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Familiar face returns to F1 after 'crash gate': Who is Flavio Briatore?

Familiar face returns to F1 after 'crash gate': Who is Flavio Briatore?

19-10-2021 20:40 Last update: 21:43
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With the earlier announcement of Flavio Briatore, it seems that a familiar face is going to make a comeback to Formula 1. Together with Stefano Domenicali, he wants to work on a 'bright future for Formula 1'. However, the former team boss also has a much-discussed history in the sport behind him. This is the story of the eccentric Italian.

Slow start

Briatore is known for his highly successful career as a businessman, but he didn't exactly get off to a flying start. He had a rough start in life, graduating from high school at the third attempt with the lowest marks of his schooling.

After college, he went to work at various jobs, including one as a ski instructor. He also opened a restaurant, but this did not work out for him and he was forced to close the business due to high debts. After this he started working as a door-to-door salesman for an energy company.

In the 70s he worked as an assistant for entrepreneur Attilio Dutto, owner of the painting company Paramatti Vernici. On 21 March 1979, Dutto was killed in a car bomb attack by an unknown perpetrator.

Fraud in Milan

Briatore moved to Milan, where he started working at the Italian Stock Exchange. During this period, he met Luciano Benetton, founder of the Benetton clothing brand. In the following years, Briatore got himself into a lot of trouble: he was convicted for several fraud cases in the 80s and received a total prison sentence of four years and six months. However, he was not keen on spending time in prison, so he fled to St Thomas. He was eventually able to return to the EU after being granted an amnesty.

In the meantime, he was in close contact with Benetton, who appointed him director of the American branch of the clothing brand. In 1988 he was appointed commercial director of the Benetton Formula 1 team. Shortly afterward he fired the management of the team as a whole, after which the turnaround at Benetton began.

Michael Schumacher

After the debut of Michael Schumacher in 1991, Briatore immediately saw the potential of the young German. After having seen him in action for Jordan in only one race, he lured Schumacher to Benetton. There, Schumacher became world champion twice in a row, in 1994 and 1995.

After Schumacher's departure to Ferrari in 1996, the team fell back to the midfield. In 1997 Briatore was replaced by David Richards, after which the Italian returned in 1998 with engine supplier Supertec. The company supplied engines designed by Renault to Williams, Benetton and BAR, and later to Benetton and Arrows. However, Benetton did not want to use the name Supertec and renamed the engines as Playlife.

Return to Renault

In 2000 Renault bought the team from Benetton, after which Briatore was appointed as team leader. Under his leadership Renault grew into a top team, with the championships of Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006 as a highlight. Briatore was also responsible for the arrival of Alonso: he was the manager of the young Spaniard and brought him to Renault.

Suspension from Formula 1

In 2009, Nelson Piquet jr., who was sidelined as a driver by Briatore, accused his former team boss of competition abuse. Piquet Jr. had been instructed to crash his car during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in order to provoke a safety car situation and allow Alonso to win the race.

Briatore denied this but was fired by Renault on 16 September 2009 together with technical director Pat Symonds. The Italian was subsequently given a life-long suspension by the FIA for his part in the scandal that was to become known as 'crash gate.' He was never again allowed to be involved in activities organised by the FIA, not even as a manager of drivers.

Suspension reversed

On 5 January 2010, the life-long suspension was annulled by a judge in Paris due to lack of evidence. The suspension was lifted and Briatore was awarded €15,000 in damages. The FIA intended to appeal the ruling but later changed its mind. Briatore had expressed his regret to the motorsport federation and was allowed to work in Formula 1 again from 2013.

However, a return did not materialise for the 71-year-old Italian, until he and Domenicali announced that they wanted to work on the future of the sport from next year. Briatore will return, but in which role that will be, remains a question mark.

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