PARIS, September 18 – Formula One ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone insisted Thursday that Formula One will survive the Renault cheating storm, the latest scandal to hit a sport already reeling from the global financial crisis."It (F1) has recovered from so many things when people have said it was finished and it will recover from this," Ecclestone told the British media.
"It was supposed to be finished when Ayrton Senna died. It was supposed to be finished when Michael Schumacher retired.
"It has been finished so many times that it’s difficult to know when it really will stop but I don’t think it will be now."
Ecclestone, the commercial rights holder in F1, said that he was even convinced that Flavio Briatore, who stepped down in disgrace as Renault F1 chief in the aftermath of the Singapore Grand Prix race-fix storm, had already been pondering his retirement from the sport.
"He (Flavio) told me recently he didn’t want to finish up like me, playing with racing cars at my age. So at least he’s been saved that embarrassment," Ecclestone added.
Briatore and Renault engineering chief Pat Symonds quit on Wednesday while the team said that they would not contest allegations made by their former driver, Nelson Piquet Jnr, that Briatore had ordered him to crash during last season’s Singapore Grand Prix.
That crash allowed team-mate, and former world champion, Fernando Alonso to go on and win the race.
Meanwhile, Briatore said Thursday that he had stepped down in order to protect his employers.
"I was just trying to save the team," Briatore told the Daily Mirror.
"It’s my duty. That’s the reason I’ve finished. People say it’s been a torrid year but it always is in F1. There’s always something going on. It’s never peaceful."
Former world champion Damon Hill said the incident showed that the sport had major problems.
"It’s not a very good episode," Hill, the 1996 world champion, told the BBC.
"There are clearly a lot of issues, and have been in the past, and it has a lot of soul-searching to do.
"It’s a huge sport, there’s a huge amount of interest, and sometimes controversies actually add to the interest. But you want it to be for the right reasons.
"I’m concerned the sport is going to suffer as a genuine challenge, which is what I always felt it should be and would like it to be, of skill and competitiveness."
Ex-Formula 1 driver Eddie Irvine feels there has been an over-reaction to the charges.
"Formula 1 has always been a war and in war all is fair," the former Jordan and Ferrari driver told the BBC.
"When I was in various teams you would do anything to win. Back in the day it was normal.
"This is probably slightly on the wrong side of the cheating thing but in days past every team did whatever they could to win – cheat, bend the rules, break the rules, sabotage opponents. This is just the FIA going on a crusade."