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Renault cheating scandal – what happens next?
Renault cheating scandal – what happens next?
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Sep 2009   |  10:59 am GMT  |  244 comments

The dust has not settled on yesterday’s announcement that Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds have left the Renault F1 team. In fact that was merely a turn of the wheel, albeit an important one. There is a lot more still to happen.

Piquet, who started it all (Photo Darren Heath)

Piquet, who started it all (Photo Darren Heath)

Inevitably there is a lot of speculation about whether the pair quit or were fired. Ross Brawn said yesterday, “Flavio told me he had done this to save the team. He’s done the right thing.”

Clearly if they did act themselves it was as a result of a fait accompli from Renault. It amounts to the same thing really. What will have happened here is that Renault, together with its lawyers, will have conducted their own internal investigation into the matter and looked at the information the FIA has amassed in its prosecution case.

At the conclusion of that they will have decided that the best way forward was to tell the FIA that the company would not contest the charges next Monday and made Briatore and Symonds leave the team.

By leaving, rather than clinging on as Ron Dennis did in 2007, the hope is that the team will not be destroyed either by a permanent ban from the sport or by a huge fine.

The signs are that Renault wants to carry on in F1, which is encouraging, and part of their submission on Monday would likely be an indication of commitment to the sport. It’s a tough road ahead, though. They have no title sponsor for next year, as yet, although I understand that Total is set to increase its involvement and the signs are that they are going to lose their champion driver to Ferrari.

Renault learned from the McLaren Spygate saga in 2007 that the World Council doesn’t like being lied to. If you recall, the first time McLaren appeared at the WMSC they got off. It was only when the WMSC learned that it had been lied to that it threw the book at them second time around.

At the end of 2007 Renault had its own spy scandal, regarding technical data from McLaren which had gone with an employee to Renault. Renault played a straight hand on that and the WMSC came to the same conclusion as it had with McLaren first time around.

So now, Renault knows how to present itself on this latest scandal. It is acting responsibly, it has shown that it’s done a thorough enquiry, put its house in order as a result and will seek to demonstrate on Monday that it is committed to the sport, which has been open to question lately, and throw itself on the mercy of the WMSC. I don’t know who will represent them on Monday. Bernard Rey, the president of Renault Sport will probably lead the representation, with possibly Bob Bell the team’s technical director.

As to what punishment Renault receives, this will be very tough for the WMSC and due to the huge media glare worldwide the right decision is critical. On the one hand they will want to recognise the efforts Renault has made to put its house in order, but on the other hand they have to be seen to deal firmly with what is clearly one of the worst pieces of cheating in sporting history, made worse by the fact that it endangered lives.

It is up to the WMSC to show the world that F1 is not a sham, that the public can have confidence that what they are seeing is real. That is the greatest threat in all of this and it is a threat not just to the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone, but to every team and every company involved in it.

Even for people like me it’s important. Why would I want to leave my family every two weeks and hawk around the world, putting loads of passion and effort into it, if what I was covering was all smoke and mirrors, a sort of high speed WWE Wrestling?

Another thing I fancy might come out of this episode is a licencing scheme for key team members. This was discussed in 2007 and may well come up again on Monday.

Drivers have to have a superlicence to race, so why not have F1 licences for team principals and senior engineers, people in positions of responsibility. If you transgress you lose your licence. It also has a ‘fit and proper person’ side to it in the first instance.

As to the complaint of blackmail against the Piquets, which was filed with French police and announced by Briatore on Friday, it was perhaps significant that Bernard Rey was not at Flavio’s side when he announced it, so one wonders how much of the whole thing was Flavio and how much was done in Renault’s name.

It’s a serious charge, though. Apparently, if convicted, the perpetrator faces 7 years in prison.

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It is not uncommon for a team to have their drivers on two different strategies. And it is not uncommon for a team to gamble on there being a safety car. Especially at certain circuits like Canada which has had a SC for the last few races. We don’t know what FA knows, or more importantly knew at the time. If Whiting and the FIA knew something they couldn’t prove last December it is not a great stretch that FA also found out some time afterward. Was he complicit on the plot is the question. Even NP Sr. if back pedaling about what FA knew at the time of the race. And he says only that FA should have know before he went out with 15 laps of fuel. But like I said, FA or any of his engineers could have all been told they were gambling on a SC which is a reasonable approach when starting way back on the grid and racing on a street circuit that has little overtaking like Monaco or Valencia. And it remains to be proven that anyone but FB, NP and PS knew about the plan to crash. And even NP Jr. who would love to tank FA’s career isn’t saying that FA knew at the time.

And the sad part is that all this wouldn’t have happened if NP Jr. was a faster driver getting more points for the team and scoring regularly. If that was the case he would have never agreed to such a plan no matter who brought it up. And isn’t it sad that his 2009 contract had a clause that he could be booted if he didn’t score 40% as many points as FA. Imagine negotiating that… His agent and father sitting down and bargaining for a figure of 25% and Renault wanting 50-60% in the contract before they agreed upon 40%. I would be ashamed to have such a paltry figure in my contract. No matter what you may think of LH’s 2007 season, he would never accept scoring 40% as many points as his teammate no matter if he had just won two WDCs on the trot. And I dare say Nico would never have such a clause in his contract either. For Sr. to put that in the contract must only be interpreted as a giant vote of no-confidence in his son. How can NP Jr. ever have a shred of self respect with this kind of thing negotiated? I would say that getting such a low regard from your own father is more psychologically debilitating than any amount of abuse that Flav could ever pour on him.

Whether Flav and PS thought up the plan because it became clear to then that all the help to the team that they could ever expect from NP was a few crumbs and some seriously bent cars, or whether NP thought it up because it was something he could offer the team…. well it is all a pretty sad commentary on NP Jr’s driving and his ability to contribute to the team. All this is apart from the ethics. Even if FB, PS and NP Jr all had ZERO ethics, if NP Jr was faster such a plan would not have been considered because NP Jr would be solely focussed on getting his own points if in fact he was fast enough to achieve them. Since he was not fast enough either FB and PS were able to convince him that he could “contribute” to the team by crashing or NP Jr. suggested it because he knew getting points on merit was beyond his ability.


Rob, have a look at post 75. James Bennett has looked up the relevant regulations and, to summarise, once November 30th has passed, it’s too late to do anything regarding new evidence/information. (At least, I think that’s what it means.

“The period during which an appeal in review may be brought expires on 30 November of the current year.”

Mosley has confirmed that there can be no question of recalcul;ating the 2008 championships, the interview on BBC last weekend if I remember correctly. Presumably this is based around the regulation that James has quoted.

Which is entirely unsatisfactory, how can Alonso have won a race that his team rigged?

If you award the race to Rosberg that’s unsatisfactory because of the amount of time he was able to build up where Charlie Whiting/the stewards were so slow to give him a pitlane drive-through for pitting when the pitlane was closed.

Some have suggested to make the race null and void. So you take away six points from Hamilton, who had no part in this, but no points away from Massa despite Ferrari making a hash of his pitstop.

Declare the race over just before Piquet’s crash, award half points. I haven’t done the sums but I suspect that would give the champioship to Massa. but hang on, didn’t Ferrari cock up his pitstop, and that cannot be directly attributed to the antics of Piquet, most drivers were due to make their pitstops anyway.

Whichever way you turn it’s unsatisfactory, there’s a counter-argument, and a good one.

That’s how serious the whole thing is. And we haven’t touched on risk to marshals or other drivers.


Sorry, this should have been appended to #93, Rob (MSC fan).


Seriously, who would bully his driver 15 minutes before the start of a race!? Piquet Jr must have been under immense pressure. At Singapore he clearly lost it and was prepared to do anything what his wicked boss would bully to him …

Briatore is clearly lacking people skills and should be banned from his F1 drivers management duties alltogether!


