros in compensation.

Briatore had launched his legal case in October, saying he had not been given the right to a free and fair defence after what he denounced as a "sham hearing".

The court found in a written statement that the FIA decision "was taken while the (motor sport) council was chaired by (former FIA president Max Mosley), who had notoriously come into conflict with Mr Briatore.

"Mr Mosley played a key role in launching (both) the inquiry and the legal process, violating the principle of a separation of the bodies that are responsible for the investigation and for the judgment."

Tuesday's ruling had ramifications beyond Formula One, with Briatore also the co-owner of English Championship club Queens Park Rangers.

Had the ban been upheld, Briatore could have been forced out of the London club under league rules aimed at ensuring ownership is in the hands of fit and proper persons.