Leaked transcripts put Alonso in the clear on Singapore crash plot
McLaren
Leaked transcripts put Alonso in the clear on Singapore crash plot
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Sep 2009   |  8:29 pm GMT  |  168 comments

It got lost in the wake of Renault’s announcement today, but according to further leaked material from the prosecution’s dossier into the events surrounding Nelson Piquet’s accident in Singapore last year, the FIA believes that Fernando Alonso knew nothing of the alleged conspiracy.

Alonso: FIA prosecutors satisfied he knew nothing of plot (Photo: Darren Heath

Alonso: FIA prosecutors satisfied he knew nothing of plot (Photo: Darren Heath

Alonso won the race thanks to a safety car triggered by Nelson Piquet’s accident, which he alleges was a conspiracy involving senior Renault management.

In summing up a lengthy document detailing the interview and investigations carried out by stewards at the recent Belgian Grand Prix, assisted by the FIA’s Herbie Blash, Lars Osterlind says,

“As regards Mr Alonso and the other engineers, the Stewards have found no evidence to suggest that they knew anything about the plans to cause a deliberate crash on lap 14. Renault’s strategy was aggressive and somewhat unusual but the Stewards do not conclude that individuals at Renault other than NPJ (Piquet), Mr Symonds and possibly Mr Briatore were aware of any crash plan. This position appears to be supported by the documentairy and radio communications evidence provided by Renault.”

Earlier in the document, details of the stewards’ meeting with Alonso are given.

“Mr Alonso was interviewed first. He stated that he knew nothing of any meetings in the lead-up to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix attended by Mr Briatore, Mr Symonds and NPJ and knew nothing of the alleged plan to cause a deliberate crash.”

Alonso also said that he left strategy decisions to his engineers and that running a short first stint from outside the top ten was merely an attempt to do something different from the cars around him, which is consistent with Pat Symonds’ attitude to race strategy as he’s articulated it to me in the past.

Interestingly, the Stewards’ seemed to come to the conclusion that Pat Symonds was the key to all of this and central to any notion of a plan to crash delberately.

They felt that the combination of his acceptance that a meeting took place at which a crash was discussed, together with his refusal to answer questions, “have led the Stewards to consider it reasonable to conclude that the allegations made by NPJ are in large part, true.”

However, interestingly, they concluded that it is not possible to determine whether Flavio Briatore knew about the plan. He flatly denied it.

Osterlind says, “The Stewards do not consider that they are in a position to draw any definitive conclusion regarding Mr Briatore’s knowledge of involvement.”

It’s all academic now; Both Briatore and Symonds left the Renault team today. On Monday the team will find out what sanction it faces. In my view had they fought this and been found guilty they would have been thrown out of F1.

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1

Nobody in the F1 world believes Fernando Trickonso knew nothing.

Some of us strongly continue to believe the idea of making Nelson crash was HIS idea.

But nobody can last with this cheat forever.

When the fat clown gets bored of being kicked of the F1 glamour, he will talk. This day Fernando will get his punishment.

2

James, I think your comment about the reaction of Alonso in the green room is the key point – either he’s an actor up there with Orson Welles and Marlon Brando, or he did indeed not know anything about it beforehand. His reaction to winning is just too spontaneous and genuine to be faked.

BTW It probably won’t happen but the BBC really need to replace Legard – know any good F1 commentators? 🙂

3

Does this mean that the Renault results from this season will be annulled?

If so does this mean that Rosberg will awarded the win? or will the rule where FIA with hold the right not to promote people despite of DW’s apply?

4

Still not sure why Alonso is going to Ferrari. I don’t think either Massa or Kimi will stand to play second fiddle to him, and we all know how he feels about drivers getting number one status in a team. Ferrari doesn’t seem right, their Schumacher days are over.

I have a feeling he’ll turn it into another McLaren fiasco.

5

For the sake of the viewing public (not that anyone in F1 cares about the public) Alonso should go back to McLaren! The Hamilton/Alonso pairing was easily the most entertaining since Prost/Senna, and made for great races and fantastic spectacle/intrigue/drama/you name it

6

I find it very hard to believe that Alonso, as team leader and the main beneficiary of the scandal, knew absolutely nothing of its conception. Flavio, Symonds and Piquet making decisions behind his back, Alonso not questioning what is, on the face of it, an odd strategy? Piquet not saying anything to Alonso after the event? I just don’t see Flavio keeping Alonso out of the loop and am surprised that Alonso won’t at least have to appear before the WMSC for a full explanation under cross examination.

He witheld his involvement in Spygate until he decided to use it as leverage remember.

The lack of any recorded conversations through the radio traffic is meaningless.