What is amazing to me is that nobody talks about what is going to happen with the results of that race? Is Rosberg gonna get his first win? What about Felipe Massa who was supreme that weekend and was heading for a dominant win, instead he got no points and Lewis got 6. I think Massa would have been world champion if that racwe wasnt fabricated, I cant see it happening but this is gonna be very interesting how it unfolds


I think Max has already said that they won’t be changing the results. Prize money is another matter though.


But because of them renault idiots Massa didnt clinch his title which he should have last year (Hamilton should have been crowned year before in my opinion)

Very sad…


No Rob, Massa finished 13th in Singapore because Ferrari messed up his pit stop with their traffic lights and he towed the fuel rig down the pit lane, then he got a drive through penalty. None of that was caused by Renault.

Furthermore, Massa retired in Australia, spun off in Malaysia, finished 13th in Britain, had engine failure in Hungary and finished 7th in Japan. These five poor results plus Singapore are why Massa lost last year.

As for Hamilton in 2007, he and Mclaren gave away a 17 point lead in the last two races.


I do hope Monday will put an end to this. And I hope Piquet Snr will then shut his cake-hole instead of trying to drag the names of everyone he’s ever spoken to through the dirt. What a meat hoop. Glad I don’t know the guy, have you met him, James?

It’s painful to watch but hopefully winning-at-all-costs will become a very embarrassing and unfashionable attitude in F1 after all this and really become something of the past, like Freddie Starr or gas powered fridges, finger crossed.


What? The FIA took no action last year?

At a time when they could have changed the result of the race (and even the WDC)?????????????????


The result of the WDC would never have been changed, how exactly would it have been changed? There’s no way that the FIA could have predicted the result as there was another 40 laps after the safety car, anyway i think they already tried to change the result of the WDC at SPA and failed.


I am saddened that Piquet Jr is getting so much flack…. did he do wrong? clearly yes, but..

1. His father reported the matter to the FIA at the Brazilian Grand prix LAST year… they did nothing.. for such a serious matter they could have done all the checks they have done now then.

2. His team manager was his manager… very difficult to say no I am not going to crash.. because my manager is going to get me a drive elsewhere

3. He is young and as patrick Head has stated young drivers are easily led.

4. Nobody seems to want to damm Prost, Senna, Schumacher for constantly driving their cars at others which equally was to fix a race and risked the same lives of drivers and marshalls.

It should be applauded that he had considerable courage to come forwards albeit late. The risks in comming forward were and clearly are still massive.

Stop loading him up as the major bad player


Yeah well, calling Mansell’s wife a dog and Ayrton Senna ‘gay’ to the media are also other matters.

Some believe he’s a fairly shady character anyway. We’ll hopefully find out Renault’s side of the story none-the-less and I wouldn’t be surprised if Piquet Snr blackmailed Flavio.


Personally I couldn’t careless if he tried to Blackmail him. How can you consider it blackmail to uncover something that the FIA new about in Brazil ( you can only blackmail someone with something that isn’t widely known),. How can you call something Blackmail if all you are do is reveal facts about something illegal (or at least against the rules) it should be callled by what it is ‘whistleblowing’ Yes… if he was after something it was all about the shabby treatment Renault had given him. I agree he is not great driver, but driving against Alonso, getting inferior equipment does not help.. ask Heike.


It’s blackmail if he threatened Flav that he would reveal the incident if Flav didn’t keep Nelsinho in the Renault seat. It’s a further subversion to try to keep the authorities in the dark. Two wrongs, y’know?


He called her ‘ugly’


You need courage when you have something to lose as a consequence of your actions. It would have been courageous if NPjr had directly gone to the FIA when such a crash-plan was suggested to him.


True, but his father did go to the FIA after Brazil, and the FIA ignored him… how cowardly were they??? Sill to take on the full might of Flavio and Renault even now takes courage…


My impression at the time was that Senna passed other drivers easily because they knew if they didn’t pull over he would ruthlessly take them out. Suzuka 1989 and 1990 illustrates what would be the treatment they would get if they didn’t scuttle out of the way like a frightened rabbit. The videos of Prost being taken out in those two races because he resisted kind of throws a different light on the Singapore race fix. I can’t help wondering if Suzuka wasn’t just serious as Singapore, in a way. Sacrilege, of course.


Or punch them out in the motorhome afterwards, as he did to Eddie Irvine, Martin! Which I can’t recall any sanction being applied to….


It is well documented that Senna took Prost out on purpose. Tuly a race fix. Truly dangerous, but I have to say, because of his ‘high standing’ it is never seen as the same thing by many including journalists. It was clearly just as dangerous if not more. Nobody is saying bad things about them. In each of their cases, they were not even struggling to keep a drive. It seems to be Heroic if your Senna et al, or cowardly if your Piquet.


Well, who is the major bad player than? He can’t be any less responsible than Flav and Pat, if not even more than them.


The people at the top are definitely most responsible. Even if you take Pat’s view (which I don’t) and Piquet suggested it. To not correct him on the spot or even sack him on the spot and report him, leads younger drivers to be misled about what might be acceptable or common place behind the scenes of F1 …. I am not exusing him, but I can see it happening… Just look at Hamilton… who would have said he would have lied…. a world champion no less. Never mind the earlier 3 world champions mentioned


Apparently Mosley, Ecclestone and Charlie Withing knew everything since 10 months ago.

For those that can read in italian, here is a link to “Corriere della Sera” article that reveal Mr Piquet senior spilling the beans already 10 months ago to Whithing and Ecllestone.


Hi James,

If Alonso knew nothing about this, would he not be incredibly angry about this. Why has he not made any significant comment yet? Surely he should be taking legal action against Renault or his departed team principals? As surely his reputation will be damaged merely by association.


James, would it be inappropriate for you to run another competition – this time guess the lap of the crash……


Here’s a question from a neutral standpoint – how come McLaren-Mercedes and Williams-Renault weren’t severely punished for fixing the race result in Jerez 1997?

After all, radio recordings were quite clear. And then there is a matter of David and Mika just a few months after in Australian GP in 1998.

Those two were clear cases of race fixing, just like Ferrari-ordered Michael-Rubens in Austria in 2002 and later in USA GP the same year [with roles reversed].

Thus, the sport has a history of race fixing, since four proven fixes prior to Renault’s Singaporean charade cannot be considered an isolated incident.

Just my 2 cents.


These comparisons to WWE wrestling are way over the top IMO. A competitor using illegal means to win is a far cry from an orchestrated performance like those in professional wrestling. If we were talking about multiple teams colluding to share out wins then the comparison would have some merit, but that’s not the case.

The term “race fixing” has been used a lot in connection with this but I don’t think it’s really appropriate. What Renault did was straightforward cheating. Certainly it is a particularly severe and spectacular case of cheating, but fundamentally no different to blood capsules in rugby, lifting the seam in cricket or drug-taking in athletics.


well actually it’s different than blood capsules, drugs and other stuff you mentioned. This happened for real. The way I see it, it wasn’t in the spirit of fair play, but they didn’t exactly cheat either.


That’s an interesting perspective. You might also draw the parallel with more conventional team orders, a somewhat similar situation, does that amount to cheating? I would say if there is an element of deception then it does amount to cheating. (Of course since all team orders must be surreptitious now, that would make them all cheating.)

Re the blood capsule affair, perhaps a better comparison would be with the actions of the doctor who is alleged to have administered a cut to the player’s face, so that any subsequent investigation would find a real injury.


I suspect that Renault and the FIA have already cut a deal. Renault wants no more bad publicity. The FIA and FOM need Renault to stay in F1. (so does Williams and possibly Red Bull). It is clear that the FIA and FOM are conspiring to preserve the market value of Alonso by not pursuing his possible involvement with any great zeal. Is there a Ferrari angle here too?

