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Renault commit to F1 future as Briatore weighs up legal action
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Renault commit to F1 future as Briatore weighs up legal action
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Sep 2009   |  4:42 pm GMT  |  30 comments

As I speculated in post before the World Council meeting, part of Renault’s submission was that it planned to commit itself to Formula 1.

Renault wants to stay in F1 (Photo D Heath)

Renault wants to stay in F1 (Photo D Heath)


As part of the evidence and material relating to the case, published yesterday, there is a letter from Renault in which it pledges its commitment to the sport.

“Renault F1 and its parent company have given serious consideration as to whether it should remain in the sport following the prejudice caused to its corporate image by the conspiracy, in addition to the existing background of financial pressures that have caused car manufacturers to withdraw.

“But it has concluded that it would like to remain in Formula 1 and continue to make an important contribution to the sport.”

This is a positive thing for the sport, Renault has played an important part in F1 for many years. In addition to the works team they provide engines to Red Bull and next year Williams are hoping to use their engines, in conjunction with their own KERS system.

In fact another piece of evidence published yesterday is a letter of support of Renault from Williams to the FIA, sent on September 14th. Williams argued that Renault is not an anti sporting company and that any punishment which put their participation at risk would be a punishment against other teams and fans as well.

There have been suggestions, especially in the Italian media, that the verdict in this case was pre-negotiated between the FIA and Renault. It’s been interesting to see how the different nations’ media have interpreted the verdict, with the British press quite dismissive of Briatore and upset by the leniency of the Renault sentence, while the Italian media is sticking up for one of the country’s most successful F1 managers.

The question now is what Briatore’s next move will be. Again in the Italian media there is talk of him preparing a lawsuit against the FIA for restraint of trade, with him not having been given the chance to defend himself in court on Monday, although the FIA maintains he was. They say he wrote them a letter saying he wouldn’t come because he wasn’t the licence holder, Renault was.

He has the right of appeal but according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, he has no intention of submitting himself to an FIA court, he wants to take his case to the high court in Paris.

Spain’s FIA representative Carlos Gracia said yesterday that he thought this option would be open to him, “Briatore’s penalty seems to me excessive,” Gracia said. “There was no clear proof against him and he was not able to defend himself, either. Morever, I wouldn’t rule out him going to ordinary justice because he has been left without his means of earning a living.”

Renault’s lawyer said this week that the company was withdrawing its blackmail complaint against the Piquets, but understood that Briatore would not,

“I’m told that French counsel wrote to the public prosecutor last Friday seeking to withdraw the criminal complaint on behalf of Renault F1. It’s my understanding that the second complainant, Briatore, has not withdrawn the complaint, but it is our intention to draw the line and to do everything we can to put this sad history behind us, ” he said.

Meanwhile the question remains of whose idea the crash plot was. Pat Symonds in his letter to the court maintained the line that it was Piquet’s idea. But close examination of the passage in the court report suggests that the FIA believes that the idea must have been Symonds’ because it says the subject was raised with Witness X present on Saturday after qualifying, whereas in Piquet’s testimony the first time he mentions the subject was on Sunday, before the race.

With the F1 circus now in Singapore, the hope is that this story will not dominate the weekend and that the racing can, but how ironic that this race should be the next one up after the saga involving last year’s event.

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30 Comments
  1. Carl M says:

    That has surprised me because I thought they’d quit at the end of this season.

    I nearly sent you an email to see if you’d be writing about the latest news of Kimi Raikkonen.

    Luca di Montezemolo: “Otherwise, we are mulling the best choice but we still have time. We will decide in a few weeks.”

  2. F1 Kitteh says:

    I think one has to ask what exactly is Flav being punished and guilty for. The only concrete evidence, so far, has only proven that he knew of the plot. It does not conclusively prove that he initiated it or Piquet did, or whether he did or did not make a reasonable effort to stop it. If you argue that he was ‘at fault’, as stated by Renault, for failing to stop the plot despite learning about it beforehand, then Witness X is just equally as guilty as Flav/Symonds/Piquet.

    1. mvi says:

      According to the transcripts, Witness X objected to the idea when he heard of it, but did not know that they would follow through until the crash actually occurred.

      1. F1 Kitteh says:

        And whether Symonds/Flav objected to it also is open to speculation. Witness X and Piquets versions dont match either =)

    2. Spyros says:

      In both Symonds and Piquet’s versions of events, Flavio knew of the conspiracy, whether he authorized it or not. When it happened, he did nothing to bring it to light, and to this day, he denies any knowledge of it. FIA’s point seems to be that they take a very dim view of the fact that he not only knew (or worse, took part in) the conspiracy, but he refuses to acknowledge it.

