Damon Hill airs serious F1 ‘skullduggery’ fears over ‘fast and loose’ Flavio Briatore return

damon hill airs serious f1 ‘skullduggery’ fears over ‘fast and loose’ flavio briatore return

Flavio Briatore

Sky F1 pundit Damon Hill has aired serious concerns over the return of “fast and loose” Flavio Briatore to F1 with Alpine, fearing the sport risks reverting to an era of “skullduggery.”

Alpine announced on Friday that Briatore has returned as an executive advisor, having overseen the most successful period in the Enstone-based outfit’s history during his previous tenture.

Damon Hill criticises Flavio Briatore comeback with Alpine

The Italian led the team to two separate World Championship doubles with Michael Schumacher (1994/95) and Fernando Alonso (2005/06).

However, Briatore remains a highly divisive figure in F1 for his involvement in the infamous ‘Crashgate’ scandal, in which he instructed Nelson Piquet Jr to crash deliberately to bring out the Safety Car in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, helping team-mate Alonso to victory.

Briatore was hit with a lifetime ban for his role in the saga, which was overturned by the FIA on appeal in 2013.

Flavio Briatore is back in F1

👉 Alpine boss dismisses Crashgate concerns following Flavio Briatore return

👉 ‘F**k off’ – Flavio Briatore’s responds to critics after controversial Alpine F1 return

Appearing in the team principals’ press conference in Barcelona on Friday, Alpine boss Bruno Famin dismissed concerns over Briatore’s return, telling media including PlanetF1.com that he “doesn’t really mind about the past” before praising Briatore’s “very high level knowledge of Formula 1.”

Famin’s stance was supported by Toto Wolff and Fred Vasseur, the team principals of Mercedes and Ferrari respectively, with the former describing Briatore, 74, as an “extremely smart businessman.”

Appearing on Sky F1’s coverage of practice in Barcelona, 1996 World Champion Hill admitted to being “baffled” by Briatore’s return – and expressed his disappointment that the existing team principals did not speak out against it.

He said: “It’s extraordinary. I just don’t get it. It’s baffling to me.

“I’m very disappointed. I listened to the team principals’ [press conference] and they’re all saying: ‘Why are you so surprised? It’s Flavio. He knows the sport, he’s got an incredible history of bringing forward bright ideas into the sport.’

“And that’s all well and good, but really? What is he going to bring? It’s opaque to me, I don’t quite get [it].

“Is this [what Alpine want] going forward? He’s not young.

“It doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be there, I’m sure he got lots of interesting ideas and perhaps he can encourage or give confidence to the team to make decisions that are a little braver than they would otherwise do.”

Hill fears the return of the “fast and loose” Briatore could represent a shift back towards an era of “skullduggery” in F1 after the sport had “tried to get this whole thing sorted out” over recent years.

He explained: “[Alpine are] hidebound in a way, aren’t they, as they are?

“Maybe they need someone else, like Flavio, who can make that decision for them and then they can they can wash their hands of the whole tricky subject of whether they’re a works Renault team or what they are.

“But what he’s been good at [what] I would say [is] playing fast and loose. And I’m using that term quite pointedly because that’s what Flavio [does].

“He’s not bothered by the conventions of the rules, obviously – that’s why he got into trouble.

“And that’s the way he’s always operated, but he’s maybe seen through problems a little bit more easily than other people.

“I do worry about this because I think we’ve tried to get this whole thing sorted out and we just don’t want to go back into a world where there’s skullduggery and stuff going on that leaves a bad taste.”

Speaking to Sky F1 after his appointment was announced, Briatore outlined his ambition to put Alpine back on the right track ahead of the F1 2026 rule changes, with the team currently eighth in the Constructors’ standings having scored just five points so far in F1 2024.

Asked if he will effectively be Alpine’s team principal in his new role, he responded: “No, no. Team principal? We have a team principal, we have Bruno. No problem at all.

“I’m working with Bruno, I’m working with everybody. For me, I’m working with Luca [de Meo, Renault Group CEO]. This is my job, I report to him and we try together to get the best performance for the team.

“I’m not changing the tyres yet. I don’t want to change the tyres, I don’t want to drive the car.

“I just want to be competitive. In two years’ time, we will be there.

“I want to give my contribution. We have a team principal who is doing a very good job, we have an organisation working together and I’m sure we’ll put everything together in a very short time.”

Asked if he had a message for those unhappy to see him back in F1 in an official capacity, Briatore added: “F**k off.”

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