(I can’t see Ferrari paying $41M to get rid of Kimi but… the 2010 Alonso rumors are strong. Why wouldn’t Ferrari commit publicly to its 2010 driver line up at Monza? Could Renault be forced to “trade FA for Kimi in return?)

Considering FOM’s interests and influence, I see the deal that was cut between Renault and the FIA to include a certain amount of silence and sweeping things under the rug. In return Renault will agree to remain in F1 for a few more years. The FIA will announce that it is unfair to punish Renault beyond stripping them of the ill gotten points. FOM will have to recalculate their 2008 Constructors money distribution in fairness to the other teams and Renault will have to surrender the amount back to FOM for redistribution. The FIA will also have to impose some sort of a penalty such as mandatory “public service” acts vis-a-vis some FIA “Safety Initiative” promotion (which will also benefit Renault’s image). The FIA will also pronounce that they are satisfied with the purging of guilty parties and that it is unfair for all the little people and hard working engineers to suffer because of the actions of a few. Also the fact of Renault being on probation for the Renault/Mac mini-spygate saga will similarly be treated as satisfied with the purging. Times have changed, F1 cannot lose another engine maker. Renault know this is their bargaining chip and will not pay anything near $100M. Max has got his pound of flesh with Flav’s head on a platter so that mollifies his vindictive rage considerably. It will all be swept under the rug and a big happy face will be placed over everything.

The party line will be… “All is well. Justice has been served. Nothing to look at here. Let’s move along now.”


now you have second guessed the solution they can’t possibly use it any more on monday – can they?…….

Kimi to Renault – I really hope not – if he goes anywhere then back to Mclaren please


Is it possible that Ferrari were hoping that Renault would be banned for 2010 so their drivers, or at least one of them, will be up for grabs? And one would assume that a penalty for Briatore might be banning him from any management and control of, or financial interest in, drivers holding a super licence?

Where would that leave negotiations?

It would appear that Alonso’s move to Ferrari, whilst not certain, is now much more likely and probably sooner.


“FIA-certified” integrity licenses? Puh-leese! This is the faux government that cracked a big whip over McLaren and others in the past but chose not to sanction their own president, despite his obviously “bringing the sport into disrepute” by their own terms, because he is usefully effective. That is, they exercised their control selectively, arbitrarily and pragmatically. They’ve no claim to moral high ground, or to any further control over who shares their fiefdom. Isn’t F1 literally feudal enough already?


“Renault learned from the McLaren Spygate saga”

Obviously not the only thing they learned from McLaren. Briatore and Symonds’ departures are an almost exact copy of the Dennis-Ryan manoeuvre.

Paige Michael-Shetley


Speed TV in America is reporting that Dave Richards will replace Briatore at Renault, and that he was furthermore spotted in Enstone this week. What have you heard about this?



I’ve heard Todt junior is in the frame for the job but can’t remember where I read it.


USF1 will be run by Peter Windsor so what about James Allen running the Renault F1 team? I guess many of us here would support him 🙂

Even it Todt junior would potentially be a good choice, with his dad likely to replace Mosley at the FIA that would create another significant conflict of interest.

Please do not bring back Craig Pollock!


His name always comes up at times like this. He did the Benetton job because the Benetton family asked him to. But left when they went with Renault rather than his choice, Ford. DR has denied any contact with Renault thus far.


The more I read about this, the more I feel that the real bad guy in this whole thing was Piquet Jr himself.

Crid [CridComment @ gmail]

Finn’s comment of September 17th, 2009 @ 11:48 am is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. This is not cynicism.

It’s amazing to how many people think F1 motorsport is (or should be) some pinnacle of shimmering decency just because it means so much to us. It’s not. It’s a business, one built (or almost fully co-opted by one Bernie Ecclestone, who’s since sold it to a corporation with a lot of debt. F1 is built out of business contracts… Not sportsmanship, not honor among heroic men, not even a love of motoring.

Again, not cynicism: Business. Nobody’s asking you to think The fix is in! every time you see a conflict… That would be juvenile as well. The point is that you shouldn’t presume to find the kind of cleanliness you want in medicine or law or education or religion or food preparation.

It’s a spectacle. It’s a great one. Bernie was right today when he said this is not a particularly dirty time… And he oughta know.


Some serious body language going on between Flav and Nelson. Just check at the end.

Plus, that spin on the parade lap looks almost exactly like the one in the race.

But as I said, more interesting is the part at the end where Renault team is celebrating. Nelson looks pretty unhappy.


Looking at 43″ of the video you linked, the look of Piquet junior to Briatore is very telling.

Junior seems quite pissed looking at Briatore celebrating and he is somewhat expecting Briatore reaction to him. The reaction came with Briatore shaking his hand.

To me that gesture looks like thanking Piquet. If he was to consolate Piquet for being out of the race while everybody is celebrating Alonso victory, he would have given a pat on the shoulder.


I watched this yesterday on the highlights DVD from last year and I would say (with hindsight admittedly) that Nelson does look sheepish as he shakes Flav’s hand. Also Pat’s comments after the race bring another factor to the motive to do such a thing. I had forgotten that it had been nearly 2 years (23 months he quotes) since they’d won and with constant rumours of Renault looking for a way out shows the pressure he may have been under. No excuse, I know, but silly things have been done by perfectly trustworthy individuals under huge corporate pressure to succeed. Pat in that sequence looks like a man whose had a lot of pressure from above.


Renault’s plea of no contest is not an admission of a conspiracy. Flav and Pat were not charged with any specific offence. It was Renault who were summoned to appear.

Renault have accepted a 151c offence: bringing the sport into disrepute. They have, it would appear, vicarious liability for the actions of their staff. Piquet, in issuing a statement that he had crashed deliberately, with the strong corroborative evidence from the telemetry, left them little room for manoeuvre. It would have been no use for them to suggest that there was no evidence of a conspiracy when that was not what they were charged with.

Whether or not there was a conspiracy is, for them, immaterial. If Piquet deliberately crashed, then a case for a 151c is about as strong as you can get.

If you cast your mind back to the days of Benetton and the Verstappen holocaust at the German race you will remember a similar guilty plea there. What this meant was that no evidence was heard. Indeed, there were no ‘prosecution’ witnesses at all. So we never knew just how many people were aware of the missing filter. All that was to be decided was the penalty. It was difficult to fathom what they had actually been found guilty of.

No one has confessed to a conspiracy. The resignations of Flav and Pat prove nothing. Renault, whom one assumes will say they knew nothing of any conspiracy and were not party to any decision for one of their cars to crash, cannot say whether there was a conspiracy or not. And neither will Pat or Flav because the no contest takes their platform away. And they must be very bitter about that. Possibly.

So what is left for Renault? Given how much info has been released to the public a complete cop-out, as in the Benetton fire, is unlikely to be an option. There’s little chance of the press supporting the suggestion that it was all down to a lowly mechanic on work experience again, so something must be done.

I would be surprised to see a Renault on the grid for the balance of this season. Some level of fine is probable and an ASBO looks likely. Beyond that it is difficult to say.

Renault, it seems, is pleading guilty to the misconduct of one of their staff. Their mitigation might be that the only guilt they have is that of lack of supervision and that an exclusion from 2010 would be rather extreme.

One wonders if Flav might pursue the matter further. He would not want to be excluded from his position with QPR and on Monday evening he will be in a position where nothing has been proven against him. He could well consider chasing Piquet through the courts but he might wonder what else might come to the surface. That’s on the questionable premise there was indeed a conspiracy. He might think it was a risk too far.

Hopefully this will be compressed in the archive and forgotten about once the season ends. Apart from those of us who have had what little illusion was left to us shattered.

