A return to winning ways?
Marina Bay 2014
Singapore Grand Prix
Ecclestone says Renault may quit F1 over Singapore investigation
News
Ecclestone says Renault may quit F1 over Singapore investigation
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Sep 2009   |  8:50 am GMT  |  61 comments

Formula 1 commercial right holder Bernie Ecclestone has said that he fears the Renault board may decide to quit Formula 1 following allegations that Nelson Piquet was asked to crash his car so that his team mate Fernando Alonso could win last year’s Singapore Grand Prix.

Photo: Darren Heath

Photo: Darren Heath

With car sales well down for all the manufacturers in Formula 1, this is a delicate moment in their participation in the sport anyway. Renault recently announced heavy losses and Toyota is expecting to lose up to $8 billion this year. The feeling in the Spa paddock before the bombshell about the Singapore enquiry was that it could not be taken forgranted that both would remain in the sport beyond the end of the year.

Ecclestone has weathered one crisis in the sport this summer, averting a breakaway series by the teams’ association, FOTA and has seen Honda and BMW decide to withdraw in the last nine months.

“This is not the sort of thing we need at the moment,” said Ecclestone in the Times. “I think it will p*** off Renault for a start. Them leaving the sport is a danger, obviously. I mean, I hope that it isn’t like that, but it’s the sort of thing that might happen.”

“What I know, I can’t say, to be honest with you. All I know is that Flavio is insisting that he knows nothing about it. I think the FIA are looking into everything. They are trying to find out the reality. I suppose they would be upset if they found out that what people are assuming is true, is in fact true, I suppose.”

I’m not quite sure what he means by, “What I know, I can’t say, to be honest with you,” but this is a particularly awkward problem for him personally because Briatore is a close friend, who is usually to be seen in Ecclestone’s company in the evenings at race meetings and regularly travels into the circuit with him. The two hit it off almost as soon as Briatore first walked into the paddock in 1989.

However Ecclestone’s other close ally and confidant, Max Mosley, clashes with Briatore and that must have been a delicate balancing act over the years.

As for Nelson Piquet Jr, whom Ecclestone appears to suspect of ‘blowing the whistle’, he believes that he will find it hard to get another F1 drive,

“You can safely say that he’s sort of in trouble now . . . you’d have to wonder what next, wouldn’t you?” Ecclestone said.

This too is an awkward situation on a personal level. Nelson Piquet senior won two world championships for Ecclestone’s Brabham team and remains a friend, while his friendship with Briatore, for whom he also raced, was part of the reason his son got the drive in the first place. Now the whole thing appears to be falling down like a pack of cards.

Renault survived an FIA enquiry 18 months ago into allegations that an engineer had taken McLaren technical secrets to the team. One wonders what evidence there is in the Singapore case.

But until the case is heard the mere association with suggestions of cheating will be hurting Renault’s image and causing some serious reflection at board level, not least with the team slipping to eighth in the constructors’ championship.

Should the manufacturer decide to quit, it is quite possible to imagine Briatore taking over the team, as Ross Brawn did with Honda.

Featured News
MORE FROM JA ON F1...
Share This:
Posted by:
Category:
61 Comments
  1. monktonnik says:

    “Should the manufacturer decide to quit, it is quite possible to imagine Briatore taking over the team, as Ross Brawn did with Honda.”

    Wasn’t he one of the people that poured scorn on the privateer teams entering F1? It would be kind of funny if he found himself in the position, and I hope that his drivers wouldn’t be compared to kerb stones; although one of his did crash into one this weekend.

    1. Martin R-S says:

      ‘monktonnik’: Your observation is very good, Briatore’s scorn at the idea of more privateer teams in F1 was quite vicious.

      It is also interesting to remember that he was very quick to jump into bed with Ferrari to kick McLaren when they were found in possession of Ferrari documents, although Renault were soon found to have done basically the same thing with McLaren data.

      -But that was when it didn’t suit him.

      This guy is a determined and ruthless character with an interesting history (to put it mildly). I would not put it past him to change his mind for a buy-out of Renault at the right price, if he thinks he can gain by it.

  2. Finn says:

    This is just rubbish.