7

I see a lot of people questioning Alonso because he accepted the strategy that was put before him.

These peaople need to remember the position Renault were at that time of the year.

Piquet Jr. had recently been on the podium at Germany with a very unconventional strategy also. These was signature Pat Symonds.

I even remember that not long after that you (James) did a feature about game theory with Pat where he explains the second place at Germany 2008.

I think a lot of people on this site need to look in the archive and read that article, because it gives you some insight onto Pat Symonds mind when he strategizes for a race.

Alonso, knowing how brilliant Pat is just went along with the strategy because he had nothing to lose.

Remember that succes comes for people who think and do things differently, otherwise most of us would be filthy rich!

Am I right James?

8

Yeah, I’d say that “strategy” used for Piquet in Germany (ie come in just when the safety car was about to some out) sure inspired the “brilliant strategy” they used in Singapore.

9

Look, I’m not justifying what these guys did. I think it’s wrong and they should be severely punnished (especially Piquet Jr for not being man enough to stand up toe Flav and Pat, but he has inmunity so I guess he’s free as a bird on this one).

What I’m trying to do is put myself in Alonso’s position.

I’m starting 15th in a track where it’s impossible to overtake. My brakes aren’t perfect and there are no long straights to cool them off so I can’t do a one stopper. Everybody around me is probably going for a one stopper or a long first stint on a two stopper.

Not to long ago my teammate got a podium with a really unconventional strategy, similar to what I’m being offered by a guy who is really respected in the paddock for being a great strategist. Hey, I’ve got nothing to lose so let’s go for it.

It isn’t that strange if you stop and think about it for a moment and analyze what the situation is.

That Alonso probably figured out there was something fishy afterwards? Sure, but what could he do? He had no proof and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t keen on commiting professional suicide.

At least that’s how my train of thought would have been. (But that’s just me)

10

Just think these two fact through:

1) “I’m starting 15th in a track where it’s impossible to overtake.”

2) “Everybody around me is probably going for a one stopper or a long first stint on a two stopper”

So what happens if Alonso stops early? Well, he gets stuck behind all these people who are 1 stopping and long two stopping. So in effect stopping early is really the worst thing you can do.

In this case Alonso ended up in P20 close behind Fisichella, Sutil and Bourdais. Fisichella didn’t stop and he stayed in front of Alonso till lap 29.

Imagine being stuck behind a couple of backmarkers for 17 laps. How on earth would his race result have improved from that?

Alonso would hav been lucky to have made it back up to P15 again with that completely useless strategy.

Indeed only a safety car in a small window of a few laps could have saved him and “luckily” it did.

11

Could be

12

I disagree with the point about an Alonso biography not selling in the UK. He was voted best driver of 2008 by readers of The Times, so there appears to be a decent level respect for him.

These kind of debates on the internet always provoke strong, impassioned reactions from both sides. The same was true for Schumacher.

13

Well I sold plenty of biographies of him..

14

I see it is not only the terrestial TV channels that are allowing product placement.

15

Alonso: FIA prosecutors satisfied he knew nothing of plot > THANK YOU. Now, waiting for Ferrari to confirm Alonso. After the scandal is over, LET”S TALK RACING.

16

There is plenty of racing on here

17

In my opinion he knew about it, but as expected he is cleared, especially if there is no direct evidence against him. Remember Piquet said he knew, and he didn’t lie in anything else, so why would he in this? But of course, it’s nobody’s interest to go after Alonso and punish him. He is a big public magnet after all. So they will leave it at just this. But one has to be noted: there are always a lot of strange things happening around Alonso. See his e-mails with de la Rosa at McLaren too. Yet, he always somehow manages to emerge as “innocent” in everything. Hm……

18

Oh what a tangled web they’ve woven…

I would suggest that after his McLaren experience the last thing Alonso would have wanted was to be involved in another scandal.

Thus, my feelings are he knew nothing about it, intially.

I figure his intelligence would have alerted him to something, after the event, possibly in a post race debrief (although I don’t know the detail which such a meeting would go into) or further down the line, perhaps after the season had finished in conversations with friends away from F1.

These suspicions would have been his own and held in private (or with close confidantes) or perhaps if he spoke to Renault’s management his concerns were played down.

If he were to come out and say he’d had suspicions… then he would be quizzed as to why he didn’t speak up.

Maybe all of this will appear in James’s Alonso biography 😉 (I hope you’re working hard to get that particular gig Mr Allen!).

I wonder how he feels about it all now? Do we know who’s involved in the Singapore Press Conferences yet? I imagine he’s gearing himself up to fend off journalists from around the world with “no comment” (I wonder if this is why Kimi is so quiet? He just wants to race and will leave the “politics” to others).