I’m grateful to Renault for what they’ve done for the sport. It was they who ran with the turbochargers first. If it wasn’t for them we’d not have had the BT54. We would not have had 1500bhp qually engines. We would not have had those tremendous cars. We would not have had Silverstone 1987. There is no evidence, and no suggestion – and we haven’t been short of suggestion – that Renault corporate were aware of any conspiracy so a harsh penalty would not seem fair to me, nor appropriate. Fair enough, they can’t design a decent looking car but that’s hardly a reason to kick them out of the sport.

I feel for Pat though. I still think my belief that he is a decent bloke is right. For the others, Piquet and Flav, well perhaps it’s best not to say.


I find this situation, if true and it looks like it is, far worse than anything McLaren were charged with in 2007. Given a chance, stealing secrets from another team is not new in any form of motor sport. I still contest to this day the punishment that was handed down on McLaren was over the top and a result of other issues with the personalities involved.

Renault F1 has breached the sporting code and endangered lives in the process. I find it incredible that NPJ, Pat Symonds and the Flav were the ONLY people involved in the decision and that this was never discovered after the fact. No other team members listen to the radio transmissions, yeah sure!

Fitting punishment would be a life time ban of participation directly or indirectly in any FIA sanctioned formula for both Symonds and Briatore. Renault F1 banned from any further participation in the 2009 season, loss of all points and funds from their constructors points and a $100 million dollar fine.

If they get anything less then shame on the FIA.


I don’t know if anybody has already mentioned this on here but Article 179B of the International Sporting Code states that “If, in events forming part of a FIA Championship, a new element is discovered, whether or not the stewards of the meeting have already given a ruling, these stewards of the meeting or, failing this, those designated by the FIA, must meet on a date agreed amongst themselves, summoning the party or parties concerned to hear any relevant explanations and to judge in the light of the facts and elements brought before them.

The right of appeal against this new decision is confined to the party or parties concerned in accordance with the final paragraph of Article 180 and the following Articles of this Code.

Should the first decision already have been the subject of an appeal before the National Court of Appeal or before the International Court of Appeal, or successively before both of these courts, the case shall be lawfully submitted to them for the possible revision of their previous decision.

The period during which an appeal in review may be brought expires on 30 November of the current year.”

Therefore any punishment the WMSC decide can only apply to the 2009 Championship.


Although the prizes, titles and records of previous years may be out of justice’s reach they cannot escape the asterisk. Should new “elements” be accepted by the governing body as fact the FIA’s historical record could and should direct the reader to a full accounting of the unpunished irregularity. Thus Alonso gets to keep the race that was stolen but not revel in it. Symonds’ tantilizing testimony is shown to reveal a pathetic attempt to remain a gentleman while all but shouting his criminality. Briatore denies all and though no evidence against him is reported his masters tellingly accept Piquet’s version over his, no matter the consequences. If the asterisk beside Singapore 08 were to point posterity to complete understanding of these events it would be able to put us in the tortured mind of young Nelson Piquet Junior on the grid that night. And put our character to the same test.


So the obvious punishment is a fine to include whatever constructors money they have won this year (similar to McLaren)?


I do not beleive we will ever know what really went on in Singapore but as someone has already pointed out, there is a certain element of smoke and mirrors in all competitive sport. One thing I personally feel is that the conduct of the Piquets has been less than ideal and that barring having his oofy father buying him a team, Jr is done in competitive motorsport. Correct me if I am wrong but the impression I have is that Flavio has always been regarded as not the fairest fighter on the f1 grid and most will not be too upset to see him go. That said it looks like Mr Mosely will ride off into the sunset having successfully done the business on the his main foes with some unfortunate collateral damage like Mr Symonds abd Mr Coulaghan thrown in. Formula 1 journalists like Mr Allen have my deepest sympathy – this year has seem them go from sports correspondents to politcal hacks. One look at this blog an you would think you were looking at a political rag.


Look a little deeper, you will find plenty of material about racing. This space is about all aspects of F1; sport, glory, defeat, business, politics. F1 is not one dimensional and neither should my blog be.


The depth of F1 is what makes the sport so compelling!


Agree 100% Hutch


One of the beauties of F1 is the politics that goes around, that mystic of unreacheable, the fight between some of the most powerfull people in the car and motorsport industry, etc, etc.

Even if this blog looks to you a political hack, i can tell you as an avid F1 fan, that JA is one of the best commentators of F1 i have seen and his writing is very good, with no B.S. and very analitical.

I can bet many people read an F1 news on a site and them comes here to read the analysis.



Terribly sorry if you thought I was criticizing the blog. It is an excellent blog and has replaced the formula1 website and even the bbc site as my primary source for f1 (I live in th United States so I am afraid the interweb is my only link back to f1). I was just pointing out how it is a sign of the times. I hope things get quieter on the circus side of f1 so we can finally concentrate on things like the championship battle, or the driver moves or the new teams coming in next year. Do you think Mr Mosely’s departure will see things get back to normal?


As far as the blackmailing charge goes I think it will be interesting. As you said in response to another poster here it is all about the attempt to extort something from Flav in exchange for continued silence over the incident. However, it leaves me with this thought.

If Flavio knew that, by not bowing to the blackmail pressure, the secret would be exposed and his career would be screwed anyway…why did he therefore not just press charges when he was initially being blackmailed? The outcome either way would have been the same as he was in a lose-lose situation.

It strikes me that, unless he was really convinced that the Piquets were bluffing and/or that he could continue to bully them into silence. He should’ve known that it’d all come out so surely better to be the one in control and do it admirably than to lie, deny, try and sully the name of Piquet Jr by making insinuations about his sexuality (pretty low imo as that has nothing to do with either his ability as a driver or with anything related to race fixing)only to be proven that he DID have something to do with it and that the Piquets were telling the truth.

So with that in mind, the fact that he could’ve reported the blackmail sooner and come clean, surely it means that their is a chance legal people will look at all the circumstantial evidence and just say he has less if no chance of getting charges on them held up because of it.


PS will be irreplacable

Somehow this feels like a messy “fix” engineered by Max. I doubt Flav is the sort of chap to go quietly and not try to take Max with him. There’s more to come as James says. that’s certain.

One Q James. How likely is the return of Prost to run the team and who might be driving for him?


In France they are saying he’s number one choice to restore some credibility.


Here is the real reason all of this happened 🙂 Nelson Piquet Sr felt so guilty of having robed Alain Prost and Renault of a world title in 1983 by using illegal fuel that he engineered a way to bring back Prost at the helm of the Renault F1 team! Very smart don’t you think !!! Was a nice guy senior is 🙂

I read today he wants to extricate Jr from his management contract with Flav. Why bother spending any lawyer money on this? Jr will never ever race in any motor racing serie anyway so Flav will no longer get his cut . Jr might

as well apply for a job at “Dancing with the stars” or “Big Brother” now. That’s all there is left for him to do.

I am sure he would know how to spin on a dance floor.


he didnt do much of a job last time – perhaps he should drive instead


He’s not that much older than Barrichello after all…


Thursday 17 sept evening

we see now that Flav is claiming that he quit to save the team. Sorry I don’t believe a word of it.

If he did quit and was not fired, then it was to escape humiliation by the FIA on Monday.


Are Renault still under some kind of probationary period since spygate? Will this affect there punishment? Caught cheating twice in a couple of years they cant get off lightly this time can they?

With regard to the licence how much will they have to pay to get them?


I work on Wall St, and licences are a key part of the regulatory environment. I have to take exams every two years to continue be a ‘registered’ person.

There are different licences for different levels and functions within the industry, and not all people require a licence.

Prior to my career in Capital Markets, I worked in the product development unit of one of the world’s premier supercar manufacturers, and had to sign a document akin to the Official Secrets Act. I imagine the F1 teams do the same. However, this only discourages rogue employees, rather than promoting a culture of fair sporting competion, and the value of the F1 brand.