    No one in Renault would deliberately put their own driver, other drivers, or marshals at risk just to win a race.

    At worst Renault might have seen that Piquet’s crash helped them to win the race and so Piquet might have made a quip that Renault were happy with how things worked out in the end, but it is beyond belief to think that a team with a high corporate profile would do anything so stupid … for the simple reason that if it ever came out it would have such a negative impact on their brand name.

    Yes, Renault might have been happy with the final result, but to think that they told Piquet to crash is just silly. He could have parked the car to bring out the safety car … he didn’t need to splay it up against the wall so hard and risk his life.

    Pay Symonds being a party to something like that? Not in a billion years.

  3. Grabyrdy says:

    Does anyone have friends in F1 ? Or just “friends” ?

    1. GP says:

      If you want a friend in F1, get a dog…;-)

  4. Stu says:

    On hearing about this I couldn’t help but laugh as I remembered your article on ‘game theory’.

    “We don’t travel half way around the world to race for 15th place,” says Symonds, “So we looked at stopping only once and we might not get 15th, we’d get 16th, but who knows, we might get a safety car? And that’s exactly what happened.” ~ Pat Symonds.

    If there is one team I could see doing this it’s ‘that’ team.

    1. michael c says:

      mmmmm – vairy interesting

  5. George says:

    With Alonso supposedly leaving the team at the end of this year it’s not a bad time for Renault to go on hiatus. The only success they’ve acquired in recent years has been through his hands, most likely they wouldn’t have won the world championships in ’05 and ’06 without a driver of his calibre, and he’s had Nelson Pirouette as a partner for the past year and a half, it’s like they dont even care where the second car finishes.

    Without their star driver and seemingly without hope of a performance advantage (Ferrari and McLaren should be on form next year), they haven’t really got a lot to stay for, especially when you consider the exit of the other manufacturers.

  6. " for sure " says:

    If Bernie suspects Piquet of going to the FIA chances are he knows that to be the case, and it seems highly unlikely that Piquet, no matter how sore he was at being fired, would make such a thing up in some sort of attempt to get even.

    It seems increasingly likely that this story has legs.

  7. Owen Hayes says:

    I seriously doubt that Renault or Briatore really did rig the race, the whole thing just seems so ridiculous and if there was a shred of tangible evidence and basis for an investigation it really seems like it would have been done last year rather than now.

    The whole thing stinks of the Piquet family trying to settle a few scores with the Renault squad, it’s really a shame as it basically guarantees nobody will ever want to have Piquet Jnr driving for them if this is the present they will get at the end of it all.

  8. Werewolf says:

    Whatever the chances originally were – probably zero in reality anyway – Piquet must now be absolutely out of the Ferrari equation. Making himself less appealing than Badoer though (if indeed he is ‘the source’) is a notable achievement!

    Briatore taking over Renault is tricky. In the unlikely event of the allegations being considered proven by the FIA, Briatore himself would surely – and quite rightly – be damaged as much as Renault. That would make sponsorship an issue, even if the FIA accepted the entry.

  9. I’ve always reckoned that, if Renault were to quit Formula One, Prodrive could take over the Enstone-based team. After all, Banbury is only half an hour North.

    1. Werewolf says:

      David Richards knows much of the team from his bygone days at the helm, too. How about buying the rights to the Renault engine and badging it Aston Martin? The possibilities are endless!

  10. Fausto Cunha says:

    I´ts difficult to give an opinion on this news, there´s an investigation going on and we don´t no all the facts.

    We have to wait and see but if it´s true i think it´s the worse thing that could happend to F1 and to Renault.

    If it´s true provably Renault will leave F1 but things will also go very bad for the ones involved like Flavio, Symmonds, the drivers etc…

    For me it was very strange at the time but many times coincidences happends.

    I hope it´s not true.

  11. hamilton fan says:

    Strangely enough, Ferrari and Renault always have so many people worried over them, breaking the rules.

    Mclaren quite the contrary.

