Flavio Briatore back in F1 as executive advisor to Alpine

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Flavio Briatore, the flamboyant and disgraced former team boss of the Renault F1 team, is returning to the sport in an advisory role for Alpine.

The surprising - and controversial - move comes 14 years after Briatore’s dramatic dismissal in the wake of the infamous ‘Crashgate’ scandal that rocked the sport in 2008.

Whispers of the 75-year-old’s potential return had been swirling for weeks as Alpine ponders its future direction in F1.

“BWT Alpine F1 Team can confirm that Flavio Briatore has been appointed by Renault Group CEO Luca de Meo as his Executive Advisor for the Formula One Division,” read a statement from Alpine.

“Briatore will predominantly focus on top level areas of the team including: scouting top talents and providing insights on the driver market, challenging the existing project by assessing the current structure and advising on some strategic matters within the sport.”

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Briatore's previous career in Formula 1 was marked by both incredible success and a major scandal.

After serving a spell as a marketing boss for the Benetton clothing company, the Italian was called upon by the family out of the blue to take the reins of its F1 team.

Briatore and Benetton’s rise to prominence in F1 began when he recruited Michael Schumacher in 1991 and put together a team that saw the young German talent blossom and secure his first two Drivers' Championships in 1994 and 1995. Benetton also clinched the Constructors' Championship title in 1995.

Briatore's Midas touch continued when the Enstone squad was acquired by Renault. There, he nurtured another future legend - Fernando Alonso. Together, they dominated the 2005 and 2006 seasons, winning both Drivers' and Constructors' Championships for Renault.

However, Briatore's reign came to a crashing halt - pun intended - in 2008 when it came to light that Renault had orchestrated in the Singapore Grand Prix a deliberate crash by teammate Nelson Piquet Jr. to benefit Alonso's race strategy in the race.

The blatant cheating resulted in his forced resignation and a lengthy suspension from Formula 1. Although the suspension was later overturned on appeal, it marked a significant turning point in Briatore's F1 career.

Luca de Meo’s decision to bring back to F1 its former disgraced team boss comes as Renault is considering withdrawing from the sport as a power unit supplier.

While Briatore’s new job description with Alpine appears broad, finalizing the manufacturer’s F1 future on the power unit front will likely be a key aspect of the Italian’s role.

Mercedes, whose engines have been a dominant force in F1’s hybrid era, is seen as Alpine’s most likely partner for an engine deal, a move that could be a game-changer for the French outfit.

In his own communication on social media announcing his appointment, Briatore already appears at odds with de Meo, the Italian calling himself the executive 'director' of the Alpine F1 team, rather than its mere 'advisor'.

"I am honored to have been appointed by Renault Ceo and Chairman Luca de Meo as his Executive Director for the Formula One Division and happy to bring my contribution to the Alpine F1 team."

A tiger never loses its stripes...

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