By Joanne Bladd
Former Renault team boss says 'never say never' about his future involvement in Formula 1 racing.
Former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore has said he won’t rule out a return to Formula 1 in 2013, after a lifetime ban meted out by the sport’s governing body, the FIA, was thrown out in January.
Briatore, who stepped down as chairman of football club Queen’s Park Rangers in February, also said he wouldn’t exclude the sale of his 20 percent stake in the west London club, as part of a wider buy-out.
“When I stopped in 1996, I said I would never go back. I went back in 2000. Life is never say never,” he told Arabian Business.
“I have open eyes. I still have all my friends in Formula 1 – my best friend is in [the sport], Bernie. I still have all my drivers and my management in Formula 1. But I’m not looking for a job.”
Briatore was exiled from the sport in September last year following claims by former Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr that he helped to rig the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
The FIA ruling was overturned by a Paris court earlier this year and a final deal, cut between the FIA and Briatore in April, barred the 60-year-old Italian from Formula 1 until 2013.
In 2007, Briatore brokered a $20.7m takeover of QPR with billionaire friends Bernie Ecclestone and steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, said to be Britain’s richest man.
Earlier this year, he resigned as chairman of the club after two and a half years, but denied the decision followed pressure from other shareholders in the wake of the ‘crash-gate’ scandal.
“I didn’t walk away. I just decided to step down as chairman because – being honest – I didn’t have the time,” he said.
The club is not currently in takeover talks but the option hasn’t been taken off the table, Briatore said.
“Everything is for sale, everything is to buy. I’m not in talks at the moment no. [But] if you sell, you sell everything. You don’t sell 20 percent.”
Briatore was hosting the Dubai launch of his luxury men’s fashion line, Billionaire.
The Dubai Mall boutique is the line’s first Middle Eastern store, as part of a franchise deal with UAE-based retail group BinHendi Enterprises.
A second Abu Dhabi-based store is under consideration, said Mohi-din BinHendi, president of BinHendi Enterprises, with more outlets in the pipeline if the label proves successful.
“Flavio is very business-minded. So am I. So if things work out for us – we are the agent in the GCC – we have the option to open in any other market. We’ll see how this one does.”
Clothing in the boutique ranges from $980 for a formal shirt, to more than $8,000 for a crocodile-skin jacket. “Billionaire is for the man with life, the man with money, a man who can live and knows how to spend his money,” said BinHendi.
The brand, which was established in 2005 with Italian designer Angelo Galasso, is named after Briatore’s exclusive Sardinian club, Billionaire.
Galasso is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Briatore, who he has accused of stripping him of his shares in the company to make way for new Italian investors.
According to a High Court writ, Briatore persuaded the designer to cut his 49 percent stake to 20 percent but gave him nothing in return. Galasso has now said he will sue for breach of contract.
“It’s in the hands of the lawyers. Angelo was with us in the beginning with the first company. We closed because of financial problems. Managed by him. More than that, I cannot say,” Briatore said.
Read the full interview in Arabian Business on Sunday.For all the latest sports news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.