    Sure there is a tendency, even if not that great as I see it(being bit biased)

    cheers

    1. Aaron says:

      I think thats just the way you see it, Mclaren are as bad as the rest, Stepney Gate, Melbourne Etc.. Its going to happen anywhere the stakes are so high

  12. Erik Cramer says:

    I guess that´s the end of any chances Piquet might have had to return to F1.

  13. F1Wolf says:

    “Should the manufacturer decide to quit, it is quite possible to imagine Briatore taking over the team, as Ross Brawn did with Honda.”

    possible to imagine, but only if Briatore is not implicated as a culprit in this case …

  14. Matt Barton says:

    Just to add a bit of intrigue to this, I noticed an article by Mike Doodson on 21 August – before the FIA investigation was announced – which might be relevant. In it, Doodson says he expected Renault to think twice before sacking Piquet mid-season “for a variety of interesting reasons” and that there are likely to be some fascinating and possibly scandalous developments. Looks like he might be right!

    1. Grabyrdy says:

      The whole quote is “I had expected Renault to have thought twice about firing Nelson Jr mid-season, for a variety of interesting reasons which would have been likely to attract the attention of m’learned friends if I had been rash enough to reveal them here. Let’s just say that the Piquet/Renault story is almost certainly unfinished, with some potentially fascinating and possibly even scandalous turns in the road still to come.”

      I wondered at the time what that could possibly mean. James, you know Mike, I suppose …

  15. Steve JR says:

    It would be an interesting prospect if both Renault and Toyota were to throw the towel in since that would leave Ferrari as the only manufacturer team left and thus a return to how F1 used to look. Presumably they’d all come drifting back in once the financial nuclear winter is well and truly over in a couple of years time.

    1. Werewolf says:

      And half the grid would have to use Cosworth engines again, too!

    2. PJ says:

      Mercedes would still be in it and with an even bigger presence seeing as they would inevitably end up supplying more teams with engines. If Renault and Toyota do go then it would leave engine options next year to Merc, Ferrari or Cosworth.

      As an aside, are Ferrari really a manufacturer team? As I understand it they are a race team who started making and selling road cars to fund their racing. A manufacturer team in my view is one who enters F1 as a marketing excercise to sell road cars. Do they race to sell cars or sell cars to race?

  16. Neil Barr says:

    I can imagine that in 2008 Renault chief Carlos Ghosn implicitly or explicitly gave Briatore the clear understanding that he’s paying for wins or it’s not worth it. I can imagine that Flavio implicitly or explicitly gave Nelsinho the clear understanding that his contract extension depended on his meeting a specific target, in this case the wall.
    Like his F1 future the testimony of Piquet is worthless without other corroborating evidence and testimony. However should the so-far unsubstantiated allegations be shown to be accurate then it is Flavio Briatore upon whom the righteous wrath of Max Mosley’s FIA will fall. Given the McLaren precedent Renault will be given an offer they can’t refuse: cut ties with Briatore in exchange for a fine they can afford. Then he will be given persona non grata status for an indefinite period extending well into Mosley’s retirement to the FIA Senate.
    If Briatore is the author of this outrage then he must never own a team in whole or in part. Ideally he would be gone forever. The greater outrage would be for his actions to have brought about the fire sale of Renault GP to himself. The very idea is sickening and a grid that includes a Briatore GP acquired so would be unwatchable.

    1. michael c says:

      super stuff – lets hope Flavio didn’t do anything like it

  17. F1 Kitteh says:

    Alonso was the only person to say something nice about Piquet after the axe.. does make you wonder why…

  18. Ben James says:

    I have to say that I think this is absolute rubbish! Who honestly thinks that a team would ask a driver to risk their lives and others, by deliberately crashing?! I am trying to find footage and info regarding the incident. It is just a ludicrous suggetion. I don’t like how the FIA is run or Max Mosley. Unfortunately I don’t see things getting better if Jean Todt becomes president either. What a load of tosh and they can’t even say why, who or what ‘tipped’ them off! Should the source be Nelson Piquet Jr or his father, then surely there will be repercussions for them if it is true?

    1. artorwar says:

      Look at the last post about it, I added a video of the crash which makes it quite clear, to me anyway, that this was far too serious a crash for any driver to have willingly taken part in, it took 2 corners off the car and saw him bounce off a wall with some force. Most unpleasant. I agree with you that this is rubbish and I personally think young Nelson has probably just ended his F1 career in spectacularly unsporting fashion.

