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September 25, 2009

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Bernie: Briatore's ban too harsh

FLAVIO Briatore's life ban for race fixing was too harsh and the former Renault team boss should appeal to Formula One's governing body, the sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said yesterday.

The Briton said the departure of the flamboyant Italian, banished this week by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) for his role in Nelson Piquet's deliberate crash at last year's Singapore Grand Prix, was a loss to the sport.

"In my opinion it was quite harsh on Flavio," the 78-year-old billionaire, Briatore's friend and business partner, said in Singapore.

"I don't think it was necessary, but I was on the (FIA) commission so I am probably just as guilty as anyone else. On reflection it wasn't necessary."

Ecclestone, in the city-state for this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix, nodded when asked if Formula One would miss Briatore.

"Absolutely... We need people like him. It was too much."

The motorsport tycoon, relaxed and jovial in a bright white shirt, told reporters he felt Briatore may have been better served if he had acted differently ahead of the FIA world motor sport council hearing in Paris last Monday.

"He was invited to appear... and his lawyers said the FIA have no jurisdiction as far as he is concerned, which was probably right - but it was not the right thing to say," said Ecclestone.

"It would have been just as easy to say 'I was caught with my hand in the till, it seemed a good idea at the time, and I am sorry.' There is an organization that works very, very well on that idea, where the people go to a box and confess," he smiled.

"Honestly, I am a friend of Flavio's. He has just handled the whole thing badly. He could have handled it in a completely different way... and that would have been the end of it."

Ecclestone urged Briatore to appeal to the FIA but steer clear of any legal action.

"He should ask to be heard by the court of appeal. He should appeal to the FIA," he said.

"If he goes to a civil court ... the FIA would have to defend and somebody will say that he sent a young guy out to what could have been to his death. It wouldn't go down too well, I wouldn't think."

The FIA dealt Renault a suspended permanent ban from Formula One, with engineering head Pat Symonds barred for five years. Piquet escaped punishment under an immunity granted in return for giving evidence.


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