Briatore not present for crash-gate hearing

(GMM) Flavio Briatore did not as expected turn up for the start of Monday's World Motor Sport Council hearing into the 'crash-gate' affair.

The 59-year-old Italian has already departed the French team, as has former engineering chief Pat Symonds, who is reportedly currently holidaying in Spain.

Renault will not deny the race-fixing allegations in Paris, but it had been expected that the viability of Briatore's ongoing role in charge of his driver management company FFBB would be probed.

For Briatore, the collapse of his formula one career has been spectacular, with Max Mosley suggesting during the recent breakaway crisis that the Italian saw himself "as the Bernie" of a new championship.

"Many believed he was Bernie Ecclestone's natural successor and if Bernie was run over by a bus then Flavio would have had my vote," Martin Brundle wrote in his latest column for the Sunday Times.

But F1 chief executive Ecclestone disputes that Briatore was eying a long-term future in motor racing.

"He told me recently he didn't want to finish up like me," the 78-year-old told the Daily Mirror, "playing with racing cars at my age. So at least he's been saved that embarrassment."

Briatore may also find himself with much more spare time in the near future. No longer involved with Renault, his role with the London football club Queens Park Rangers is now under the spotlight.

An associate close to Lakshmi Mittal said the Indian billionaire is concerned about the crash-gate affair and is "considering whether the best way forward would be … to buy Flavio out of QPR", according to the Telegraph.

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