    2. Pay The Piper says:

      Well, once you do find the footage, you’ll see that “risk their lives” is perhaps over-egging it slightly, power-on slide is the safest way to rub a corner off a car, if that is your intention.
      The main thing stopping me buying this one, is that i’d be siding with the conspiracy, tinfoil brigade, man, i hate those guys.
      Either way it’ll be a tricky one to prove unless Renault team management have been monumentally incapable.

      As for the Piquets and the FIA, well there’s form here … we saw that the FIA was willing to hand out immunity to some of the actual perpetrators (Alonso and De La Rosa) in order for Mosley to prosecute a long-standing rival, despite never shown to be involved (Dennis). Ends justify means apparently.

      You just need to substitute the names as appropriate, for Max to give #2 on his list, Briatore, a farewell gift (a.k.a right sore kick in the knackers).

    3. Tim Lamkin says:

      YOU…know F1 can be very weird..eating their young constantly pooping all over them selves….

  19. Alastair says:

    Good on Nelson, he’s had a hard deal in my opinion, although I cant see him getting another drive, especially after this.

  20. knoxploration says:

    This reads to me as Bernie trying to arrange that the whole affair be swept under the carpet. Now, while I find it doubtful that wrongdoing on this level happened in the first place without it becoming common knowledge before now, I’d find it equally distasteful if Piquet is being publicly threatened by one of the sport’s main figureheads when his team boss may have been the one pulling the cheat’s strings.

    Autosport.com quotes Bernie as stating that he “doesn’t know the truth” in this matter, but then has him go on to say “if they are true then I would have thought Nelson was in just as much trouble”. You quote Bernie as saying “You can safely say that [Piquet]’s sort of in trouble now”.

    We have precedents in F1 that say otherwise, and suggest whistleblowers should be forgiven, if they’re pointing to wrongdoing by their superiors – even when their evidence also directly implicates themselves. After all, what action was taken against Alonso and de la Rosa, both of whom were directly implicated by Ferrarigate? That’s right, none whatsoever.

    Bernie’s public quotes seem to be predicting dire things for Piquet regardless of whether or not he’s telling the truth. That, to me, feels like an attempt to publicly bully him into shutting up in the hopes of the story going away.

    Sorry Bernie, but I disagree. No one team – not even Ferrari, and certainly not Renault – is bigger than the one thing that’s more important in every sport: sportsmanship. An allegation has been made, and it has to be followed up. If the allegation turns out to have no foundation in truth, its source should be named and punished for damaging the sport’s and team’s reputations. If there’s a grain of truth in the allegations though, then there’s no question that we should be allowing a cheat to go unpunished. To do so simply goes against everything that sport is about. If that means a bit player following orders should be allowed off the hook to ensure that whistleblowers feel able to take action, and to ensure that punishment is felt at the highest level where knowledge and approval of cheating existed, then so be it.

    A sport cannot be a sport without sportsmanship, after all.

    1. Snail says:

      In true RoboCop style, I’ll “buy that opinion for a dollar”.

      The whole story is so bizarre its hard to work out where its at. But if people are to blame, they should be punished. Including Piquet, if he is making things up.

    2. Werewolf says:

      I agree in principle entirely with Knoxploration’s point. All I would add is that Bernie says all sorts of things to the press, many of which are politically motivated at the time and have little bearing on reality. Actually, if I’m honest, in the recent past, he appears to say things just for the sake of saying them.

  21. hamilton fan says:

    I think Alonso and Kimi, or even Kubica hold stronger chances of ever driving a ferrari than Felipe Massa. If he misses the whole season, its hard to believe he will be given his seat back.

    regards

    I am sorry for the offtopic

  22. Willow says:

    Haven’t Renault already signed the Concorde agreement – can they still quit before 2012?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, there are obligations, but no financial penalties as far as I am aware. If you have to go you have to go

  23. Olivier says:

    … jeez, how come I am not surprised? Poor Piquet.

    Renault should drop their tainted works team and focus entirely on Red Bull. Or Williams.