Rather than have just Team Principals be licensed, this could be implemented at various levels throughout teams, requiring licensing for e.g. Level 1 – Team Principals; Level 2 – Directors; Level 3 – Senior Engineers and Mechanics…

I’m not a believer in over-regulation, nor do I want to discourage the risk-taking that makes F1 great, for fear of loss of livelihood in the event of unintented consequences.

However, if there is one thing that we can take from Briatore and Symonds, Stepney and Coughlin, and the unnamed employee that moved from McLaren to Renault, it is that a person at any level within an team could drag the F1 name through the mud.

Only by changing the culture can the FIA, FOTA, FOM and/or the WMSC begin to rebuild the credibility of the sport, whose brand has been tarnished in the past two years. Holding all involved to common principals, may be a good start.

Opposite Lock (Ken)

And how do you license the regulators? How do you measure their competency? The problem at this point in time is people like Max will use the licenses to stifle opposition by team principles, etc. In the case of Wall Street, it did nothing to prevent hundreds of people from churning, defrauding, bilking, putting other people’s money at risk, etc. Even after they destroyed companies and investors their licenses have remained intact. All you can license for is competency. How a person uses that competency is up to the individual. The thought is that the FIA can use the license as a way to punish people that run afoul of the regulations. It will also be used a tool to control dissent.


Thanks for that, Nika


Meanwhile Max sits in his ivory tower,hardly able to contain his delight,now that he has managed to see the back of Ron Dennis and Flavio,before he steps down and makes way for Jean Todt.Could he also now be seeing justice for the N.O.T.World setup,as he claims to know who it was within the sport that set him up.Although there is no suggestion of any links to either person or story in any way.

( Allegedly )


Following on my comments above that Renault, the parent company, be excluded from F1 in future, but the racing team be sold, something further occurred to me in that regard.

Perhaps to go some way to punishing Renault, their racing team could be sold to a suitably vetted bidder prepared to commit to Formula One on a long term basis, possibly someone like Dave Richards, with the all proceeds of the sale to go to the governing body, in lieu of a fine.

I am absolutely, absolutely convinced that Renault should be excluded in perpetuity. The very stigma of such a permanent exclusion on the reputation of a car manufacturer is perhaps the only effective way that boards of directors can be convinced in future that cheating in F1, despite the allure of the attendant rich rewards, is not worth the candle.

Such a punishment would be a salutary lesson for any car manufacturer that wants to be involved in the sport that they and their racing team have to play by the rules or suffer the consequences.

Car manufacturers are only in F1 because they firmly believe that the value they gain from their involvement is far greater than the hundreds of millions they spend on it every year. Otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it. Hence the penalties for cheating should, at the very least, be on a similar scale to the rewards.

It is quite possible that Renault may decide to leave F1 anyway as result of the economic downturn. So why give them the opportunity to leave the sport on their terms, with their dignity intact, when they have gained so much invaluable publicity from Formula One over the years? That way they win overall.


If Renault had wanted to leave with dignity it would have done so at the same time as announcing the departure of Briatore and Symonds.


The point is that the WMSC and the FIA (same thing almost) have to decide if they want Renault in on their (Renault’s) terms. If they allow Renault to have it their own way, they are hardly in control of the sport.

Any penalty greater than that handed out to McLaren, for what is said now to be a lesser offence, must surely be so great that Renault will decide to get out, not immediately probably but soon and when it suits them. If they do that they will be going on their own terms, having profited hugely from their involvement, but without being stigmatized long term. If on the other hand Renault are penalized sufficiently lightly that they stay in F1, they win mightily on that score. So either way, effectively, Renault wins. Hardly a way of deterring race rigging in future is it?

As I pointed out above, and I may be wrong, I think the use of the exclusion sanction, which is shaming, is something parent car company boards would take sufficiently seriously that they might try to ensure their racing teams played by the rules in the future. Clearly in this case the Renault parent company happily allowed the race team management to get results by whatever means they could get away with, and they have profited handsomely from that laxity.


Does anyone think that the FIA should stop the practice of a Team Boss also being a drivers Manager.

I think there should be some independence between the 2 parties.

This could have prevented some of the unreasonable pressure being placed upon Nelson.


Briatore (as manager) to Alonso – how much do you want to drive for Renault?

Alonso – squillions.

Briatore (as Alonso’s manager), to Briatore (as Renault F1 principal) Alonso wants squillions.

Briatore (as principal) OK, squillions it is.

Briatore (as manager) to Alonso. OK , it’s agreed.

Briatore to self. Great, 20% of squillions for me!


You might also think that Renault themselves would be concerned that Briatore has a foot either side of the negotiating table.


Agreed. I’ve always said its a blatant conflict of interest.


I find the level of outrage and indignation humourous for the above well stated position. It’s always a game w rules and people bend ’em at will (especially with millions at stake).

We always hear about the big egos in F1 and everyone in F1 refers far more to f1 as “a show” or “entertainment” than a “sport”….is there sport still? Sure, but lots goes on to make it entertainment at the expense of sport….me thinks.

So chill out on the outrage (some folks love the drama of drama and a reason to be outraged)?


Again, some decent answer.

I too am getting really tired of these morality hypocrites, especially the ones from F1 circles.


While I do not applaud FB and PS action and actually regret that they decided to organise such a crash, the real loser in this issue is NPjr. We knew he is not a driver fast enough for the category. From this incident, we have learnt that he lacks the integrity to say “I will not crash on purpose”. Which kind of driver accepts that?

I would have increased my perception on NP if he had rejected such idea and go to the FIA as soon as the idea was proposed to him.

The way he acted is the way a loser acts, sacrifizing his integrity and dignity just to be kept in a team where he should not continue for his qualities as driver.


No French court would send the Piquets to prison – it would cause an international incident.

I expect the blackmail allegations will come to nothing. I will be “not in the public interest to prosecute”, or whatever the French equivalent is.


BTW, if Pat and Flav did not resign or were fired (whatever you prefer) it would have not been advisible to show up in Singapore for next race.

they could have end up in jail or at least in trouble with the authorities. Not mentioning that the organizers may have considered them “persona non grata”.


Dear James,

I`m not a lawyer, neither i know the EU laws, but if Renault and the two senior members are found guilty, i think there could be ground for a criminal lawsuit against Renault, Briatore, Symonds and even Piquet, for commiting a fraud and risking the life of the driver himself, track personel, spectators, etc, etc.

As i read on the press some of the teams could claim civil damages and even Felipe Massa could hold Renault liable in a civil court for his champiomship lost which could end on a hefty settlement.

The only way out for Renault to be saved is if they are found not guilty, but if it proved that they arranged the crash, the FIA will have to go severe with the two senior members, leave Piquet on a position were anybody will don`t want him and extend a severe penalty to the team.

Ironically, I think the only reason why Renault wil go from F1 is if they are found not guilty, why? because is the perfect excuse to say they can be on a sport which is engulfed on daily defamations, etc etc. If they are found guilty their only option is to stay and demonstrate that this was made only by three rogue employees which were sacked inmediately after knowing the facts.

What do you think James?

Many thanks…


A specialist sports lawyer has been reported as saying that Massa and Ferrari would have a very good case if they decided to take Renault and/or Briatore to court.

The question then would be to ask what earnings Massa was denied as a result of the race result that Renault rigged (and they haven’t denied that they rigged it when so charged by the FIA).

If the argument was that Massa would probably have otherwise become World Champion the legal eagles could probably come up with a computation of lost earnings relatively easily.

So what convincing argument could Massa make that he was so deprived?

My suggestion is as follows. The best and only valid estimate of the outcome of the race must be based on the driver standings at the point the crash was faked. After that point the race had been rigged and therefore subsequent driver race positions cannot be taken into account. In effect anything happening after the crash was invalid and has no standing in law.

It follows from that that the race rigging effectively shortened the race and therefore the drivers should receive half points based on their positions at that point.

