Flavio Briatore says he left the Renault team in order to save the French squad, ahead of the decisive FIA meeting to face allegations of race-fixing.
The flamboyant Italian, together with director of engineering Pat Symonds, yesterday left the team he had led since Renault returned to Formula 1 in 2000. The French outfit said in a statement it would not dispute the allegations of fixing the result of last year's Singapore Grand Prix.
Briatore said he felt it was his duty to quit Renault, hoping the FIA will take a more lenient view.
"I was just trying to save the team. It's my duty. That's the reason I've finished," Briatore was quoted as saying by British newspapers.
Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said it was a shame Briatore, who led Renault to two constructors' titles, had to end his F1 career like that.
"It is a pity that Flavio has ended his Formula 1 career in this way," Ecclestone the Daily Mirror. "You can't defend him at all. What he did was completely unnecessary. It's a pity that its happened."
Ecclestone added: "He told me recently that he didn't want to finish up like me, playing with racing cars at my age. So at least he's been saved that embarrassment.
"It (the sport) has recovered from so many things when people have said it was finished and it will recover from this. It was supposed to be finished when Ayrton Senna died. It was supposed to be finished when Michael Schumacher retired.
"People say its been a torrid year but it always is in F1. There's always something going on. It's never peaceful."