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Explosive new information on Renault pre-crash meeting
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Explosive new information on Renault pre-crash meeting
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Sep 2009   |  7:37 pm GMT  |  209 comments

Autosport is carrying a story this evening with some amazing revelations about a meeting which took place between Renault’s Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds and Nelson Piquet Jr at Singapore last year.

Piquet at centre of huge storm (Photo: Darren Heath)

Piquet at centre of huge storm (Photo: Darren Heath)


Renault stand accused of deliberately causing Piquet to crash, just after Alonso’s early first pit stop, in order to give Alonso the chance to win the race, as the rest of the field would pit under the ensuing safety car.

The first ever night race, the Singapore Grand Prix was sponsored by Renault’s title sponsor, ING, making it a perfect day for them.

Autosport’s Jon Noble quotes ‘sources’, in his report as follows:

“Sources claim that in evidence submitted to the FIA by Nelson Piquet, the Brazilian driver says he was asked by Briatore and Symonds to crash deliberately early in the race so as to help Alonso win.

“Piquet says that he agreed to do so because he felt uncomfortable about his situation at the team, with Renault having not renewed his contract for 2009 at that time – and Briatore was stalling on making a firm commitment. Piquet suggests that he only went ahead and caused the accident because he felt he would be rewarded for his actions.

“In his evidence, Piquet claims that he was taken aside by Symonds after the first meeting and instructured that he should crash on lap 13 or 14, shortly after Alonso’s scheduled first stop, at Turn 17.

“The reason this part of the track was singled out was because there were no cranes present there to lift the car away, so any accident would virtually guarantee a safety car.”

The story has echoes of the blood scandal in rugby last season, when a Harlequins player was instructed by the team manager to fake a blood injury using stage blood, in order to get a specialist kicker onto the pitch.

Autosport goes on on say that the information was given to FIA president Max Mosley by Nelson Piquet Sr on July 26th. This was the day of the Hungarian Grand Prix. That same day Renault were charged for releasing Alonso’s unsafe car back into the race after a pit stop. That infringement initially got them a one race ban, which was lifted on appeal, but it germinated the notion that the team was not acting safely.

Since then the Singapore issue has been extensively investigated by an FIA team, assisted by representatives of Quest, a leading independent investigative firm, run by former Metropolitan police chief Lord Stevens, which Mosley hired last year to look into who set up the sting on him in the News of the World.

This is an extremely serious allegation and if proven, is far more serious than the McLaren spy case of 2007 because it concerns putting the lives of the driver, the marshals and potentially the public at risk. If proven the race fixing aspect of it would have a very negative impact on the image of the sport, just as it is emerging from the instability of the teams’ breakaway threat.

According to the story, both Symonds and Briatore deny Piquet’s account. They accept that the meeting took place, but say that the idea of crashing was not theirs – two men’s word against one.

Interestingly in the evidence which has come to light thus far, there is no suggestion that Fernando Alonso, who was the main beneficiary of Piquet’s accident and who is hoping to be unveiled as a Ferrari driver shortly, had any part in the planning of it.

The hearing before the World Council, will take place on Monday September 21st.

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1

Isnt this just the same as when MS parked it at Monaco in Qualy? I think that was even worse he was on the racing line…just as dangerous….from my point of view you have to understand a drivers mentality…worked your socks off since you were 8 years old to get your dream of being in F1 and you will do anything to stay in it as its your life..it isnt like being in a normal job…in fact it isnt a job at all racing, its a passion, a love, it hurts when you cant do it, so you will do anything to stay even if it means your boss tells you to crash..which I think is what really happened…no one is as innocent as they make out. In racing you think with your heart a lot of the time not with your head and if you feel you are under threat of losing your drive you do anything it takes to keep it because it is your whole life, you live for it and if you cant have it then nothing else is worth doing or will replace it. A Driver at that level has no life at all if he cant drive, he may as well not exist if he cant drive. So if someone waves a contract in your face and says its yours if you do this, then you do it no question. Its bad and unethical I know but its human emotion at a high level in sport such as F1, it isnt going to the office for 8 hours a day, its a whole way of life. Things like this will always happen. I dont think NP has committed a crime in the true sense of the word, he has let his heart rule his head and another thing we must not forget is the mindset point of view, what we have is young people and being under 25 odd is still young being thrust into a high pressure environment, with lots of money and glamour around, your judgement isnt always going to be perfect because you are treated differently to normal people, its more surprising to me that drivers dont crack more than they do