Obviously such a calculation can be argued against, but so can any other. But this argument seems to me to have more logic to it than any other I have seen, and so I hope Felipe employs something along these lines if he goes to court.

Haven’t done the sums but I rather guess it would have meant he should have been the rightful World Champion.


I am surprised by those comments too. I cannot see how one could prove that the safety caused the Ferrari team to panic more than they would have done in a pit stop at normal speed..


Maybe as the report says, Ferrari and Massa will have a case, but Max Mosley stated clearly that any outcome of the judgement won`t have an effect on the 2008 results, as per the FIA rules.

Any legal position that Massa and Ferrari takes, will aloowed them only to claim a compensation.

Actually i don`t see Ferrari going after that, knowing A) It`s going to be a disaster for FOTA alliance, B) They know they made a mess of a pitstop, simple as that, if they have made it clean as usual the trophy will be in ferrari`s office.


That would certainly be a counter argument, derived from looking at the thing from a different viewpoint. However it is absolutely impossible to say what might have transpired if Piquet hadn’t purposely thrown his pram at the scenery that fateful day. Hence it could be argued that the soundest basis for a judgement should be the race standings before the whole thing was disrupted according to that meticulous and very cleverly conceived plan.

It’s just absolutely amazing to me that the plan worked out so perfectly. Certainly not a case of “the best laid plans of mice and men…”. I bet they too were staggered at how well it had succeeded at the time.

And, many thanks for the fun blog.


Interesting points, let’s see what happens next


Also will be interesting to see what will FOTA do if Renault is found guilty…


From what i heard Massa is considering sueing Renault.


No way he can sue- no way to prove he still would have won the WDC.


If he does that, he’s crazy and I must say I’ll loose a lot of respect I have for him since last season. He lost the championship because he and Ferrari made too many mistakes (anyone remembers the first two races of 2008)


Why is so much of the media assuming that Pat Symonds won’t show up to testify on Monday?

It’s true that Symonds is under no requirement to show up as he’s not employed by Renault any longer. Still, he’d be crazy not to appear. If he shows up and tells the truth, he could be working for one of the new teams in a matter of weeks.

Without immunity, Symonds probably faces a many year ban from any involvement in the sport. The FIA’s offer of immunity is the only way he’ll be able to stave off this punishment.

There are a lot of new teams in the sport, I can’t imagine someone like Symonds would want for employment very long, but to get that employment, he’ll have to show up and testify.

If he does testify, one wonders what he’ll say about Alonso.


The FIA isn’t expecting him to be there. It’s Renault who must answer the charges, not any individuals


I fully understand that neither the FIA nor Renault -expect- Symonds to appear. Perhaps neither -want- him to appear.

My point is that in spite of these expectations, Symonds would be crazy NOT to appear.

While it is now being stated that the WMSC no longer has jurisdiction to punish either Briatore or Symonds, this does not mean that the men will suffer no WMSC repercussions. It only means the WMSC cannot dole out punishments so long as the men remain out of the sport. The moment either man reenters the sport, they will once again be under WMSC jurisdiction.

Imagine what would happen the moment Symonds was hired by another team?

Without immunity, the WMSC could (and probably would) try him for ethics violations related to this case. As a result, Symonds would almost certainly receive a many year ban. For someone of his age, an effective lifetime ban.

The bottom line (as I see it) is that if Pat Symonds EVER wants to work in this sport again, (perhaps in ANY FIA motorsport) he’ll have appear this coming Monday, he’ll have to testify, and he’ll have to gain the offered immunity.

If he stays home and hides under the covers this Monday, I’d say it’s a near certainty that Symonds will never work in the sport again.

Alternatively, were Symonds to show up and testify, his immunity would be locked in. No matter how much this would rankle the FIA brass, they could do nothing to keep Symonds off the paddock wall. Given the number of new teams next season, there’s little doubt that Symonds would find a team wanting his services.

The easy thing for Symonds to do would be to stay home and hide, the -smart- thing for Symonds to do would be to show up and demand an opportunity to testify.


Regarding the “Piquet blackmailed me” charge (if it can really be called a charge), what hard evidence has Briatore brought to support his allegations? Whose supporting testimony? Pat Symonds’? In the light of the events of the last fortnight, what credence would a court of law place on the evidence given by these two individuals? Give you three guesses.

Don’t forget that the obvious intention underlying the blackmail charge was to frighten young Piquet so much that he would hide in the woodwork and all his allegations could be forgotten. He didn’t, and they weren’t. I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if, in the circumstances, any police investigation was turned back onto the accuser himself. Certainly ought to be.


On top of all that, I have red that Flav and Pat could face extradition criminal charges from Singapore, but that should apply to Piquet J. as well, since he committed the crime.


I was interested whether the police was informed, and as it was it looks like Flavio is up to his neck deep in doo doo, because what they have done there was in deed a criminal offence.

The one thing I find appalling is that we would have never found out Piquet has not been sacked. They were comfortable (Flav,Pat,Nelson)to carry on as if nothing happened.


This is a total mess and a huge embarrassment for F1.

One thing I have not seen mentioned, in any real detail, is this….

Piquet was managed by Briatore and also “worked” for Briatore. Do other people not think that the conflict of interest Briatore had in all of this is part of the problem?

In a normal set up, the driver races for a team and takes his orders from the team principal/engineer. If the driver is particularly narked off about what the team principal is asking him to do, they go and have a word with their agent/representative and the parties sit round the table and discuss. The problem in this situation is that Piquet had his hands tied to an extent, he could not took to an independent agent, as his agent is Briatore! It would be like Alex Ferguson being the manager of Manchester United and the personal agent of half of the team! It just seems rather wrong to me.

Granted this is no defence for the actions of Piquet and equally he could have (and one must assume did) discuss this with his father. However, to me, it seems that Piquet had no one to turn to.

I would agree with James though. Renault should be dealt with in a fair way. There is no point in going around banning Renault (as other sites are suggesting) the bad press for the sport of 700 people lossing thier jobs would be disastrous for the sport and then there would be the politicians interfering.

I do think though, that as with most areas of the law, if you admit to doing something wrong then the punishment should be less. The problem the FIA have is that they will be punishing innocent bystanders in all this. It would be like me sitting in a car thats speeding, the driver getting away with it, and me getting 6 points on my licence.


I thought that Stepney and Coughlan had been “warned off” after McLarengate. Should be simple to do the same with Flav and Pat.

But my real question, James, is : Junior had “immunity” from the FIA. But I wouldn’t have thought that had any force in law. Surely if Renault wanted to sue him over this accident, the FIA’s “immunity” wouldn’t be worth a hill of beans, would it ?


As Renault do not contest the FIA’s charges it is not illogical to argue that the management of their racing team procured the fraudulent crash on their behalf and that they failed in their duty properly to supervise their underlings. Hardly a basis for suing a young man in the invidious position of having a manager with a vested interest in bullying him to do the teams’s bidding.



He isn’t just some kid in a school yard.

He is F1 driver for God’s sakes, he should have some integrity and some balls.

Opposite Lock (Ken)

Nelson was a 23 year-old man last year. (Born: July 1985)


He’s probably got one or two balls at least to drive cars at two hundred plus miles an hour!


I take your point Martin, but I wasn’t saying that Renault would be justified in suing him. I was just interested in the legal status of FIA “immunity”.

As I also am, for that matter, in FIA fines. If Renault got so huge a fine that they decided not to pay it and leave the sport altogether, would the fine be collectible in law ? Anyone ?


Of course, you’re right, this immunity only relates to sanctions by the FIA themselves. It’s purely an internal measure. Might even be interpreted by a legal eagle in such a way as to go against the FIA in the proceedings of a real court of law, because it’s pretty easy to find fault with it in principle.