Alonso’s reaction pre-podium, where he explicitly refers to the safety car, for me, indicates he was unaware of the plot. He’s too cagey and savvy (as a previous poster states) to give the game away, IF, he was “in on it”.

The main problem for Alonso, is that his McLaren experience has shown him in a bad light (or at least given him a perception of being ruthless) and thus, in this case, he may be tarred with the same brush as Flav, Pat and the Piquets.

19

I agree with Stevie’s analysis, and one of the posters earlier that Alonso don’t need to know beforehand if it was indeed a conspiracy among 3 ( or even 2 ). Alonso is a talented driver who knows how to seize opportunity when he sees one, regardless of whether the opportunity was natural or engineered.

I strongly believe he would at least suspected indeed the coincidence was too good to be true. I was there in Singapore last year. I remembered I did joke with my friend after the rece that we should have bet our money on Alonso and jested with the idea that Piquet could have staged the crash to help the other car. Circumstances may have prevented Alonso to either seek the truth or make revelation to the relevant parties. Possibly he just lacked motivation to find out the truth since he was the main beneficiary of the incident.

I can’t help relate this case to the spygate saga … Why didn’t Alonso report the email when McLaren was summoned to face WMSC the first time, when he already had the emails implicating McLaren at that time? If he is honest, he should have reported this to Ron Dennis earlier to prevent a disastrous second hearing!! Remember what was his motive when the emails came to light back in Hungary?

Sometimes the desire to win is overwhelming and compromise one’s conscience and judgment …..Schuey has it, so as Lewis and the list goes on.

20

Judging from many of the responses to this blog I think that particularly biography would be a hard sell in the UK!

21

Not to me it wouldn’t ! But it’s too early – there’s the Ferrari phase to go yet …

22

I would love to see that book… awesome.

23

I think you should consider ways to expand the site …. looks like you’re on to a winner here. The site is becoming a brand in terms of F1.

24

Watch this space? I visit the site many times each day and read the updates and comments 😉

I’m sure the site will go from strength to strength. A real good news F1 story. From commentator to internet phenomenon. One door closes, another opens 😉

Feel very happy for you. A real triumph over those people who moaned about you in your ITV days. Shows how foolish they were.

25

Thanks Finn. I have two new developments in the pipeline which will take the site on to the next level. Watch this space

26

Alonso does seem to divide opinion more than any other driver (well, perhaps excepting Hamilton) and for the majority it’s subjective opinion… and as you’re fully aware we love motor-racing in the UK. So, stop replying to me and get on it!!! lol

I found your comments (re: your own feelings about hawking around the globe and F1 being WWF on tarmac!) on the latest article touching… it seems that you are as miffed about this as the rest of us!?

27

Darn right.

28
Racing not politics

If you throw enough mud then some of it will surely stick.

Alonso should therefore be concerned that his reputation is tarnished from him sitting at the heart of two massive scandals in recent years.

Good job he’s quick…

29

Hi James, don’t you think it would be interesting to seek Dave Ryan’s opinion on all this? I think that would be interesting and you should give him a call.

Why not call Nigel Stepney too and Tom Walkinshaw ?

These guys must feel for Pat Symonds right now I guess.

30

Looking at Alonso after the race in the weighing area and in the press conference, he commented multiple times about how lucky he was with the safety car. If he was in on it he would have kept his mouth shut about his “luck”

The Schumi incident in Monaco was completely different. He made a mistake and was punished. Ferrari did not plan this before qualifying that he would crash on purpose, Michael made an error of judgement in trying to unfairly secure a grid slot. A few drivers have made these errors but knowingly planning to fix a race is in a whole different category.

31

I’m really bored of this whole saga.

And I’m really bored of the people who can’t stop having a go at Alonso. Tiresome.

Schumi only got shunted to the back of the grid for Monaco.

Did Prost and Senna ever get punished at all?

Just forget about this and write the rules so they don’t encourage stupid things like this to happen.

Time to move on.

32

Let’s not forget some fundamental logical reasons that support the thesis of Alonso knowing nothing about the plot:

– He is happy enough to try wackily agressive strategies, as his 2008/9 pole positions with a teaspoon of fuel prove. He also may have thought that the possibilities of a safety car were very high in Singapore’s brand new demanding circuit (and in fact we did get another safety car later in the race). The ultra-short first stint and the hopes of overtaking on the track also made sense considering the pace shown by his car during all the weekend. He may have started in the top 5 had his car not refused to move at the start of Q2.

– Does a twice world champion really need this at all?