  24. Lee Gilbert says:

    James – can you shed some light on if you KNOW the investigation to be about Renault and specifically the Singapore GP – or is this press speculation.

    The FIA have only confirmed a “previous GP” – any idea on the certainties of the event and the team?

  25. Red Kimi says:

    Strip Alonso of his win, and throw Flav out if it is true…

    The sad fact is that this works perfectly for Alonso to go to Ferrari now…. Ferrari would not even need to buy him out of his last deal with Renault

  26. Grabyrdy says:

    I feel the hand of Nelson senior all over this – I’m sure he knows everyone there is to know at Globo. And a hint would be enough – it doesn’t prove it’s true (and it seems unbelievable – Nelsinho must be a better driver than we all thought !)

    As for Flavio, well I think everyone believes that his Benetton in 94 was – how can I put this gently – completely illegal (will that do?) so it wouldn’t be the first time.

    1. Snail says:

      Nelsinho must be a better driver than we all thought !)

      I don’t think so. Check on Youtube. There is some footage. I bit too much power coming around the corner and your manager is your crash organiser.

      Would be interesting if someone had Piquet’s telemetry for the Singapore race and you could see what he normally did for that corner each time through, right up to the crash. You could spot a deliberate crash easily enough that way.

      1. Grabyrdy says:

        Can’t imagine the teams keep their telemetry from one year to another (James, do you know ?). Its absence would make the charge difficult to prove, but also difficult to disprove.

        As far as Nelsinho’s skill is concerned, anyone can have an accident, the skill is not hurting yourself. A racing car out of control at 120mph is just that – out of control.

    2. Werewolf says:

      Nelson Piquet (Sr) was often renowned for shooting his mouth off in period but, assuming he is responsible, this really is playing with fire. Aside from his son’s career, if the apparent allegatons are decided to be unfounded, there must be matters such as slander or libel to consider. Renault will surely want to protect its reputation and I cannot imagine Briatore taking it lightly.

      The issue may come down to burden of proof. In UK criminal law, ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ is the requirement, which is supposed to mean absolute certainty is required to convict. In UK civil cases, only ‘balance of probability’ is needed, meaning decisions are made based on the greater likelihood. Does anyone know what is the FIA standard?

      1. Grabyrdy says:

        The FIA’s burden of proof is no doubt what Max decides, depending on who is in the dock that day …

      2. Clinton says:

        Based on previous FIA decisions, I doubt the FIA rationale would be based on any thing close to or resembling “reasonable” or “balance”.

  27. Richy F says:

    I am not surprised the accident has been brought back up. It seemed a little suspicous at the time but was overshadowed by an extremely eventful race highlight of which was the Ferrari fuel hose incident. If memory serves me he span his rear tyre on the exit performing a 180 into the wall. The rhs of the car was mashed a little but it didnt look like a high speed crash.

    Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JszDb-j4NGI&feature=related

    Funnily enough I think he did similar on the install lap! Was it a practice run? Heh, Conspiracy!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JszDb-j4NGI&feature=related

    If Renault pull out it will be because this is a good excuse and it will have already been on the cards.

  28. virtualmark says:

    Unlike others I don’t have any difficulty believing an F1 team could conspire to bin one of its cars into the wall in order to put its other car into a strong leading position.

    But I think it’s a bit rich for people like Bernie to, effectively, say “Go easy on these guys or the manufacturer will quit the sport”.

    Mclaren is effectively a branch of Mercedes. No one at the FIA seemed to worry that a US$100m fine might make Mercedes quit F1. I didn’t hear Bernie saying “Go easy on Mclaren or Merc will pull out”. What’s so special about Renault? If they conspired to pervert the race results then they should be hit for a fine in proportion to the FIA’s precedents. Maybe US$100m?

  29. Ahmad Albashrawi says:

    Well, I really can’t see Renault that stupid to put themselves vulnerable to this by asking a driver they are not 1000000% sure of his loyalty to the team. That said, I think if this was proven to be true all responsible personnel should be sacked of the team and heavy personal financial penalties must be applied.