      An interesting part of the full FIA transcripts focuses on the letter he wrote to the Piquets, when he says they blackmailed him. FIA’s report asks why an ( innocent) F1 team principal, faced with allegations of such seriousness, didn’t immediately launch an internal inverstigation or, even better, inform FIA about the allegations.

      Even Ron Dennis, who’s actions FIA wasn’t impressed with either, in Stepneygate, reacted to Alonso’s threat to disclose the offending e-mails by telling Mosley all about them. Flavio simply wrote an angry letter…

      Unlike the other parties, including witness X, Briatore was the manager of the team. For the manager, unlike the others, knowledge of a conspiracy automatically means that he is part of it. Not only did he not disclose it, but he keeps denying it. I’m not suggesting that ‘X’ is wholly innocent here, but Flavio most certainly is not!

  3. Kirk says:

    Carlos Gracia “There was no clear proof against him and he was not able to defend himself, either. Morever, I wouldn’t rule out him going to ordinary justice because he has been left without his means of earning a living.”

    Is this guy for real?!?

    There were witness statements, Briatore’s dismissal and an admission of guilt by his former team Renault – what more did he want? Another video recording made by the News Of The World from inside the Renault office on that particular day?

    Briatore was invited to the FIA hearing so he could defend himself, apologise, beg forgiveness, leniency, whatever he wanted to do – yet he decided he couldn’t be bothered or that he had no defence.

    As for the comment about earning a living, well… they say people in high places are out of touch with reality, and this guy proves it. Somehow I don’t see someone who spent $68m on his yatch, owns a football team, night clubs etc. having problems “earning a living”. Should anyone here feel sorry if Briatore is starved of caviar in 20 years time?

    If I was Jean Todt I’d seriously consider if I want Mr. Gracia in my team to stand for the F1 presidency. He is the perfect tool to alienate fans around the world with his silly comments.

  4. The Kitchen Cynic says:

    So Symonds and the anonymous Witness X disagree about whose idea it was, and on what day the conversation took place. Meanwhile the FIA VP from Abu Dhabi admits the verdict and punishment was negotiated with Renault…

    While Flav is obviously as guilty as sin, I kinda wana see a court of law tear this to shreds by applying a reasonable standard of law to it.

    1. swayze says:

      “Meanwhile the FIA VP from Abu Dhabi admits the verdict and punishment was negotiated with Renault…!”

      That’s news to me but no surprise

      With regards your comment regarding the court of law tearing this to shreds. I could not agree more.

      I stated that the legal side of this would rumble on for months if not years when this all started

      No surprise that Renault has withdrawn its complaint regarding blackmail either.

  5. James says:

    Hi James, on the subject of Singapore, will you be adjusting to the local time, or will you be staying on European like the drivers, many members of the media and the hardcore fans?

    Must be a tough thing to do, Alonso looked shattered last year after the race (more so than drivers normally do)!

  6. Fulveo Ballabeo says:

    Is there some moral relativism at play here?

    McLaren’s fine: $100,000,000
    Renault’s fine: $0

    On the one hand, Renault came clean much faster than McLaren. On the other hand, Renault’s “crime” was more detrimental to the sport than McLaren’s.

    The magnitude of McLaren’s fine was egregious, but it also set a precedent.

    So what changed? The crushing economic downturn, the bruising the auto industry has taken, and the departures of Honda and BMW from F1.

    Appearances matter, and it appears Renault (perhaps brilliantly) leveraged the (implied) threat of leaving the sport (as a team and an engine supplier) to escape financial penalty. Stated another way: with no financial penalty, “Renault Commits To F1 Future”. Coincidence?

    So the key questions are:
    1) Is that right or wrong?
    2) How does it reflect on the FIA?
    3) Should commercial considerations influence sporting matters?

    1. Marcus Redivo says:

      A cynic would take the point of view that as long as McLaren was not forced out of business due to insolvency, they would remain in F1. Not so Renault; they could sidestep a fine of $100,000,000 by simply stepping out of the sport and carrying on their many other non-FIA businesses.

      In short: it would take a much larger fine to eliminate McLaren from the grid than Renault.

      My opinion is that to restore balance, some of that McLaren fine money should be returned to McLaren.

    2. Relativity says:

      It’s not so much a question of right/wrong or black/white but what shade of Grey did they choose. Given a choice, the legal system is always dealing in shades of grey.

      The WMSC hearing was a quasi-legal proceeding. They have jurisdiction over their sport and nothing else. A criminal proceeding in the judicial system may have arrived at a different conclusion.

      Commercial considerations always affect how
      the system works – even the regular judicial system. The old adage “always follow the money” is correct when trying to assess legal outcome and motivations. We are all equal but some people are more equal than others!!

