Crashgate Could Still Affect Briatore's QPR Ownership; A Ban for Planning One of the Worst Cases of Cheating in Formula One Could Have Repercussions for the London Club

Article excerpt

Byline: David Smith

FLAVIO BRIATORE may have walked away from the Renault Formula One team, but that doesn't necessarily mean the London-based millionaire has avoided further action that may still affect his co-ownership of Queens Park Rangers.

The sudden departure from Renault of team principal Briatore and technical chief Pat Symonds means neither man will now have to attend Monday's Extraordinary Meeting of the World Motor Sport Council at the FIA headquarters in Paris.

That hearing will examine the claim by Brazilian racing driver Nelson Piquet Jnr that he was asked by Briatore and Symonds to deliberately crash during last year's Singapore Grand Prix in order to help Spanish team-mate Fernando Alonso win the race.

Renault will not contest the case, which is hardly surprising considering the weight of leaked evidence that an outrageous cheat was perpetrated. However, the very real threat of an immediate ban from the championship, which would inevitably have led to Renault quitting the sport, receded after Briatore and Symonds decided to fall on their swords.

The WMSC are now likely to impose a massive fine comparable with the record [pounds sterling]50million given to McLaren for their part in the 2007 Spygate scandal.

What the FIA have not yet made clear, however, is whether the matter will rest there. What will concern 59-year-old Briatore is the possibility of him facing a personal charge and a ban from the sport.

If that happens, and he is subsequently found guilty of a major role in the scandal, exclusion from F1 could have huge repercussions.

The stable of drivers managed by the Italian has included Red Bull's Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen, Lewis Hamilton's McLaren team-mate, and Briatore might find it impossible to continue operating without access to the paddock. …