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Briatore banned for life, Renault escape lightly
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Briatore banned for life, Renault escape lightly
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Sep 2009   |  5:06 pm GMT  |  170 comments

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.

Briatore: Banned for life

Briatore: Banned for life


The hearing in Paris today took just 90 minutes and was attended by Renault Sport president Bernard Rey, Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet.

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.

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170comments

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1

I did enjoy the Goodwood Revival, away from all this!

There are some great comments here but, for what it’s worth, my take is that the punishments are more or less reasonable. As the man in charge, it is correct that Briatore carries the can, especially given the dubious matters of the past. A lifetime ban for the seriousness of the offence seems fitting to me – and rather on him than a whole team of innocent people – not least because many fans will in any case never forgive him.

Symonds, as the next senior figure, deserves the next most severe sanction. He could and should have prevented it, even if Piquet was the author.

Something more than a suspended ban may have been appropriate for the team but with nobody left that was involved, that could be seen as pointless; and Renault (the manufacturer) has effectively fined itself by sponsoring the FIA’s road safety initiatives. Where I feel most let down is that the suspended ban requires a comparable offence to be activated, which is both extremely unlikely and could be said to invite a lesser transgression for a lesser penalty (if found out).

There’s no point in discussing Piquet because that was all decided before the hearing.

I just wish I could get away from the picture of Mosley celebrating another public beheading of his enemies. The penalties (more or less) fit the crime but the route to them has been an utter disgrace.

2

Everybody seems to say that Piquet should be punished also. I don’t understand. This event is (as we can see in the penalty) less severe as the Spygate scandal two years ago, where Alonso also got immunity while giving evidence against McLaren. And nobody disputes that. So why should they dispute the immunity of Nelson Piquet, being the only way to punish the real perpetrators.

3

renault should stick to what they do best. supply engines and get out of the championship as a constructor. Really the only ones who should stay are Ferrari and Mercedes. Toyota, Honda, Bmw…..not really any concrete reasons to stick around.

4

good thing piquet crashed. I am sure alonso would have some threatening emails to show the fia if he could not win a race.good luck Ferrari!

5

Flav hasn’t been banned for life but for an “unlimited” time.Under appeal this could well mean 5 years or less.

6

I think the penalty is fair for Flavio Briattore and Pat symonds.

As far as Renault, they are a manufacturer and they provide to other teams that have no fault in this, F1 needs manufacturers that´s why in my opinion the penalty for them is more light.

What shock´s me is Piquet coming out of this with no penalty.He comes out of this very badly in terms of reputation but in the world we live in maybe somebody will give him a drive at F1.

7

They should have taken away the Singapore 2008 “victory”. At least. Like Hill put it: the verdict is a crying shame. Politics once again defeated justice.

8
Opposite Lock (Ken)

I would like to point out that Mosley stated that the amount was so high in McLaren’s case because that was the only way to get their attention. Anything smaller would not have meant much to the company. If Force India had committed the same transgressions, the amount would have been proportionate to their size and resources.

It doesn’t apply here, but some of the posts do seem to forget this detail.

BTW: I’ve been a McLaren fan since Bruce drove his own cars. I did think $100M was excessive and that Alonso & De La Rosa should have been punished for their participation in the cheating as should Hamilton for Liargate. Schumi for crashing into Hill & Villeneuve, etc., etc., etc.

9

It seems to me that a suspended punishment is not really a punishment at all.

It basically says that you can cheat in F1 once every 2 years as long as the people who cheated leave the team before it gets to the WMSC!

10

It’s also hard to imagine them doing something on a ‘comparable’ level of badness..

11

Although I share the majority view that the FIA ruling was far from just punishment, I can’t say I’m surprised by it. Yesterday’s ruling clearly demonstrates that there is no hope for young Ari Vatanen, Mosley’s boy Todt will be duly elected because the last thing these people want is change. For all the disrepute MM has brought about, he should be put in a dungeon and whipped repeatedly by harsh women dressed as prison camp guards. That’ll show him.

As to Renault’s punishment, if getting rid of FB and PS absolves Renault of blame, then shouldn’t the championships and GP’s these two won be counted as won not by Renault but by rogue executives? Obviously there are clauses in contracts that forbid illegal means but how are we to know what they’ve been up to in past. After all, this isn’t supposed to be about contract law, it’s supposed to be about sporting glory and the integrity of the competition.

Implicating and punishing Alonso would clearly have been a huge PR risk for F1 as well as a financial risk re the GP’s in Spain and umpteen million viewers, but these considerations should not so plainly have affected the ruling. Again it’s about the integrity of the sport and those portrayed as role models. It’ll be very interesting to see the transcript to find out how harshly the WMSC “grilled” Alonso on this.

One can only hope that the press sees the dishonesty in all this and does its job by hounding the FIA into submission and eventual change. It may not happen in our life time though…

12

Re. your proposal to put Max in a dungeon. Why, exactly, would you wish to reward him in this way?

13

With respect to Max having an agenda. First remember there needs to be a wrong-doing to chase down.

As far as Pat Symonds not taking a deal. Well who is going to hire him anyone? Best to close the book and call it a day and move on.

14

Hi James,

Obviously the Mclaren spygate punishment and Renault’s punishment don’t seem proportional. Which do you think was the fairer decision? Was the Mclaren fine over the top or todays sentance to lenient?

Personally I can’t help feel that the FIAs hand were tied by the threat that Renault would walk away if they were fined to heavily, but you can’t have one rule for one, and another rule for the rest.

