Flavio Briatore should not return to Formula 1
He's damaged goods and F1 doesn't need more of that
If you know anything about F1 at all, you'll likely know more than a fair share about Flavio Briatore. There's a very good reason why you will. The former Benetton and Renault boss is, without a doubt, one of the most controversial figures in the sport's history. The biggest controversy he's been at the centre of in relation to F1 is 'Crashgate', the conspiracy to engineer a win for Fernando Alonso at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix that left Nelson Piquet Jr. basically unemployable in the sport and Briatore and then technical director of Renault Pat Symonds with the potential of being banned from the sport for life. Briatore actually was initially banned for life, but it was later overturned to a temporary ban following an appeal. Symonds is now one of the top people at F1, with the position of Chief Technical Officer of the sport.
Before 'Crashgate', Briatore had been involved in the notorious 'Option 13' cheating scandal as he was an owner of the Benetton team at the time. The 'Option 13' scandal has been talked about to death at this point so I won't bother trying to explain it (this video by Aidan Millward will do that job nicely), but it was a huge scandal at the time and it led to Michael Schumacher's 1994 championship win being forever tarnished. There's his famously frosty relationship with Jarno Trulli, who after being sacked from Renault accused the team of heavily favouring Fernando Alonso. There are probably even more F1-related scandals that people will point to Briatore as someone who should take at least some of the blame for them, but that would fall into the realm of paddock gossip and we will never be sure if much of that is true or not.
There's also the scandals he's been involved in outside of F1. He served a couple of sentences in his pre-F1 career for bad behaviour. He was a circled contact in Jeffrey Epstein's 'little black book', leading many to question whether he had been closely involved with Epstein's horrific deeds. He also got into hot water with the English Football League after the findings of 'Crashgate' were published. The EFL threatened to have him forcibly removed from his post as a co-owner of Queen's Park Rangers (along with F1's supremo Bernie Ecclestone and multi-billionaire Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal), as 'Crashgate' could have caused him to fail the "fit and proper persons" test required for a person or group of people to own a club. He later chose to voluntarily step down, vowing to never get involved with a football club ever again.
(Funnily enough, QPR later ended up falling into the ownership of Tony Fernandes, another very controversial F1 boss. But that's probably a story for another time...)
That doesn't seem to have fully taken Briatore out of the F1 circus, however. He still maintains great relationships with several current and former drivers (including Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso), he still appears on F1-related media such as broadcasts and podcasts and he is still often talked about quite highly as a major figure in the F1 world. Admittedly, he is also heavily criticised by many figures of the sport, but he has never been fully pushed away from F1. He's still there, somewhere in the corner.
Now people are talking about Briatore in relation to F1 again, as he's been heavily hinting that he could return to the sport following talks with F1's CEO Stefano Domenicali. Domenicali himself has also been somewhat cagey, stating in a blog on F1's official website that "there will be some other good news coming out soon, which I don’t want to spoil by saying now." Could this "good news" include a return to the sport for Briatore? It's not exactly implausible. As I said, he's never been fully pushed away from the sport. There has been a space left for him to return to it for a while now, even with the controversies of his past still being fairly recent memories.
With all of this in mind and especially when it comes to that chequered past, there's one inescapable conclusion I have to come to about Flavio Briatore. He really, really shouldn't be allowed to return to F1. It's not "good news" for a man as controversial as Briatore to return to the sport. The inside world of F1 is more open to the public than ever these days thanks to the ever-increasing prevalence of social media and systems of marketing and content creation that are geared towards it. A much more public-facing F1 and its fans would not take well to Briatore's (allegedly) dodgy dealings in any capacity.
It's bad enough that Briatore is allowed to appear on F1-related media and still have good relationships with several members of the F1 paddock. Having him fully join the circus once again would make things even worse. Flavio Briatore is damaged goods and damaged goods are something that F1 doesn't need any more of right now.