There’s Always Something Going On, It’s Never Peaceful

There’s Always Something Going On, It’s Never Peaceful

Controversy is a given in any sport, and although not always welcome, should be considered an inevitability when people are competing for the same thing and adhering to the same set of rules. Sometimes the controversy is trivial and inconsequential, other times it erupts in to an issue that engulfs the sport, takes away from the actual competition and sours the enjoyment for all those who watch, follow and admire. Although expected in the multi-million-dollar pursuit of the illusive tenth, Formula One has recently become a little sour to the taste.

What Renault may have done at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix is serious and most certainly not trivial. To plan and ask for a driver to crash in order to benefit the team mate’s chances of victory is simply wrong and should be dealt with a heavy hand. If Pat Symonds and Flavio Briatore did indeed ask Nelson Piquet Jr to slam his R28 into the barrier just after Fernando Alonso’s pitstop last year, then the trio should simply not be allowed to return to motor sport. If what Piquet says is true, the decision is unsporting of the highest order.

Of course, we do not yet know this is the case, as the hearing into Formula One’s latest controversy will not be held until tomorrow. However, the sudden departure of Symonds and Briatore from the Renault team looks from the outside to be an admission of guilt. If the Renault management are innocent, there would be no reason to leave. It is interesting to note though, the FIA have not yet singled out Symonds and Briatore and instead have called the hearing with Renault, implying that the pair’s leaving will not yet change anything.

To also add further to that, it is of course plain and clear that Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds asked Nelson Piquet crash. Bernie Ecclestone has spoken of the sadness of the affair and how Briatore’s career has ended poorly, and the Italian himself has briefly spoken of having to make the moral decision and save the team by standing down. While no official judgment will be made until tomorrow at the earliest, it would appear that Piquet has told the truth.

So why should Briatore, Symonds and Piquet be banned from motor sport should the hearing favour Nelson’s statement? Or perhaps more to the point, can they be banned? In 2008, Nigel Stepney went before the FIA to defend himself against allegations of sabotage and espionage. As it turns out, the FIA said they could not prevent Stepney from seeking employment in Formula One because he is not a licensee of the governing body. Instead, the FIA sent out a strong warning to its licensees telling them to be very careful and to use due diligence should they be looking to hire the ex-Ferrari employee.

Therefore, if Stepney was not a licensee of the FIA, one can only presume Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds and Nelson Piquet Jr are not either. Perhaps even more so now that all three are not working within the sport. It would also be a great shame if Renault are punished severely too (assuming the decision was only between the three currently implicated), particularly if that led to the withdrawal of the team. Of all the recent squads in the sport, Honda and BMW included, Renault seemed to have the most flakey outlook with regards to continued participation. And while team bosses do not wish to discuss the team’s future involvement in Formula One at the moment, questions are being asked. If a race ban gets handed down to Renault, even if it’s just until the end of the year, I can see the squad packing up and selling on. Hopefully, the evidence will only concern the management and their resignations will be taken into account.

And why, you may be asking, am I throwing Piquet in with Briatore and Symonds, especially as the Brazilian has been given immunity by the FIA for making a statement? Well, because in my view Piquet is just as guilty as the instigators. If a boxer is approached by someone with a suitcase full of cash and told to go down in the third round, and consequently does go down, both people are guilty of match fixing. And more often than not, it is the boxer who everybody remembers and receives the most damage to the reputation.

Although there was probably no suitcase of cash, Piquet states clearly that he felt complying to the demands of Briatore and Symonds would ensure him a better position to get his contract renewed for 2009. Just because the cash is electronically transferred from one account to the other in the form of a salary does not make it any less shady when it results from doing something wrong and damaging to the sport.

And so I think that is just about all I want to write on the recent Renault scandal. BlogF1 has been quiet these past few days simply because I am sick to the core of the controversies that seem to embroil the sport every six months or so. Many of us felt that when Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlin were caught sharing information, the sport would be rocked. Quite simply, it was. Although Formula One recovered, the time spent dealing with the issue filled me with a sadness I had hoped would not return.

Of course, this wasn’t the first big moment to affect the sport, but it is the one I remember the most in my time of watching Formula One and the one I consider the first for me. Since then, it seems the sport has been put through the blender several times, with notable thanks to Max Mosley, Lewis Hamilton and Dave Ryan, the stupid budget cap idea and resulting breakaway threats (that one is Max again) and many, many more. The controversies seem to be never-ending in a sport that is actually about going around a race track as quickly as possible.

Controversial moments are inevitable, as I have already mentioned, and you cannot really prevent them from happening. A driver will cut across a chicane and not receive punishment, or will receive a punishment that is perhaps unjust. A team will design a radical new part that fits the rules as they are written and the other teams will throw their toys out of the pram. These aren’t a big deal in the long term. Unsporting behaviour from some the sport’s most respected managers and engineers is, and although Ecclestone may revel in the headlines his commercial asset is generating, we really only want to watch the racing.

People say its been a torrid year but it always is in F1. There’s always something going on. It’s never peaceful. Bernie Ecclestone.


  • NPJ is a licencee – in that he holds a Super Licence.

    Ah, of course. My view is that Piquet is as guilty as Briatore and Symonds. He is a grown man who can make his own decisions, much like how Hamilton was and is when Dave Ryan proposed lying to the stewards post-2009 Australian Grand Prix. I think Piquet’s immunity is wrong and that the FIA should not be offering such incentives in order to get to the truth.

  • My view is that Piquet is as guilty as Briatore and Symonds. He is a grown man who can make his own decisions {Ollie – previous comment}

    I would think the same. Whatever Briatore and Symonds’ contribution to the matter, they weren’t the ones at the wheel of the R28, neither were they the ones who directly endangered other competitors or marshalls. That said, the immunity was probably necessary in order to find out the truth about the matter. Were it not for the leaks, Nelson may never have been identified as the informant.

