Flavio Briatore has been banned from motor sport for life and his co-conspirator Pat Symonds for five years, as Renault escape lightly, with a two year suspended ban and no fine for the Singapore crash scandal.
As expected Briatore came off worst today, the World Motor Sport Council taking a very dim view of the fact that he continued to deny any involvement in the plot, despite the FIA’s and Renault’s investigations concluding that he was involved, albeit the FIA’s less conclusively than Renault’s.
The result is a ban which not only means he cannot attend F1 races again, but GP2 races also (of which he is the founder) and he must decouple himself from the driver management company which looks after Mark Webber, Heikki Kovalainen and others, or the drivers will not receive superlicences, without which they cannot race. His liutenants the Michel brothers will likely take over but it remains to be seen whether the allure of being managed by them without Briatore’s influence behind the scenes is attractive to the drivers.
Pat Symonds was given a five year ban because he admitted his part in it and also wrote a submission to the WMSC that it was to his “eternal regret and shame” that he participated in the conspiracy. He will be 62 at the end of the ban and may not return to the sport at all, on that basis.
Renault had already decided not to contest the charges so it was down to Rey to submit some mitigating pleas. He offered to pay the FIA’s costs of the investigation and to contribute funds to FIA road safety campaigns. It did the trick, with the WMSC deciding not only to suspend the ban for two years, but to activate it only if Renault commits a ‘comparable’ crime again, which is highly unlikely.
Briatore’s scalp was always the main target for the FIA, but Renault’s punishment will still look rather odd in the history books compared to the huge fine McLaren got two years ago for a far less serious crime. The difference between the two in the FIA’s eyes is honesty, in the way the team conducted itself and tackled its defence of the charges. But $100 million is an awful lot of honesty in comparison with the sheer danger involved with Renault’s transgression.
According to the FIA statement, “Renault F1 stated at the meeting that it had conducted a detailed internal investigation, which found that: (i) Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds and Nelson Piquet Jr. had conspired to cause the crash; and (ii) no other team member was involved in the conspiracy.
“It had accepted, at the earliest practicable opportunity, that it committed the offences with which it was charged and cooperated fully with the FIA’s investigation; - it had confirmed that Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds were involved in the conspiracy and ensured that they left the team; - it apologised unreservedly to the FIA and to the sport for the harm caused by its actions; - it committed to paying the costs incurred by the FIA in its investigation; and - Renault (the parent company, as opposed to Renault F1) committed to making a significant contribution to FIA safety-related projects.”
Nelson Piquet walks away with nothing, despite having been one of the three conspirators, because he was granted immunity at the outset, in exchange for the information and Fernando Alonso is cleared of any involvement.
Piquet’s role in the saga and the way he has been able to walk away without any kind of sanction, despite being the person who actually crashed the car on purpose, will play badly with many in the sport. He issued a statement shortly after the verdict (see separate post).
The FIA will publish the full proceedings in due course so we will discover what evidence Alonso was required to give and what else Symonds said in his written submission.
* Apologies to readers for the site going down this afternoon – sheer simultaneous volume of traffic. We will rectify the problem so it doesn’t happen again.