2

Flav seems to be lashing out wildly in a character assassination attempt.He accuses Piquet small of being gay !

http://jovempan.uol.com.br/formula-1/noticia/briatore+baixa+o+nivel+e+ataca+nelsinho-172750,,0

3
Racing not politics

and now Renault start their defense by taking legal action against NP Jnr & Snr

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8250436.stm

4

Let’s see…French manufacturer, Italian team principle, British team principle, forcing a Brazilian driver to crash. Sounds like Europeans are a bunch of cheaters.

5

According to the story, both Symonds and Briatore deny Piquet’s account. They accept that the meeting took place, but say that the idea of crashing was not theirs – two men’s word against one.

I thought it was only Symonds that mentioned there was talk of crashing by Piquet.. Briatore denies everything.

Two different stories… you’d have thought they would have got that sorted.

6

There is no evidence to suggest that Alonso knew of this alleged conspiracy but surely he would have questioned why he only had 12 laps of fuel on board, that far back on the grid on a circuit which wasn’t going to offer much overtaking opportunities.

7

For nearly two years of my professional life it was my job to review prosecution files to assess evidence and consider likely defences – not only of the defendant but the CPS as well when they binned it. It wasn’t the most exciting time of my life.

I obviously haven’t seen the FIA’s file on Piquet-gate but there are some indicators apparent even in the leaked matter.

There were generic defences that were easy enough to spot. A note of NRB, short for Nuremberg, in the margin was a suggestion that the defendant might try and pass the buck upwards. QC was a good one as it used to confuse the CPS, the only sport left to me.

Quentin Crisp wasn’t entirely dedicated to the heterosexual way of life and hid his leanings under rather flamboyant clothing and mannerisms. In those days the government seemed to take a great deal of interest in people’s sex lives and there were a number of offences limiting homosexual behaviour, one of which was importuning, i.e. approaching people for the purposes of homosexual acts. All that was required for a conviction was the word of two police officers, frequently aide’s to CID trying for a high arrest rate to guarantee the substantive appointment, that the suspect approached a number of men, all of whom walked away disgusted.

Quentin’s ‘unusual’ appearance did not lend itself easily to a defence of a fit-up. He had dyed red hair, painted finger- and toenails, the latter very apparent in his open-toed shoes, a wide-brimmed hat at a jaunty angle and was frequently, he says, surrounded by sailors.

One time, fed up with continually being falsely accused and charged, he decided to say in his defence that what the police officers had seen was not him accosting other people but them accosting him and conveying their disgust. He was found not guilty.

Symonds quote that Piquet was the person who had mentioned crashing, and this post fill-up, would have generated a QC in red caps. Not to mention a bit of panic in the CPS bunkers.

I was good at my job. This was an error on my part as it made my bosses reluctant to release me. But it took me back reading the quote attributed to Symonds.

Quentin Crisp was a one-off and his biographical book, The Naked Civil Servant, is well worth a read.

8

I’m with ya. Having spent a decade plus as an Assistant District Attorney here in New York (I prosecuted all manner of cases, including drug, assault, robbery, and, most relevantly here, reckless endangerment) this case is giving me flashbacks.

9

There does not seem to be much sympathy for Piquet here. I’m no big fan but I think people are missing the big picture. Two of the sports longest standing people and so called most respected (Simmonds I have allot of time for Briatore I think should have left the sport years ago) stand accused of actually fixing the outcome of a race. The accuations are of such a serious nature that if found guilty I beleive that both people should be chucked out of the sport.

Piquet should be applauded for coming clean on it (whatever his reasons)not cast out even further.

It cost £100 plus for your TV Liecence and £100 plus to go and actualy watch a GP. I for one do not want to pay knowing that this is openly going on.

