PARIS, November 25 – Former Renault chief Flavio Briatore's appeal against a lifetime ban for ordering Nelson Piquet junior to crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix began in the High Court in Paris on Tuesday.The flamboyant Italian, who is also seeking one million euros in damages from motorsport’s governing body the FIA, did not appear in person at the hearing before the Tribunal de Grande Instance.
Pat Symonds, Renault’s former chief engineer who is appealing his five year ban from Formula One, was also absent on day one of the case.
A verdict is expected on January 5.
Briatore and Symonds were targeted as the main culprits in the affair that rocked F1 when the World Motor Sport Council met in Paris to rule on the case in September.
The scandal centred on former Renault driver Piquet junior’s claims that he had been ordered to deliberately crash at Singapore last year to enable teammate Fernando Alonso to win.
Briatore’s lawyer, Philippe Ouakrat, told the court: "My client vigorously and utterly contests having been aware of such a conspiracy.
"The FIA has to overturn its decision…because it’s an illegal order in terms of its results and the manner in which it was carried out."
Jean-François Prat, representing the FIA, countered by insisting there was a definite link between Piquet’s crash, and Briatore.
"He (Piquet) accepted to do it (crash) because he wanted to see his driver’s contract renewed for the next season and it was Flavio Briatore who was in charge of these questions."
Briatore’s responsiblity was therefore "obvious", Prat told the court.
In a statement released last month when Briatore announced he was challenging his ban he described his punishment as "a legal absurdity" and expressed confidence that the High Court in Paris would find in his favour.
Spelling out the main grounds for his action Briatore listed the FIA’s "deliberate breach of rights of the defence, a breach of the rules of natural justice and the FIA’s manifest excess and abuse of power".
Briatore is challenging what he claimed was the FIA’s lack of impartiality and the disproportionate and illegal nature of an indefinite boycott.
He said: "In this case the FIA has been used as a tool to exact vengeance on behalf of one man.
"This decision is a legal absurdity and I have every confidence that the French courts will resolve the matter justly and impartially."