    If the rumour that the FIA knew about this in Brazil last year and sat on the information for several months is true, then I have to call them guilty too – not of race-fixing, but of behaviour supporting the implied career endangerment that caused the race-fixing. Worse, they would have weakened the regulatory structure upon which the enforcement of the regulations depends. Unfortunately they are automatically immune due to the constitution of the Court of Appeal.

  • I understand where you are coming from about the ban but I dont feel that banning the entire team is the answer and this will be bad for the sport. we need all the cars on the grid and especially Alonso!

  • If the rumour that the FIA knew about this in Brazil last year and sat on the information for several months is true, then I have to call them guilty too – not of race-fixing, but of behaviour supporting the implied career endangerment that caused the race-fixing.

    Indeed, the FIA do appear to be once again, at fault. I couldn’t believe it when I read those lines on various other sites describing the fact that the FIA have apparently known about this for a while. Erm, WTF FIA? Still, nothing that organisation does surprises me any more. As sad of a statement as that is.

    I understand where you are coming from about the ban but I dont feel that banning the entire team is the answer and this will be bad for the sport.

    I agree. I meant for Briatore, Symonds and Piquet Jr to be banned from motor sport, not Renault. I did say that a ban is a possible sanction from the FIA, but also like you, I feel it would have disastrous consequences and actually be unjust if what we all know is in fact the truth (the Renault team, by-and-large, did not know what was happening).

    And although I said that this was all I wanted to talk about regarding the saga, I have started to draft a ‘How All This Affects Alonso’ post. Will it be another nail in the coffin?

  • If the WMSC case establishes that Fernando knew nothing of this conspiracy prior to it happening (which I suspect will be the case), then I expect Alonso to notice hardly any effect at all.

    If it’s the least bit ambiguous, it could endanger his Ferrari drive and thus his F1 future.

    The FIA are unlikely to allow the WMSC to do something to allow that to happen, but there are limits to the influence it can have on proceedings…

  • Outstanding post Ollie! Welcome back to the headlines- I know I speak for msot everyone in syaing that we’ve missed your commentary on recent events that are both good and not-so-good.

    As many of you know, I am still a new fan in the sport, having just taken up an interest in late 2007. Indeed, it seems that a sport which held great appeal to me at first never seems to pull into a quiet and peaceful era. Of course, when you have a sport that is profit-driving, internationally-based, and where the competitiors design and build their own hardware, it’s only natural to have some dust-ups.

    Still, it seems from my view that the power-borkers almost want the sport to stay in a state of flux, as evidenced by Bernie’s quote above. They think it generates headlines, which keep new fans coming, and that will not bother existing fans. In reality, we know nothing is further from the truth.

    In the few moments where there is not controversey, F1 is wonderful fun- not the least of which is getting to interact with nice people around the World like all of you 🙂 But clearer days never seme to be ahead for the sport.

  • Indeed, but the continued lack of a USGP is just as much of a problem. Still, Montreal is a step in the right direction no doubt.

  • F1 is an absolute joke. The competition has been completely boring for the last few years. Add the back and forth with the rules and, most importantly, these absurd controversies and you have a completely broken sport. Pathetic and sad.

  • The past few years in Formula One have been rich with controversy and ripe with the unexpected. All of which have made this period of Grand Prix racing certainly interesting yet somehow very unpredictable.

    Perhaps the British are most at fault for what F1 has become. The old ideal of winning or racing foe against foe in a gentleman like manner is really old school. The days of when you play “fair” and always stay on the side of what is “right” is nothing more than wishful thinking. We live in a world where everyday we encounter people who change the rules of life to better suit themselves in pursuit of getting ahead. Most of the time that getting ahead is done without thought and how it may affect others. Somehow it is accepted and tolerated even when it pisses most of us off.

    Todays F1 is somewhat like that self centered individual. Do whatever it takes to get ahead even if you may have cheated or altered the rules to win. Winning is the key and money is the payoff. The pursuit of money is what all of this current state of affairs in Formula One is about. I state the obvious. Piquet , Briatore, Renault and everybody else is in it for the money and that is the cause of what is happening today.

    Cheating is nothing new, the sport (infact most motorsport worldwide) is riddled with it. The bending of the rules is one of the most fascinating parts of F1 and this will not change in the future. Only the degree of that change will be noted I.E. crashing your car at a point of most advantage.

    Problem is that many F1 fans live in a world of make believe, wishful thinking and pretend. Trying to be a Grand Prix winner without some kind of skirting the rules book is how they did it in the days of old. Success today comes from taking advantage by pushing the rules.

    last year at this time I am pretty sure all involved at Renault thought they were having success. Look at what it has done to Formula One and its reputation.

    F1 will survive and become more than it is today. The “haves” will end up with a bigger pile of money and the “have nots” will race in some American series.

  • This is about the whole ‘Piquet’s a grown man’ thing. Piquet claimed that he did it because he was trying to earn (as I put it) ‘brownie points’, which of course makes Flavio Briatore look like a total dipstick, because (As I’m sure Piquet worked out) Piquet could easiy blackmail him into letting him keep his place.

    I was talking to my cousin about this and we both believe that Briatore’s stupidity and getting Piquet to crash in the first place just shows Renault’s favouritsm for Alonso. It’s understandable, but I hate favouritsm (I’ve always come 2nd/3rd to a girl named Ngoc at school) and so you can understand one reason why Piquet has revealed the info, but maybe if he had raced better…we wouldn’t be in this mess.

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