10

Piquet should be applauded for what? Taking part in this [mod] activity and the hold Renault on ransom after being chucked out? Thats just wonderful. He is equal partner in the crime who has just changed his side.

11

I did not say he should be applauded for his part in it, I said he should be applauded for coming forward.

I actually think he should still be held accountable for his actions.

Again the big picture here is race fixing not a junior driver with a grudge.

12

Well, does this jeoperdise the Alonso Ferrari deal by any chance? May be James will be able to answer :D.

13

We’ll find out on Sept 21st.

14

Not before?

15
Racing not Politics

Won’t we hear something at Monza this weekend James?

16

Hi,

Just to step aside from all this fixing allegations (which we know happens within a team for instance where someone is on a lighter fuel load is allowed to overtake someone on a heavier fuel load) I just think its a lesson for the FIA and Bernie to go to circuits that promote overtaking and discourage processional races (AKA Valencia, Singapore etc) If someone had tried a stunt like this in SPA for instance, It just wouldnt work as the faster cars would have overtaken and the fastest (pits stops and all) car would have probably won. So may be this is the time for F1 to reconsider some of its tracks to prevent it going the IRL/Nascar way (where Safety cars are brought in to spice up the races)

17

Interesting point and one that also supports, to some extent, the banning of refuelling. It is just worrying that without it so many of the modern circuits will go from dull to duller.

18

I agree. The modern circuits are actually glorified karting tracks, and lead to races with which all over the counter and prescription sleeping aids could be replaced. But I’m willing to risk that in order to get rid of refueling for such short races. Refueling, remember, was reintroduced precisely to create “spectacle” and “overtaking”. Cynical, no?

For this reason, I totally disagree with KD’s notion of deliberate crashes on ovals, in the IRL especially, and artificial safety car deployments. Certainly, NASCAR’s “competition yellow” is dubious (and I’m being polite with that term), and I know it’s typical for F1-centric fans to demean oval racing generally. But to suggest phony yellows or staged crashes in the IRL and other American open wheel racing series like USAC? Running in cars with equal or greater power to their F1 counterparts, at average speeds well in excess of F1 maximums, wheel to wheel on every lap, where the consequences of a mistake are extreme… Well, put it this way: I don’t think anyone is suicidal out there. All you have to do is look at the footage of Greg Moore’s death or Paul Dana’s (for that matter, Dale Earnhardt, Sr.’s or Adam Petty’s) to know that racing on an oval is deadly serious.

To a man, I don’t think ANY current F1 driver would accept the challenge of oval racing, in any form, precisely because they fear that danger. A far cry from Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell, and Emerson Fitipaldi, then.

And, FYI, pace cars, rolling starts and full course yellows are also a consequence of the nature of oval racing. You can’t have a “local yellow” on an oval: You come up on debris (and other cars) much sooner, with more immediate consequences (blow a tire and you don’t have run off room: you have a wall; rolling starts remove the possibility of cars stalling on the grid when the flag drops/lights go out; and, of course, T-bone someone at 220 mph and…) than on a typical road course, especially in F1.

Bottom line: F1 has it’s own “competition yellow” in refueling and the resulting “fuel strategy.” If F1 hadn’t re-introduced refueling to artificially “spice up the show,” there would not have been any “fuel strategy” for Renault to (allegedly) maximize by setting up an insane, potentially deadly insane, stunt.

19

Did Alonso qualify for the third session? If he didn’t, he was free to run whatever fuel load he wanted, up to the start of the race. Weird that Alonso is involved in both “spygate” and “crashgate”, but has always managed to squirm out of it – with supermanager Flavio’s help (?). Has good a driver I think he is, he’s got little credibility left when he’s saying: “I knew nothing…” Notice that he doesn’say “Renault or Symonds would never agree to something like this. Instead, knowing he’s bound to Ferrari for next season, he protects supermanager Flavio’s integrity.

20

IF Falvio was to get banned from being involved in F1 for any period of time, how would that impact his driver management activities??

21

Alonso will walk away freely purely because there is no evidence (ATM) that says he had anything to do with it or had any knowledge of it. Is your reason to implicate Alonso more down to the fact he will likely replace Kimi? Flav, Pat and Junior deserve everything that is coming to them if the evidence is there. If Alonso is plicated then he too deserves to be punished and no matter what your gut feeling says about it all unless there is evidence to the contary then he is innocent!