    However, if this was a game played by Nelson and Max to pay-back some old revenge, there should be very strong measures applied against them. This has turned a fantastic sport were racers go against each others into a play field for [mod] individuals to fight each others.

    1. michael c says:

      keeps it all (F1) in the news though doesn’t it – conspiracy theories and all that – and what does the tinfoil brigade reference earlier in these discussions mean please?

  30. graham says:

    I also heard that Renault spiked Hamilton’s drinks jar with stupid juice at last year’s Fuji GP and this caused Ham and Felipe to get mired in the mid pack. From then on Alonso only had to deal with Kubica who was also paid to let Nando through.

    The FIA should investigate this also. And Fernando’s 2nd place podium in Brasil was also the result of shenagins.

    Whatever the case is, it couldn’t be that Fernando won Fuji on merit could it? If so, then why could the Singapore race just have been a fortuitous fluke. That circuit was ripe for a SC incident and Renault just rolled the dice with his fuel load. A long fueled first stint would have certainly netted him a finish outside the points with no SC and with a SC, for any reason, a long first stint would have sealed a finish of 15th or worse.

    The fact that NP Jr. caused the SC had to be pure chance. If it was orchestrated it would have been done far differently… much less damage, much less safety risk etc.

  31. CoolGav says:

    Alonso was fastest in the second and final practices, and was unfortunate to suffer a car failure (fuel feed) in qualifying. That put him down the grid in 15th, so was given a fuel load gamble to hope to get some points. It wasn’t unreasonable to have a high probability of a safety car at Singapore, so I doubt the incident was anything other than a coincidence.

  32. Antoine says:

    My conspiracy theory is, Max Mosley is behind this :-(, the FIA chooses to punish a team only when the time is right, I mean people talked about this last year already, obviously there was no reason to punish Renault just yet,…

    Just look at the way FOTA teams have been reduced considerably, first Williams for “Loyalty” reasons, then Force India, I’d imagine Vijay is now receiving the same kinda treatment Ferrari enjoyed since 2004, also add BMW pulling out end of this year and the 3 new teams entering next year. Should Renault and Toyota change their mind [about staying in F1] there’ll only be 5 FOTA teams.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nelson Piquet get a seat next year with one of the new teams.

  33. Alex says:

    If this is true, it may have changed the whole championship. Massa would not have pitted with Raikkonen and the stacked pit-stop would not have happened, he probably would have won the race.

    The rumour is Massa went to Briatorie and said that the crash was a set up and they cheated.

  34. jon clucas says:

    so, if Alonso’s win is stripped of him, then Rosberg would get his first ever win – only it’ll be awarded 11 months late.

    But then the conspiracy theorists would have a field day claiming that Rosberg’s drive through took to long, which would probably have helped Hamilton, who came 3rd, win the race….

    For the love of Christ – has our beloved sport not seen enough of ‘wan*kinggate’s’ over the last 3 years?

    Can someone remind the FIA that its ancient history and let us thoroughly enjoy what will, undoubtedly, be an excellent season with 4 possible Championship winners?

    I thought the FIA were meant to be intelligent people?

    1. michael c says:

      i understand the frustration but if (big if) Renault fixed the crash then they should be punished – if it is true why is this any better than the Stepneygate affair – when presumably designers have been taking inside knowledge in their heads to their new teams ever since the series began

      1. Jos The Boss says:

        Dont punish them, they did the sport a favour – turning a crap race into a thriller. Any fan who watched those turgid opening 13 laps would have been delighted when they saw the sight of Piquet’s Renault in the wall.

  35. Ron Chamber says:

    Well….After having seen what they have done in the Ferrari affaire, and looking at how Fernando behaved in McLaren, and at the same time how this funny, fat and depraved version of Don Juan that Briatore is I was not surprised of the Piquet’s allegations. And it seems that now Bernie have found some proofs after reading his statement yesterday. Bye Flavio…we won’t miss you. Ah..btw…take Alonso with you.

    1. Alberto Dietz says:

      Exactly.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Top Tags
SEARCH News
JA ON F1 In association with...
Download the chequered flag podcast today
Download the chequered flag podcast today
Multi award winning Formula One photographer
Multi award winning Formula One photographer