      1. Steve says:

        Good post. I would add to it by saying “follow the money” that Renault invests in Junior Formula. I am sure the FIA did not want to lose that money from Renault. Life isn’t fair.

    3. jon clucas says:

      couldn’t have put it better myself!

      Hear Hear!

  7. Werewolf says:

    I actually think Briatore’s restraint of trade case is weak for the reasons mentioned in an earlier post; but what does intrigue me is whether the FIA is acting within its jurisdiction to effectively ban him. The only personnel to be licensed are the drivers, so technically there is nothing to revoke and Briatore is not actually banned. What the FIA has said, if I have read this correctly is it will not sanction any entrant, driver or event connected with Briatore, thus making him effectively unemployable to FIA-connected companies.

    If Briatore can show the FIA has exceeded its authority and/or acted outwith its own procedures, he has the basis of a very good damages claim. If he can also show the FIA failed to follow the legally binding principle of a right of reply, the damages could be considerable. The issue will be whether or not he personally invited to the hearing.

    1. BrettW says:

      The ban is not on Briatore himself. As the reports have said nobody is actually banned from anything. The statement by the FIA is really them saying that they won’t do any business with anyone that does business with Briatore. In effect they are applying a ban on themselves specifically to avoid a claim of restraint of trade. Had they said that FB was banned from anything the situation would be different.

  8. jed says:

    This case is full of irregularities.

    1. The FIA concluded that there was a plot made by Nelson Jr., Flavio and Pat for Nelson Jr. to deliberately crash his car in order to help his teammate Alonso win. This plot was executed, and was successful as alonso won.

    2. The evidence in support of this plot are the statement’s of Nelson Jr., Pat Symonds, and witness “x”, plus some telemetry data and radio communication.

    3. Nelson Jr. has an axe to grind against Flavio, as he was fired from renault. It was only AFTER he was fired by renault that he “spilled the beans”.

    4. Thus, if Nelson jr. did not get fired and had a new contract with renault, non of these would have come out.

    5. The only motivation for Nelson jr. to “spill the beans” was retribution, and not a “my concience cannot take it anymore situation”. Law and behold, the FIA gives him immunity! Nelson jr. is a principal participant in the act and came out in the open not driven by good intentions to to so, but to extract revenge.

    6.Immunity should not be granted in such a case. It is absurd.

    7. Pat, in his statement, regretted his participation in the conspiracy. he said he should have shut down the idea the moment Nelson jr. brought it up. Thus, the statement implies that it was nelson’s idea and he went along with it. This makes Pat as guilty as Nelson Jr. Moreover, the FIA offered pat immunity for Flavio’s head. Pat did not take it and got punished. he deserved to be punished.

    8. Pat’s statement did not say a thing about Flavio’s involvement. The statement did not deny Flavio’s participation either.

    9. Witness x’s statement says that he knew of the plan of Nelson jr, Pat and Flavio as he was present at the meeting.

    10. The WMSC hands out the most severe penalty to Flavio. This is highly irregular as the evidence against Flavio is the statement of Nelson jr., who the minute he got fired, went on an all out attack against Flavio in order to get back at him and the statement of witness x who the FIA will not identify and give the defendants a chance to cross-examine him in order to verify the truth of his statements.

    11. Clearly, the most credible statement is that of Pat, who, did not take immunity and took the punishment that he deserved. Pats statement was a declaration against himself, notwithstanding the consequences he might face vis-a-vis Nelson jr.’s where he can say anything and will not get penalized.

    12. The statement of Pat, impliedly admits that the meeting between him, Nelson and Flaveio took place which makes Flavio part of the conspiracy.

    13. Therefore apart from Nelson jr.’s statement, there is no other evidence that the crash plan mastermind was Flavio. Between nelson’s and Pat’s statement, Pat’s should logically carry more credibility. which makes Nelson jr. the mastermind.

    14. This being the case, Flavio, at worse should have been given the same penalty as that of Pat or slightly higher. Instead, he got the gravest penalty.

    15. This penalty taken in conjunction with the leaks of the case, the immunity granted to Nelson Jr., and the offer of immunity to Pat, would make any reasonable mind to fairly conclude that the FIA was out get get Flavio and this was an opportunity to get him, so they did.

    In conclusion, Flavio has a credible case of personal vendetta against him by the FIA. He might actually succeed in the regular courts

  9. Ian Blackwell says:

    It would appear that Renault used the FIA’s fear that it would leave the sport in the event of any significant fine/penalty on the the team to its advantage. Whatever the case, it is a good thing that they have managed to keep a major manufacturer in the sport.

