Finally, the Renault time-bomb exploded, its bits shot up into the air, damaged quite a bit, and settled quite firmly. However, the residue is everywhere. Let’s pick up the pieces:
“As regards Mr. Briatore, the World Motor Sport Council declares that, for an unlimited period, the FIA does not intend to sanction any International Event, Championship, Cup, Trophy, Challenge or Series involving Mr. Briatore in any capacity whatsoever, or grant any license to any Team or other entity engaging Mr. Briatore in any capacity whatsoever. It also hereby instructs all officials present at FIA-sanctioned events not to permit Mr. Briatore access to any areas under the FIA’s jurisdiction,” read FIA’s verdict on Formula 1’s biggest scandal in the history of the sport.
Only a year prior, Briatore shook his fists in excitement as Fernando Alonso crossed the finish line, at the Singapore Grand Prix, in first place. He then let out his fists, reaching to shake hands with Nelson Piquet, whose face was stone cold.
Nelson Piquet Sr. had been approached at some point between Singapore and Brazil, with information about his son’s night-race crash. The crash was deliberate and had been staged, said Mr. Felipe Vargas, the Piquet’s family friend and advisor. Vargas had received this extraordinary information from Nelson Piquet Jr. himself and hadn’t planned his next moves. Piquet Sr., however, marched straight to the FIA during the Brazilian Grand Prix.
“I couldn’t believe this thing. And after I called Nelson and Nelson said yes they asked me if I could help and this and that. I said ‘but you could have hurt yourself and if you didn’t hurt yourself you could have hurt somebody else’ and he said ‘yeah, I know it’s wrong’ but anyway.
“Anyway in Brazil I talk to Charlie [Whiting].”
“I got him and I said ‘look, what could happen to Nelson if I bring this up?’ And I was afraid to screw up the career of Nelson.”
According to Autosport.com, it seemed Charlie Whiting had decided that ‘the matter could not be proved’ and will not take any action unless Piquet Jr. brought it forth himself. The news that he was to be let go, fueled Piquet Jr’s anger, resulting in his testimonial to the FIA (which he announced a week after the Hungarian Grand Prix).
Thanks to Times Online (www.timesonline.co.uk), the above image was released to the public, illustrating Piquet Jr’s telemetry during his crash.
Never is it usual of a race driver to constantly require the lap number he is currently on. In Singapore, Piquet Jr constantly asked what lap he was on, just to double check:
“What lap are we in, what lap are we in?” Piquet asks nervously.
“He just asked: ‘What lap are we in?’ ” his engineer reports to the pit wall.
Symonds intervenes: “Yeah, tell him that he’s about to complete lap 8.”
(For more details on the radio transmissions, visit http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/formula_1/article6834552.ece)
On September 16th, 2009, just weeks after the FIA had scheduled to meet with Renault concerning the crash allegations, Briatore and Symonds announce their departure from the team, saying “the ING Renault F1 Team will not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.” The media, along with the whole F1 community, read through the lines and assumed that such a statement implied that both Briatore and Symonds had admitted to the claims argued against them.
Just five days later, the FIA took 90 minutes to declare the ING Renault F1 Team guilty of the claims the Piquet family charged them with. As you may have already read, Renault have been given a permanent disqualification from the sport, which will be issued in 2011. A juicy $50 million fine accompanies it.
“…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,” read Autosport.com.
Briatore has been permanently banned from motorsport, while Symonds has been given a five-year ban.
I would also like to bring a document to your attention: Nelson Piquet Jr’s Official Statement.
Here is where I start to wonder:
In 2007, Ferrari and McLaren were caught (and charged) with cheating. Surprisingly though, McLaren were only stripped of their Championship points and given a $100 million fine. Nothing as harsh as the Renault penalties was even close to being applied to the McLaren case, apparently due to the fact that there was not enough evidence enabling the FIA to prove (or disprove) the use of Ferrari documents on the 2007 McLaren racer.
If you were to ask me, that is a good enough penalty. There weren’t enough facts. In this year’s crash-gate, Briatore, Symonds, the Piquets, and other individuals from the team (including telemetry) communicate strange activity during the Singapore crash. That, including Briatore and Symonds extremely public retirement from the team, slowly nudged in Piquet’s favor.
Some of today’s headlines read ‘the rise and fall of…’ and I can’t help but think: if someone is intelligent enough to rise to the top, he should be able to maintain that intelligence and stay up there. How any individual can result to cheating is beyond me. Disregarding driver safety, public safety and his morals, the Formula 1 image has, yet again, been bitten into. Let’s just hope Ecclestone is right in saying that all F1 scandals subside, resulting in the continuation and enjoyment of the sport.