As for Renault not paying an FIA fine, that is an interesting point. Difficult to see how they could be compelled to on the face of it if they left F1. However, the FIA could put a hold on all Renault’s other motor sport activities, which would hurt them and escalate the thing, and it would cause an almighty stink in the media and a lot more unfavourable publicity for Renault. They’d probably prefer the whole thing to go away quietly. Very quietly.


Not in a civil court, no


I’ve been caught up in all the media outrage about this, with the Times, especially going overboard with their hyperbole but, take a step back, how is the different to any of the incidents listed above by Nigel Young? Incidents caused by Senna and Schumacher were as potentially life threatening as the Piquet crash and were designed to “win” the world championship for the perpetrators.

The sanctions taken against Senna and Schumacher (and their teams) were either a)laughable b)none at all.

The fact that the FIA have decided not to punish Piquet is also distinctly wrong. Only one man caused that crash, and that was Piquet. Briatore and Symonds could have asked him to stick his head in the fire but, ultimately, it was his choice.

If one good thing comes out of all this, it is (I hope) that the Piquet family will no longer be welcome in the paddock. Piquet Sr always was extremely obnoxious and his son was a terrible example of nepotism in F1 who never showed much promise.

I honestly believe that if F1 is damaged it will not be damaged by the actions of the “villains” in these scandals, but by the FIA’s selective “crusade” against various characters in the sport. Now we’ve lost Flav and Pat, who will be next on Max’s hit list? Frank Williams?


Agreed. Running into a competitor at speed is more endangering than what happened here. Getting lost in the flurry of outrage is that Piquet kept quiet so long as it benefited him.

Opposite Lock (Ken)

Depends upon whether they did indeed go to Whiting a year ago or not. If the stories are to be believed, Piquet has admitted that what he did was wrong. A bad thing to do. I doubt very much that Renault had an inkling of the conspiracy. Only that Alonso won the race.


I absolutely cannot conceive how Renault can be allowed to compete in Formula One ever again for one solitary second. Permanent exclusion for the parent company (together with an appropriate fine), and the same for messrs Symonds and Briatore, would seem to be the only level of retribution appropriate for what many label as the worst crime in the history of sport. That wouldn’t preclude the sale of the racing team itself, provided all the conspirators in the fraud are out of it.

Is it right that Renault be punished when they have apparently acted very properly to clean up the mess as best they can? I am afraid I think they should; someone has to take responsibility for this awful mess and everything that follows on from it, and ultimately the parent company is responsible, no-one else.

Renault are the people who employed this obnoxious, crooked, bully in order to happily cover themselves in glory when the racing team was successful. And they certainly did cover themselves with glory when it suited them. However they didn’t bother to ask too many awkward questions about how the results were being achieved at the time. That’s why they should pay, and pay dearly.

Enjoy the gain, ok then reap the pain.



You make me laugh.

Why didn’t they ban Senna after he deliberately crashed into Prost in order to win championship.

In F1 it’s all about the value of entities.


Unfortunately I can’t understand what you mean by the value of entities, lol!

As for asking why Senna wasn’t banned for life for what he did in Japan in 1990, well I’m b******d if I know. I was asking myself that question at the time and I still don’t know the answer. Or at least not any answer that makes good sense.

Maybe something to do with him being revered as a god then as now.


why not fine them $1 Billion and make them and their engines leave the ‘sport’ – not much of an overreaction then………come on Martin Mr Ghoshn is probably a pretty scary boss but it aint fair to wreck the team because of a few individuals


I am not aware, rereading my letter, that at any point I said the racing team should be wrecked, in fact quite the opposite. Read it again please.

I certainly believe Renault (the parent company) should pay dearly for a fraudulent and potentially calamitous crash procured on their behalf by their own employees in order to give them a crooked race win. How else is the sport to be cleaned up?

I suggest the team be sold to a suitable bidder, committed to F1 long term, suitably qualified for the job. That might actually even give them greater security than their present owner can.

Ideally the team would be forfeit to the FIA to pay for what Renault and their managers have done, in lieu of a specific fine, although unfortunately I guess no suitable mechanism is currently available and in place to effect that kind of outcome.


Because we don´t know what Piquet Sr. position is in this, the fact of the matter is that Piquet Jr. did not have any option.

Had him blown the whistle BEFORE the race accusing Briatore and Symonds of trying to fix the results with a crash, no one would believe him, he´d go down the record as spoilt brat and a bad driver all around, just trying to get all the attention.

Had him gone quiet and not condone the conspiracy, ie, not crashing and racing a normal race, he´d be unloyal to Briatore and Symonds and subsequently fired at the year´s end, being driveless for 2009.

He choose the obvious route, which was to play the part in the team and do his job, whatever that was.

However, I see that it wasn´t at all naive. I think Piquet Jr. done it because he knew that he could prove he had to do it. Whether it was a bad thing to do or not, whether it was blackmail or not, Piquet Jr. probably didn´t want to be in that position, but since he was put into it, he (and his father) made sure they had a case to present if they needed to.

I mean, if F1 is not a sanctuary of truthness and sportsmanship, it certainly has in all its characters people who know what they´re doing. There are no fools in this sport.

It´s sad, but I believe Piquet Jr. had no other option, because he was fried anyway.


False dichotomy. Those may be the two options Nelsinho saw he had, but they certainly aren’t the only two.

Let’s start with the biggest alternative, shall we? NPJ goes back to see FB/PS and says “No, that’s cheating, and I refuse”. Maybe he gets fired, maybe they bully him into doing it, maybe showing that’s he’s got some balls earns him some respect.

Option 4: instead of asking “what lap am I on?” on lap 8, he asks “how many laps before you want me to crash?”. Damaging to the team, yes, but not as bad as this. Flav would have gone absolutely barmy, but couldn’t have used the strategy.

Option 5: NPJ confronts PS/FB as option 3, but wearing a wire, and takes the evidence to the FIA.

Option 6: NPJ crashes as asked, loses his drive mid-2009, and goes to do something else. Without spilling his guts.

Option 7: NPJ deliberately crashes, but on the wrong lap and in the wrong place, destroying the strategy. PS/FB can’t complain without revealing the plot.

Option 8: NPJ tells his race engineer and a bunch of other people in the team about what he’s been asked to do.

Option 9: NPJ goes directly to Renault HQ as a whistleblower, pointing out the damage that this sort of cheating in the F1 team would do to their reputation if made public.

Want me to go on? He had *dozens* of options, but he took an easy one (no bad thing) expecting a handsome reward, and got scammed. Remember the old adage: “you can’t con an honest man”.

Opposite Lock (Ken)

He could have said “no” that’s too dangerous and I don’t want to do it. Flav and Pat wouldn’t have liked it, but they couldn’t fire him for it. He would have spilled the beans if they had. No, Nelson’s performance was the key. If he had been able to drive at a high enough level under the admittedly stressful conditions, none of this would have happened. Because he was expendable and his driving so erratic few questioned that Nelson simply lost control of the car–again–and crashed.


LOL, it´s like no one even bother reading what I write.

Had Nelson told anyone after the meeting what was proposed, he would have NO WAY TO PROVE IT.

He would be considered a conspirator and an outright liar. That is what would happen, plain and simple.

And that would happen exactly because “he was expendable and his driving so erratic”.


Russ, nice contribution, but very unreal.

I´m not saying Piquet Jr. was honest. Never did.

As he and Symonds says, he was in a “very fragile state of mind” at the time, which is something I believe.

I´m sure his father supports him, but he must also put a lot of pressure upon Jr.

I think is very use for us to say from the outside, but it´s clear to me that all your options are nice and all, but absolutely impossible to take if you consider the context, ie, your senior chief engineer and your boss, and also manager, induce you to believe it is a good thing for the team.

You won´t really consider how “wrong” is it if two big heads propose something to you. You will just think about it a little and say “I can do it”.