– If indeed Briatore is the master mind of the whole thing, which I frankly believe, he is clever enough to know that Alonso simply DIDN’T EVEN NEED TO KNOW what was going on. Briatore counted on him pushing like hell after the accident and the safety car, and so he did. Ironically, Alonso’s talent and his team’s good form that weekend helped the conspiracy work perfectly. And Briatore knew they would without the need of even telling Alonso what was going on. Simple, really.

33

He knew something about it. He is one of those drivers who still has the mentality of winning at all costs. So he wouldn’t be against the team fixing a race. It’s my opinion.

He will be a key player in the next few years, fighting for the championship, against mclaren and hamilton. F1 needs a good fight with big names to put the sport back on track. So it is more convenient to say he knew nothing. And i buy it if they want me to. But please stop this nonesense, and stop the power slump. F1 seems like gp2, with big names.

34

I think this is far from over. No doubt Renault will go after the three concerned for damages, and rightly so.

35

Doesn’t surprise me a bit.

Keeping up the proper appearances is better for the economic aspect of the sport, hence Alonso officially knew nothing about the strategy that was designed to get him up there to P1.

In reality, well…Let’s put it this way:

Flava Flavio: “Alonso, we have a strategy for you”

Alonso: “What? Pit that early in street circuit where it’s impossible to overtake!”

Flavionho: “Yes, our engineers have counted the scenario”

Alonso: “Well, you know better! I’m just a wet eared rookie who doesn’t know anything about racing!”

But like I said earlier, it’s all about keeping up appearances.

Furthermore, this is an indication that Renault will most likely escape with an easy – perhaps moderate – penalty.

36

My personal view is that Alonso knew. This is the least unlikely analysis. There is very limited evidence against him, however, other than what one might infer from his position in the team. Perhaps if he got a good going over in the witness box he might give himself away. Perhaps not. But the position that the stewards have taken is that there is insufficient to justify putting together a case against Alonso.

What should be emphasised is that this is not a case of Alonso being exonerated on the evidence, simply a case where there has been deemed to be insufficient evidence against him to make it worthwhile trying to implicate him.

37

The other point which is worth emphasising is: if Alonso did know, would one expect there to be any evidence available to implicate him? Hardly. Not even Flavio is dumb enough to say as much on the radio during the race. Also Flavio is still Alonso’s manager – no reason for him to dump Alonso in it.

The one significant point in Alonso’s favour is that Nelsinho Piquet does not allege that Alonso knew and Nelson Piquet does not allege specific knowledge only knowledge imputed from the circumstances. So either Nelsinho still feels some loyalty/bonhomie towards Alonso (unlikely, given what his dad is saying) or, if Alonso knew, Nelsinho never knew that Alonso knew.

38

Exactly what I was thinking. I think that from FB’s comments on the radio transcription and the fact he was prepared to go to court suggests that he may not have known

39

Did Alonso know what was going on. Well I think the chances are he did, and that goes for some race engineers as well. I’m not saying Alonso was involved in the conspiracy before the race but he must have thought that something was a bit odd; Alonso is an intelligent person. I certainly don’t believe that the first time he knew anything about it was when the news first broke a few weeks ago. But that’s my opinion. The stewards say they have no evidence to prove he was involved and that’s the point.

40

“Alonso also said that he left strategy decisions to his engineer”

I simply do not believe this statement.

41

Seems to me to be a bit of a witch hunt to get Flav out – and it worked !!

i find it very had to swallow that Alonso wouldnt have questioned such a strange strategy.

first he was involved with sending the silver cars down the tubes, now this.

I wonder what he’ll do to the red cars in 2010 / 11.

42

It seems so many people are jumping to conclusions about Alonso being involved, mainly due to simmering resentment after the whole spy-gate affair.

If Alonso was in on it then he has to be the greatest actor alive. Personally I don’t believe it. Of course he wants to win, but not at all costs. Back in 2006 his reaction to the whole schumacher and blocking massa incident said it all, Alonso is in it for the sport.

The real villains of the piece for me are the Piquets. They come forward now, only because Piquet got sacked, not because it was the right thing to do. I hope we never see them in F1 again.

Finally James, I thought when the BBC didn’t take you we wouldn’t be hearing too much from you anymore. But you’ve stayed ahead of the game, this is now my number 1 website I visit to get f1 news. Great blog, any chance of releasing post-race podcasts-interviews etc. I’d pay a subscription to download a 30min post race podcast.

43

I believe Alonso didn’t have a clue about it.

However the question is what would he have done if he had known! He obviously has a high moral conscience (ahem, especially if he is getting beaten by his team mate).

James, please ask him this question next time you see him.

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