22

James (or anyone): in 2008 at what point in the race weekend are the cars actually fuelled for the race – I’d assumed that it was sometime on Saturday not Sunday: (it certainly is now for all the cars even those outside Q3).

It seems to be common ground that this meeting was on race day. If Alonso’s fuel had already been decided, surely that points to the race-fix idea coming from the team rather than NP? If the idea was a frolic of NP’s own it was remarkable fortune that Alonso had been short-fuelled.

23

See the exchange of emails at 88 for this. You’re right, it’s an important point.

24

Alonso has run some unusual fuel strategies at various races this year …. was Jr supposed to crash at all of them? I expect Alonso has been taking chances in the hope of getting more out of the strategy than the car is really capable of delivering.

25

Scan of Piquet’s FIA statement:

http://www.f1sa.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=17075&Itemid=219

Nothing new, but just in case anyone wants all the gory details in glorious monochrome.

Nelson playing it smart (at least with the cards he had available) and leaving a trail on the radio-transcript, multiple times ‘What lap am I on?’, to make sure as best he could that the spin could be connected to the pitwall.

He probably figured there was a reasonable chance of this day coming, one way or another, and didn’t want to get hung out to dry by expensive corporate lawyers, carrying the can as a rogue employee (junior engineer), while the prime instigators walked.

(I’m not sure what the Renault defence is supposed to be now; Yes we do admit we had a meeting, but it was Piquet who suggested a spin, we said “no, don’t do that”, he then spends the race asking us what lap he is on, and we don’t suspect or take the opportunity to remind him of our total disapproval. Yes we coincidentally had a suicide fuel-strategy, yes we had the Renault board demanding a win, and after disobeying us and crashing, we gave him the new contract that we had been holding out on for months.)

Poor old Pat Symonds, I’ll miss him.

26

Flav in deep do-do??

i bet you couldn’t knock the smile off Max’s face!

I would have loved to have been a fly on Max’s wall when he found out NPJ had grassed Fav up!

Perfect Payback.

Flav – GONE

Pat – GONE

NPJ – GONE

Renault – GONE

F1 – On the back foot again.

i hope having found all parties guilty.. they cut a deal to save the face of F1.

Damn Shame.

I hink only Renault and Pat will be missed!

🙂

27

“I bet you couldn’t knock the smile off Max’s face!”

Er, wouldn’t the attempt only make him smile more??

28

Firstly, if it was suggested by Piquet, but discounted by the Renault management, what did they think when he executed his plan anyway? They (the management) didn’t tell anyone “hey this came up and we said ‘don’t do it’…”. In fact, they renewed his contract! I think – by keeping quiet – they are in trouble even if Piquet suggested it and then did it off his own bat.

Secondly, this only works if Alonso had a light fuel load, and how would Piquet (acting alone) ensure that?

Neil.

29

It would be real interesting to see some onboard footage

from Juniors car and his telemetry before the crash…

30

It would appear that Nando is claiming no knowledge of the crashgate saga – http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/78451

31

I think this could well be the end of the Renault f1 team as we know it. Carlos Ghosn has always had a reputation as a cost cutter and the Reanult f1 team has hardly been performing lately anyway.

Renault have always prefered being an engine supplier anyway so I don’t think they will will hesitate in shutting the (British) chassis side of the operation down when they can supply engines (French made) for a fraction of the expenditure and actually win races. The question is who will buy an f1 team with such a stain on its reputation? Flavio and Pat would have to go for a start, its a sad situation for the staff at Renault who may pay the price for a few senior members of staff’s moment of utter madness.

32

The outcome you suggest, Scott, is quite likely I suspect.

The tarnishing of the team should not be a major issue. Even if guilt is proven, so long as only Briatore and Symonds are implicated the rest of the outfit would be clean. With good people, re-branding under fresh management will quickly erase any weak residues. I like the idea of a Prodrive / David Richards buyout as speculated by someone previously on this site.

