Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo says he feels personal sympathy for Flavio Briatore despite the part he played in the Renault race-fixing scandal - and believes the indefinite ban from international motor racing imposed on the former team chief is too severe.
Di Montezemolo, who worked particularly closely with Briatore during the Formula One Teams' Association's battle with the FIA over the shape of Formula 1's future earlier this year, did not deny the severity of what occurred in last year's Singapore Grand Prix. But he argued that Briatore had also made a major contribution to the sport during his long career with the team in both its Benetton and Renault guises.
"I'm humanly very sorry for Flavio Briatore, who has been one of F1's main players in the last 20 years," di Montezemolo was quoted as saying as Gazzetta dello Sport.
"It's a serious and delicate matter, but I hope and wish that the punishment he has received will soon be reduced."
Earlier today F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone also described Briatore's punishment as "definitely too much."
While Briatore received an ongoing ban, Renault's former engineering director Pat Symonds was given the same penalty for a five-year period and the Renault team given a suspended ban. Nelson Piquet had immunity from sanctions in exchange for giving evidence.