    Do you now think that with Mr Alonso’s apparent clearing of any involvement, events will move forward quickly on the gridlocked driver market? I did notice something in the news about the CEO of Ferrari seeming to throw Mr Raikonnen’s future with the team into considerable doubt.

  10. Armando says:

    It is interesting to me that (a) Alonso was given immunity and then (b) Witness X shows up. I may be stating the obvious, but is it not possible that they are one in the same? (It is impossible to tell, from the miscellaneous reports, when exactly Witness X came forward and whether that happened before or after Alonso was granted immunity.)

    My point here is that if it should come to light that Alonso is indeed Witness X, the fact that he was “aware of the idea but did not think the team would go through with it” is going to look awfully funny alongside the fact that he nonetheless took advantage of the situation to benefit personally and take the win.

    I also find it interesting that the Italians, of all people, given Ferrari’s historic influence on the FIA, are making noises that the outcome was pre-negotiated.

    1. Laurence H says:

      Is it not also astonishing that the result of the race is allowed to stand. If I was Alonso (god forbid), I would ask for it to be removed from my record. As long as it remains there, he is tarnished by association. His record reads:- Alonso – Poles: 18, Wins: 21 (but remember one of those was achieved by his team cheating).
      It would look a lot better as Poles: 18, Wins: 20…

  11. rpaco says:

    Maybe since there was no appetite from the FIA for a fine there should have been be a sporting penalty ie Renault start the 2010 season on say minus 40 points.

    Flav is not going to be on the streets begging, he has a lot of dosh, if the worst comes then he could sell his boat, the proceeds of which quite a few of us could live on for the rest of our lives very comfortably. Flav like many of his peers (and our MPs) has lost touch with the real world.

    For this Spanish bloke to say he (Flav) has had his means of earning a living taken away is total rubbish. If this is the sort of person that is supporting Todt then we definitely don’t want Todt elected.

  12. Henry Davis says:

    The safety car regulations of the time were easily exploitable. At present this loophole, deliberately running an out of phase strategy and planning a timely safety car, is virtually unrealisable with the ’09 sporting regs and next year without refueling it won’t be of any concern. The race wasn’t fixed, it was wrongfully manipulated. There aren’t many ways to fix a race but the greatest driver, Schumacher, probably tried most – Adelaide ’94, Jerez ’97 x2 (at Dry Sac and with the help of Fontana) and Monaco ’06.

    I am disappointed that Briatore has been banned, not from the point of view of justice but because it affects his other business interests and therefore provides an ongoing story which I’m already over.

    One final note; disregarding this incident Piquet didn’t impress once. I look for speed and consistency – neither of which I seen from Mr. Piquet Jr.

  13. Patrickl says:

    Perhaps Piquet suggested the crash idea on saturday to Symonds. Symonds then thinks about it and discusses it with Briatore and Mr X. Next day, just before the race, Symonds and Briatore meet with Piquet to say that they will agree to his suggestion and ask him to crash.

    If you look at it that way, everybody’s story is accurate and nobody really lied.

    1. Lia says:

      That is exactly how I see it also. Because it is hardly convincing, that Symonds and Briatore were elaborating the plan, fully dependant on Piquet, including adjusting Alonso’s strategy, and only 4 or 5 hours, as the driver puts it, before the race asked whether he would crash for them or not.

  14. shaun says:

    Well, i have been reading comments on here, and skipping back and forth to other sites trying to stay up to date with all this news etc.

    I have just read an article and the headline reads:” Father smooths Nelson Piquet Jr’s return”

    Couldnt believe it! Even quotes Lewis Hamilton as saying: “He’s a good driver and he’s had a great career, so who knows?” the world champion said. “For sure, there are opportunities for him in the future and I can only wish him the best.”

    Bizarre to say the least!

  15. Peter says:

    I’ll say again that reading the papers from the FIA meeting on Monday I was struck by the reply from PKjr’s lawyers to the FIA’s question about whether or not PKjr first suggested the crash. In a short letter the lawyers use the term “deliberate crash” three times, never just “crash”, to deny it was PKjr’s idea. This leaves open the possibility of PKjr being the first to mention “a crash” (perhaps in a moment of self-depracating black humour), which is what Pat Symonds says, the “crash” only becoming in later discussions a “deliberate crash”.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for that, Peter

  16. Philip says:

    I’m reading elsewhere that Witness X supported Pat’s claim that the suggestion was originally NPj’s. Your conclusion is the opposite. Can you explain the discrepancy? Ta.

  17. Philip says:

    Found one of the references:

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/78797

    On this reading, wouldn’t it mean that NPj had breached the terms of his immunity?

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