Motor racing-Briatore 'distraught' by life ban, may sue- reports

MILAN, Sept 22 Tue Sep 22, 2009 10:04am BST

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MILAN, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Flavio Briatore is devastated by his life ban from Formula One for his role in a race-fixing scandal and may take legal action against motor sport's governing body, Italian media reported on Tuesday.

The flamboyant former Renault team boss was handed the sentence by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) on Monday for fixing last year's Singapore Grand Prix by ordering Nelson Piquet to crash.

"I am distraught," the 59-year-old Italian was quoted as saying by Gazzetta dello Sport.

Reports said he was planning to bring legal action against the FIA in the Paris courts to try to prove his innocence and win compensation for the damage to his image.

The reports provided no further details.

Briatore left Renault last week along with engineering head Pat Symonds, who was banned for five years on Monday.

Former world champions Renault did not contest the accusations and were handed a suspended permanent ban that will last until the end of the 2011 season.

Renault's Spanish double world champion Fernando Alonso, who won the Singapore race after Piquet's crash forced the deployment of the safety car, was cleared of any involvement.

Brazil's Piquet was given immunity from prosecution in return for testifying.

Carlos Gracia, head of the Spanish motor sport federation and a member of the FIA's world motor sport council, was also shocked by the life ban.

"Briatore's (penalty) seems to me excessive, there was no clear proof against him and he was not able to defend himself either," he told Spanish sports newspaper website www.as.com.

"Morever, I wouldn't rule out him going to ordinary justice because he has been left without his means of earning a living."

Briatore, a business partner of Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and leading figure in the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA), did not attend Monday's Paris hearing.

He is banned from all F1 activities meaning he can no longer manage Piquet, Alonso and other drivers such as Red Bull's Australian Mark Webber.

Media in Italy said he might now consider setting up a rival series to Formula One.

Better as a businessman than on the pit wall, Briatore was among those planning a breakaway series when teams clashed with the FIA earlier this year and he has long said F1 has become too boring. (additional reporting by Alan Baldwin) (Reporting by Mark Meadows; Editing by Peter Rutherford; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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