Briatore was born in Verzuolo, in the foothills of the Maritime Alps. Both of his parents were schoolteachers. He graduated with a degree in land surveying, but has never worked in that field. His early ventures included ski instruction, managing a restaurant and door-to-door sales. He was working as the personal assistant to Attilio Dutto, owner of a paint company, when Dutto was killed by a car bomb during Italy's reign of terror in the late 1970s.
Briatore was permanently banned from Formula One and his name disgraced following the 2008 Crashgate scandal, in which he and mechanic Pat Symonds was believed to have told driver Nelson Piquet, Jr to deliberately crash at the Singapore Grand Prix in order to help team-mate Fernando Alonso win the race.
It worked, and Alonso won Renault's first Grand Prix since 2006. However, Briatore's fate was sealed in 2009 and he and Symonds were kicked out. Éric Boullier was hired to replace Briatore as Renault team boss.
Symonds was only given a five-year ban and joined Williams in 2013. Briatore later sued the FIA regarding his ban. A French tribunal overturned the ban, and awarded Briatore monetary damages. Despite winning the case, Briatore later told an Italian newspaper that he was sure that he would not return to F1.