Both Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds have resigned their positions at the Renault F1 team over the scandal of Nelson Piquet’s deliberate crash in Singapore last year.
A brief statement from the team at midday today said, “The ING Renault F1 Team will not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. It also wishes to state that its managing director, Flavio Briatore and its executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, have left the team.”
With the main architects of the ‘plot’ no longer in position and Piquet granted immunity from prosecution, the way is clear for the FIA World Council to deal with the team relatively gently on Monday.
There is no evidence that anyone else was involved. There is little reason for the hearing to take place if the team will not contest the charges and the two principals have already fallen on their swords. There is only the question of punishment. There is no question of throwing the team out of the world championship or hitting them witha $100 million fine, as McLaren was in 2007. There may be a fine to be paid or some sort of minor sentence, but as the management has changed it seems irrelevant to punish the team and other employees who were not in on the plot.
Renault itself has suffered a great deal of bad publicity over this and having now effectively pleaded guilty to the charges, the actions of Symonds and Briatore have put a stain on the company’s reputation. They were responsible for looking after Renault’s brand and reputation through competing in F1 and they did this.
Briatore has thought about stepping down in recent years anyway, but was persuaded by Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn to stay on in the job. As he said at the weekend, at 59 years of age and with so many other business interests, he hardly needs the salary.
However it will be interesting to see whether the FIA decides to ban him and Symonds from involvement in motorsport. Briatore’s company manages the careers of some significant F1 drivers including Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen. If he is banned from F1, he will have to hive off his interest in the management company. Briatore will be able to satisfy his sporting instincts with the Queens Park Rangers’ football, of which he is part owner with Bernie Ecclestone, although relations between the two have suffered over the Singapore situation. Briatore is also set to become a father soon with his wife Elizabeth Gregoracci expecting their first child.
Symonds was offered immunity from prosecution in return for evidence which would convict Briatore, but chose not to take that route, instead falling on his sword and staying loyal to his long time colleague.
For Alonso, whom the stewards have absolved of any involvement in this plot, his name is again stuck to another major F1 scandal, albeit unwittingly this time, coming two years after the McLaren/Ferrari data theft case.
As for the result of the Singapore Grand Prix, at the weekend FIA president Max Mosley said that its too late to change the results of the race.
With Briatore and McLaren’s Ron Dennis having now departed the scene in similar circumstances, there is only Sir Frank Williams of F1’s original big beasts, left in the sport. He has played a different game from his peers in recent years, sided with the FIA over the breakaway and not been a leading rebel in the FOTA breakaway.