33

Mind you, we could also see (in an ironic twist) Tom Walkinshaw do the same… Arrows again, anyone? Or, crazier still, Max buys it and brings back March!

34

That’s not ironic, that’s terrifying!!

35

I dont see what all the fuss was about, so what, they manipulated the result of a race to suit themselves. Good on them for thinking out of the box. If Piquet was so much of a yes man he was happy to risk his own life then so be it. He crashed off the racing line and with such low speed that wheels were never going to come off and thus not risk other drivers / marshalls.

36

I don’t see F1 as entertainment. I perceive it as a continuum of contests whose results are valid until I am persuaded otherwise. That means that a GP winner or WDC has won something of value in spite of the risk of death. I enjoy learning the sacred and profane ways of the world from the travails of its varied high-achievers. If the account of their struggle is true then they become legends of human experience one can learn from and reflect on. Not so with a fiction that makes nonsense of the best efforts of honest competitors. To think that Senna drove himself past his own capabilities to stay ahead of a car with an illegal but undetected advantage makes me nauseous. Piquet’s “wheels were never going to come off”? How about a damper? That couldn’t have bounced onto a driver’s chest?

Maybe F1’s just not for you.

37

Perhaps we could have a future with 13 expendable second cars bringing out safety cars at strategic times pre-planned by their teams. The lack of full speed action could be sold as green; and ITV could buy back the rights and recover the cost through 70 minutes of adverts in every event.

38

I have absolutely no idea why you are reading and contributing to this otherwise intelligent blog.

39

Why not? It would be pretty dull if everyone shared the same opinion on here. I don’t believe what Renault did was any worse than Eduardo taking a dive in the penalty box.

40
Racing not politics

you don’t see what the fuss is about. Really?

I find that attitude abhorrent and believe it is people like you that are killing sport.

The only benefit of winning is when it is done fairly. Manipulating a race is not the same as winning. It is cheating. It is deplorable and those guilty of it should face the harshest of penalties irrespective of your risk assesment.

Dean Richards has been banned worldwide for 3 years for his part in the rugby blood scandal and those responsible at Renault should face a similar penalty

41

Would you rather have watched an absolute yawnfest or a quality race? Because without Renault’s tactics we would have been left with the former, but thanks to them we got the latter. The first dozen laps of the Inaugral Singapore GP were pathetically dull, and it was only the intervention of the safety car that turned it into a thriller, otherwise we would have been left with a Valencia-style borefest.

Banned for 3 years? Thats ridiculous. All Renault did was try and inject a bit of life into a tepid contest, good on them for looking out for the fans. Remember, F1 is a show at the end of the day, more about entertainment than sport.

42
Racing not Politics

I feel dreadfully sorry for you.

You have totally failed to grasp the concept of “sport” and apparently would rather win at all costs than be an honourable (sports)man and win on merit alone.

You’re not alone of course, greed is steadily eroding honour in most sports. You’re right about footballers diving but the fact that cheating exists in one sport does not make it acceptable in F1. There are still some shining examples of fair play – in snooker players generally own up to making a foul when the referee hasn’t seen it.

If you can not see the point in that then you have my pity.

43

Surely this is no more than an (admittedly extreme) extension of team orders?

I can understand the furore in so much as this is the first example this strategy being used bought to our attention but in truth we’ve seen this time and time again in F1.

Teams and drivers have always colluded to achieve results not ordinarily available to them.

While deliberately crashing a car is dangerous, is driving deliberately slow and baulking other competitors any less so? The results can still be catastrophic.

This is more a question of sporting ethics and misplaced loyalties.

If this is true Renault (and Piquet) should be censured for using team orders.

You can’t legislate against this kind of thing. It shouldn’t be condoned or tolerated, but it’s team orders. Nothing more, nothing less.

For every Piquet Jr out there, I’m sure there are many more who have kept quiet over the years… and with a clear conscience.

44

It is not as simple for NPJ as it seems. The FIA has not been consistent in meting out penalties, and the Piquets would not have been so monumentally inane to claim to be co-conspirators in this episode without already having secured some sort of impunity from the FIA. It will be very interesting to see how this unfolds.

45

Michael Shumacher must be kicking himself thinking why didn’t I think of that one.

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