’In the end I will win,’ says ousted Renault principal
• Furore as Ecclestone speaks out in favour of Italian
Alan Henry in Singapore
The Guardian, Saturday 26 September 2009
Flavio Briatore says he will get his own back on those responsible for his ban. Photograph : Luca Bruno/AP
Flavio Briatore has vowed to get even with the Formula One insiders who engineered his downfall from the position of Renault team principal. "I have been betrayed by my own world," he told La Repubblica newspaper. "In the end I will win and you’ll see we will have a great party. It will be organised well and we’ll invite all the people who have stayed with me during these tough times."
His comments came as Bernie Ecclestone was strongly criticised for suggesting that the penalty imposed on the Italian for race-fixing was harsh and that Briatore ought to appeal. Sir Martin Sorrell, who is on the board of the firm which owns Formula One’s commercial rights, CVC Capital, made clear his dissatisfaction at Ecclestone’s remarks.
"First we had Hitler did good, now we have cheating is acceptable," Sorrell told the Daily Mail of Ecclestone, who is chief executive of the company that administers the rights on CVC’s behalf. "Where will it end ? His latest comments are yet another example, I’m afraid, of Bernie being totally out of touch with reality."
Sorrell was also critical of Ecclestone in July for saying that Hitler "got things done", comments for which Ecclestone later apologised.
Ecclestone is not alone is feeling that Briatore was treated unfairly, however. Ferrari’s president, Luca di Montezemolo, may have moved up the guest list for Briatore’s planned celebration yesterday when he said the colourful Italian’s long-term ban was excessive. "I’m humanly very sorry for Flavio Briatore, who has been one of Formula One’s main players in the last 20 years," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It is a serious and delicate matter but I hope and wish this punishment he has received will soon be reduced."
Briatore shied away from revealing whether he would appeal against the FIA decision or even take civil legal action.
Meanwhile, out on the circuit, two of the drivers who are handled by Briatore’s management company ended the first of the practice sessions to be held under floodlights among the top four fastest competitors. Sebastian Vettel was fastest, 0.27sec ahead of Briatore’s star protégé Fernando Alonso, the winner of last year’s controversial race here at the Marina Bay circuit, with Heikki Kovalainen, also one of Briatore’s men, third in the McLaren-Mercedes.
It remains to be seen how promptly Alonso and Kovalainen, together with Mark Webber and Romain Grosjean, will have to disentangle themselves from their contracts with Briatore after the FIA handed down its blanket ban on the former Renault team principal’s presence on, or involvement in, the international racing scene.
Webber, who was fastest early in the session, spun into one of the retaining walls, damaging his Red Bull Renault.The Australian was particularly frustrated as he was anxious to cover as much mileage as possible, concerned that his slim chance of grabbing the world championship crown might be slipping away on a circuit on which he did not expect to have the pace hinted at by Vettel when it comes to tomorrow’s qualifying session.
"I think we have already seen in Monaco and Valencia that they [circuits like Singapore] have been probably not our best circuits of the year compared to others," said the Australian, who trails the championship leader, Jenson Button, by 28.5 points with four races to go. "But it doesn’t mean we are going to be at the back massively. We’re still going to be in the hunt but we won’t have an advantage. The stop-start nature of these tracks is something we will look to improve our form on next year."
Button’s Brawn-Mercedes was fifth fastest behind Nick Heidfeld’s BMW Sauber while Lewis Hamilton, evaluating aerodynamic modifications which included a new floor and front wing package on his McLaren, finished the session a guardedly optimistic ninth. Button said : "The venue is a tough one with the heat and humidity to contend with and the nature of the circuit and the closeness of the barriers demand your total concentration."
Speaking during commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live on the practice session, Sir Jackie Stewart commented on Bernie Ecclestone’s and Max Mosley’s endorsement of Jean Todt as FIA presidential candidate : "I’m disappointed that the president should support anyone. Bernie and Max are the most powerful people in Formula One. For them to come out and support one individual candidate, I personally don’t think this is correct. But they’ve done it and they’ve been very vocal."