The Renault Formula One team has received a two year suspended disqualification following the revelation that Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds asked Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash his car during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in order to better his team mate’s chances of victory. The sentence comes after the World Motor Sport Council deliberated over the evidence and statements from those involved, and also took note of the recent resignations of both Briatore and Symonds. All things considered, the punishment could have been a lot worse.
The latest controversy to engulf the sport has perhaps been one of the worse when you consider that Briatore and Symonds essentially fixed the race by convincing Piquet Jr to crash his car at a point that would virtually guarantee a safety car period. With this knowledge, the team were able to run a very aggressive strategy with Fernando Alonso and thus, the Spaniard took the race victory.
For his part, the FIA are happy that Alonso played no involvement in the agreement between the three men implicated and was unaware of what Piquet was going to do. Although it has been noted that an intelligent and experienced driver would normally have questioned the reasoning behind such an aggressive strategy, Alonso it seems is in the clear.
And all things considered, Renault are fortunate to have come out of this debacle relatively unscathed. To deliberately plan to cause an accident which could have harmful consequences to those in and around the car at the time is quite simply wrong, and to do this in order to gain advantage is unsporting at its most.
The World Motor Sport Council finds that Renault F1 team members Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds and Nelson Piquet Jr. conspired to cause a deliberate crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. The World Motor Sport Council therefore finds Renault F1, which, under article 123 of the International Sporting Code, is responsible for the actions of its employees, in breach of Articles 151(c) and point 2(c) of Chapter IV of Appendix L of the Code, and Articles 3.2, 30.3 and/or 39.1 of the Formula One Sporting Regulations.
The World Motor Sport Council considers Renault F1’s breaches relating to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to be of unparalleled severity. Renault F1’s breaches not only compromised the integrity of the sport but also endangered the lives of spectators, officials, other competitors and Nelson Piquet Jr. himself. The World Motor Sport Council considers that offences of this severity merit permanent disqualification from the FIA Formula One World Championship. However, having regard to the points in mitigation mentioned above and in particular the steps taken by Renault F1 to identify and address the failings within its team and condemn the actions of the individuals involved, the WMSC has decided to suspend Renault F1’s disqualification until the end of the 2011 season. The World Motor Sport Council will only activate this disqualification if Renault F1 is found guilty of a comparable breach during that time. FIA Press Release.
A suspended sentence essentially means that if Renault break any comparable rule in the next 24 months, the FIA will come down on them like a ton of bricks – they would be disqualified from taking part in Formula One. For now though, while the team remain within the rules, they are permitted to continue fighting in the Formula One World Championship in 2009, 2010 and 2011. After this point and assuming Renault do not do anything of similar nature, the suspension will presumably be lifted.
Further to the suspended disqualification, Renault have also agreed to pay the costs involved with the investigations and to also make a significant contribution to the FIA’s safety work and campaigns.
This will undoubtedly come as a relief to all who work at Renault who played no part and had no knowledge of what Briatore, Symonds and Piquet Jr did, and I’m sure Alonso (who attended the hearing this morning) is happy knowing he can continue driving for the remainder of the season alongside Piquet’s previously-implemented replacement, Romain Grosjean.
Piquet, who brought the matter to the attention of the FIA in the first place, received immunity from any consequences resulting from the hearing today, something the Brazilian is awarded for being honest and informing the governing body. Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds have both left the Renault team and they may face further investigation. However, for now the team must continue without two of its (previous to recent times) most respected managers.
Of course, the sport has once again found itself splashed across the newspapers for all the wrong reasons, and once again I utter the words of comfort in the hope for a clean and exciting end to the 2009 season.