F1 scandal puts lawyers in pole position

Formula 1 has been embroiled in scandal, with Renault team manager Flavio Briatore being slapped with a lifetime ban from the sport for his part in the ‘Crashgate’ scandal.

Renault was brought before the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) after driver Nelson Piquet Jr sensationally blew the whistle on being ordered to deliberately crash at the Singapore Grand Prix to make way for teammate Fernando Alonso.

The scandal rocked the world of motor sport. Renault was handed a two-year suspended ban for its part in the scam, while its former chief engineer Pat Symonds was suspended from the sport for five years.

The WMSC admitted that while the “unparalleled severity” of the case merited permanent disqualification, the steps Renault had taken “to identify and address the failings within its team and condemn the actions of the individuals involved” meant its disqualification has been suspended until the end of the 2011 season.

Withers partner Andrew Ford instructed 3 Verulum Buildings’ Ali Malek to represent Renault before the WMSC disciplinary hearing.

Piquet, who was granted immunity from a penalty because he informed the authorities, turned to Steeles Law’s Dominic Crossley, himself no stranger to controversial cases. Crossley represented the president of the motor sport governing body the Fédération Internationale l’Automobile (FIA) Max Mosley in his privacy battle with the News of the World. David Pannick QC of Blackstone Chambers won a £60,000 payout for Mosley.

Crossley instructed 3-4 South Square’s Mark Phillips QC to represent Piquet before the WMSC. Phillips, who also has a strong background in sports law, last month (September) successfully reversed a ban enforced against Arsenal FC forward Eduardo de Silva by Uefa for cheating.

Uefa had enforced the two-match ban after it found de Silva guilty of diving in a Champions League qualifying match against Celtic. Instructed by Slaughter and May part­ner Andrew Jolly, Phillips argued de Silva had not shown dishonest intent and so should escape prosecution.

Phillips also represented Lewis Hamilton in 2007 when McLaren was accused of spying on rival Ferrari. Phillips argued successfully that Hamilton should be immune from prosecution, despite being a McLaren driver.