15

As much as I hate to say it, Flavio will be missed. He’s an outspoken crumudgeon. What he did is unforgivable but his flamboyant, colorful personality (and sunglasses) will be missed by this fan. I’ve never really been a fan of Flav’s but it was nice to know that he was there. He gave the sport a personality that the likes of Whitmarsh, Todt, and Fry could not.

Given his acerbic, unabashed criticism of just about everyone involved in Formula 1, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were offered a job as an F1 analyst by Italian TV.

16

this is good news for the Queens Park Rangers…..

17

Shameful verdict.

18

So there was another written submission of Pat Symonds, this might explain why he was not summoned, but apparently he did not take the route of immunity, but of early retirement

Somehow I feel he could tell a lot more, but I am glad that it ended this way, enough dirty laundry washed in public for me.

I always felt that the Spygate sentence was way to harsh, expecially in this context he current verdict appears rather lenient.

But to crash a car you only need two or maybe three people, a driver, someone responsible for strategy and someone with power, to use illegal data you have to involve almost all of the engineering staff to make use of it.

If you look back at this season, there have been times where Fota and F1 profited from the, well, skills of a Flavio Briatore.

Or to put it differently, I would rather let Flavio negotiate with Max Mosley than, lets say, a Mario Theissen.

In a way I am glad he is gone, but in a way this may change the power balance in direction of the Fia, which might not turn out to be a good thing…

19

Well I am glad its all resolved, I must say I am sad to see Symmonds go, but on the face of what he did perhaps I am more sad of what he got himself involved in.

I can’t help but see the disparity in the punishment between Renault and McLaren tho…

20

Even BAR was given a stiffer penalty for their illegal fuel tank.

21

Well F1 again the most unlevel playing field in the sporting world.

It is now a joke, one rule for one, another for a red car, another for a silver car etc.

22

The FIA gave Mclaren a huge fine because they knew Mclaren would pay it and still come back and race the following year. Mclaren only exists to race.

It says much for how little confidence the FIA has in Renault’s continuing involvement that they couldn’t risk punishing Renault any heavier for fear they’d quit F1.

23

McLaren’s penalty was so harsh because they lied to the FIA. Their first punishment was a slap on the wrist, why do people, including James, seem to forget that?

24

I didn’t – read the recent posts explaining that very point

25

Renault F1 basically got away with murder. A mere penalty that doesn’t fit the crime. For crying out loud, the team endangered the life of their ex-driver, along with track workers and civilians so they can play their dirty little game.

A threat of a 2-year suspended ban will not quell any future cheaters from fixing a another race. This penalty is equivalent to “PAROLE” or a “GET OUT OF JAIL PASS”.

This proves once again that the FIA is a joke. A kangaroo court full of pathetic buffoons and clueless men way past their expiry date.

26

Have to say in a sort of twisted way this saga reinforces max’s original idea : big manufacturers are bad for F1. After all why did Flav and Pat (people tend to forget his involvement a little too quickly, I believe) did what they did in order to obtain a single 2008 victory for Renault and therefore keep the ‘winning image” of the team (and secure their own jobs for the following year). The way out of this mess really is with small teams, less ( a lot less) money, and be rid of the big guns (makes) who are only in it for the image/pr returns. With perhaps one exception.

I know many people dislike Fiat/Ferrari, but they should remember that these guys stayed in the sport for two-plus decades during which they won zero/nada/nothing. Can you see renault/mercedes/bmw/toyota/honda/ford doing the same? So i think they proved their commitment over the years. But the others…blah.

27
Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Hamilton had points deducted for liegate. Renault get away with a victory set in stone in exchange for letting two liars slip away from Formula One.

No points deduction and no penalty for Renault stinks. Renault kept Briatore on and even backed him in his farcical blackmail case against the Piquets. It also has to carry the can. The message is that you can cheat, but just make sure to get rid of the offenders afterwards…then you are OK.

Renault receiving the victory, points and prize money is no different to receiving stolen goods.

28

Hi James,

A bit new to your blog but find it excellent reading and very informative.

You mentioned in an earlier post that you had heard Max say the Renault suspension was a 2 year suspended ban from the sport.

If that is the case, do you think this is a case of the left hand failing to communicate with the right?

The statement from the FIA specifically states this is permanent disqualification suspended until 2011 and pending any further similar breaches by Renault F1:

“The World Motor Sport Council considers that offences of this severity merit permanent disqualification from the FIA Formula One World Championship. However, 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.”

On a side note, What is your view on the ruling that any driver or ‘entity’ associated with Briatore will not have their Superlicense renewed?

Personally, I find that the potential for Mark Webber or the like being refused a superlicense over this is utterly scandalous and smacks of very narrow-minded thinking on the part of the WMSC.

And as FOTA is ‘associated’ with Briatore, where does that leave them in respect of having any clout with the FIA?

Cheers

Alan

29

James,

Excellent insight – as ever.

I’m curious about one aspect of all this that i haven’t seen discussed elsewhere, namely the sponsorship/financial situation.

Has ING commented about any of this? Surely there’d be some clause in the agreement that allowed them to terminate or recover money paid for sponsorship if their image was harmed instead of ‘improved’

I understand that most title sponsors have performance based contracts and that Renault had budget difficulties because of their dissapointing performance.

Have you heard anything about Renault’s sponsors terminating their agreements or trying to get their money back?

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