Formula 1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone says his relationship with Flavio Briatore is now back to normal, despite claiming the former Renault boss was "stupid" and "naive" to get involved in the race-fixing controversy.
Ecclestone has said several times already that he believes Briatore's lifetime ban from F1 was too harsh and, after meeting him last week, says that things between the pair are now good.
"It was me giving him a call, we met, and we went to lunch together a couple of times last week. He wasn't so cheerful," Ecclestone told Gazzetta dello Sport. "Our relationship today is fine, perfect, normal."
Ecclestone still considers Briatore did wrong for telling Nelson Piquet to deliberately crash in last year's Singapore Grand Prix -- but reckoned a multi-year ban would have been a much better punishment than a lifetime exclusion from FIA-sanctioned events.
"There were other people from the world council harsher than [FIA president Max] Mosley, talking about a ban from our sport," he said. "Another person objected to it. But in general there wasn't much solidarity towards him. He had caused great damage to motor racing. I say that three years could have been enough. What I didn't like was using the term 'lifetime ban', which isn't even used for murderers."
When asked about Briatore's claims that he is innocent, Briatore said: "Everyone, deep inside, believes what he wants to believe. He doesn't want to believe it because he's involved in it. If the issue was about other people, then he would have spoken differently. I think that Briatore had to be punished for having been stupid, naive."
He added: "I don't consider him in a different way than before. But in the end after everything that happened, the problem was that Flavio wasn't against the FIA but against Max."
With Briatore launching legal action against the FIA in Paris tomorrow to try and overturn his lifetime ban, Ecclestone said he could not make a prediction on whether the case would be successful or not: "He simply wants to challenge the way that verdict was found. He maintains that the FIA couldn't do that."
Interestingly, Ecclestone has said that he would be happy to employ Nelson Piquet Jr. if he owned an F1 team.
"Among the drivers on the market, he is one with decent experience and the ability to be quick if put in the right conditions," Ecclestone said. "He can do better, Flavio, too, was left frustrated by the fact that he didn't manage to. If I had a team I'd be happy to hire Nelsinho."