Remember, it was immediately prior to the race start (maybe 2 hours prior) and they must´ve been in a hurry for a lot of things, since the meeting took no more than 10 minutes.

To close the issue, NO ONE would believe Piquet Jr. Your Option 5 is ridiculous as the drivers are in F1 to drive, not to be recording meetings with their bosses and people in who they trust their lives.

You seem to be a little naive to think Piquet Jr. would feasibly hold the flag of honesty and go on deliverying his bosses head in a plate to the FIA.

Again, I think is VERY EASY for you to say he had ´n´ options when you really know nothing about the actual context in which things took place.

I don´t believe Nelsinho was honest but I also believe he had no other option as to do what he was told and try to get away with evidence in case he was fired or used. He was actually smart enough to drag Flavio and Symonds with him.


Thanks for the reply, Daniel! I think we may be talking at crossed-purposes, though.

I don’t believe NPJ was honest about this: I think he agreed to crash and to lie about it (e.g. to the Stewards) so that “Flav would owe him one”. I think he thought he was being clever and playing the game, but was in a much lower league to the people he was playing with, lost out, and now he’s gone running to the FIA crying about how the Big Boys are picking on him.

Undoubtedly he was under a lot of pressure and emotionally fragile, and he very likely didn’t *see* any alternatives to going along with the plan, but that doesn’t mean that the options *weren’t there*.

There’s also a good chance that this wasn’t the only time – a corruptor wouldn’t normally present a victim with a stark moral choice, he’d start with something much smaller and less clear and use that to build trust and leverage to work up to bigger things. That’s how the Triads and KGB tended to work, for example. A big choice is scary and might cause the victim to panic, but a person who’s justified (to themselves) doing “X” can easily justify doing “X+1”, and after a while they’ve been led into actions they would never have considered at the start.

A lot of it comes down to personality. Firstly, it’s important to know your values and limits ahead of time – as you said, “drivers are in F1 to drive”, not to play political games and crash for the team. Secondly, sheer bloody-mindedness is helpful: the more someone tells me to do something, the less likely I am to do it. It’s also good to have a mindset of choice – I *choose* to go to work in the mornings, because I prefer that to being kicked out of my home for not paying the rent; but, if they asked me to break the law or do something I really didn’t want to do, the other options will become more appealing. Finally, you need an external perspective – “what would the press say if they knew about this”, know what the law/rules say, or get the opinion of a trusted friend/family member.

I can see why Nelsinho did what he’s claiming, but I still condemn him for it. He made a choice – there was no gun to his head, the car wasn’t crashed remotely from the pit wall – and he has to live with the consequences of that choice.


Two very sensible options:

1. Go to the FIA before the race or ask your daddy for the advice after the meeting with Flav and Pat, but before race.

2. Keep quite and simply don’t do it!

Nobody held a gun to his head. If he was in fear of loosing his drive it was because he was rubbish driver, not because he wouldn’t crash a car!


Brace, I´ll take it as if you didn´t read what I wrote.


I wonder is it worth examining past Bennetton/Renault controversies in the light of this? Was it Belgium in 1994 when Schumacher blamed an illegally worn-down plank on a perfectly executed spin? (I realise he was disqualified anyway) If Flav and Pat can ask Piquet to crash, surely they could ask Schumacher to spin on purpose too?


Benetton were still running Ford Cosworth engines in 94.


Yes, but the team was still run by Flav and Symonds (and others, admittedly).


As I have said before, we must get to the truth.

If Flavio is alowed to say ‘ I did nothing wrong, I just left to save the team ‘ Symonds does the same by saying nothing, Renault do not admit guilt, but do not contest the charges, then nobody did anything… enough to drive the public away in droves.

It is not acceptable that this serious situation occurs and the real truth is not declared. The FIA should needs reforming to ensure that infuture all employees sign contracts that allow them to be prosecuted in a civil court to ensure they cannot skulk away and hide the truth.

I feel that the failure to get the real truth is as damaging as the episiode itself.

Walking away is no punishment, Flavio may of anyway ( he’s thretened to do for years ) Pat could have retired anytime… They are both massively rich.

The problem is really getting a great punishment that keeps the team in a position to compete in a wothwhile way yet punishes them e.g. not elligible for constructors points or prize money for 5 years… or perhaps limiting the number of sponsor ship passes and guests…

The most stagerring thing is that you would think any team that saw McLaren suffer in the Spygate episode, receive $100million fine, would shudder and never contiplate such a thing.. yet they did.

It goes to show unless we understand why they did it… it will happen again


This demonstrates how well Renault are being advised. They have worked out that regardless of how they present any defence it will make no difference to the FIA, sorry WMSC, and that the outcome is already preordained. Indeed Renault may well know the outcome already, having negotiated it with the FIA, and the no defence pleaded aspect is part of that agreement to minimise the scandal and damage.

F1 regulation needs to change and that should be the first priority of Max’s replacement.


Hear hear well said.


When Ghosn, the President of one of the largest automotive groups in the world, has to stand up & apologize with egg on his face I don’t expect to see the division involved being around for much longer. The protection of a global brand and a distaste for such public statements will weigh heavily on his mind.

Expect Renault’s involvement in F1 to quietly fade away.

Opposite Lock (Ken)

Absolutely. Well said. Renault will want to be seen as rooting out the rot and then closing it down for economic reasons. They are not contesting the charges because of the damage to their other interests. I’m sure Renault’s PR agencies and legal teams are pouring over everything to determine the best spin and least damaging way to extract Renault from the situation. The Renault F1 team as it exists today–is toast.


What was the actual ‘crime’ in all this? Do the rules say that you ‘can’t crash your own car on purpose”? Or do they just assume you’d have to be an idiot to do so?


Renault is charged with “bringing the sport into disrepute” by their actions.

Racing not politics

also team orders presumably come into play


That’s what I was wondering too. He didn’t crash into other car, and he didn’t fake the crash itself. I mean he really crashed. There was no “fake blood”. If some player in football fakes something it’s cheating but if one of them is ready to really “take one for the team” then, it’s totally different story, albeit not in the spirit of fair play, but still not against any rules I know of.

If anything, it was a skim that only the the top brains of F1 could engineer and actually pull of. If all the talk about place, no cranes and stuff is real than it’s a masterpiece in itself.

It’s against the spirit of fair play, but it isn’t really as bad as some make it out to be.

It’s F1 for God’s sake.

Racing not politics

[quote] It is up to the WMSC to show the world that F1 is not a sham, that the public can have confidence that what they are seeing is real. [end quote]

James you have hit the nail on the head with this sentence. Like many others I have spent a small fortune attending F1 weekends around the globe and remain excited about attending this year’s Singapore GP. I surely wouldn’t bother if I thought F1 was [quote] all smoke and mirrors, a sort of high speed WWE Wrestling [end (of a great) quote]

Sadly there are muppets like Eddie Irvine around spouting nonsense that leads me to believe that we could easily see something like this again.

“Formula One has always been a war and in war all is fair,” the former Jordan and Ferrari driver told Radio 5 live.

“When I was in various teams you would do anything to win. Back in the day it was normal.”

hardly a role model is he? Perhaps he’s just hankering for a few more rays of limelight

James, why not run another competition. Whoever guesses the size of the fine or other penalties handed to Renault gets a signed copy of your book…


Too funny..

Racing not politics

[hoping that wasn’t sarcastic]

I’ll start us off then with a fine of Euros 75m and no other penalties


100 mill fine – suspended for the remainder of 2009 – witness protection for Pikichu…and a disciplinary spanking from the spankmeister general.

….and a fat Ferrari contract for Teflonso.


Points for 2008 removed, equivalent prize money removed in place of a fine.


I was convinced it would be Renault that would go, not Flavio and Pat.

I wrote a comment on a previous post saying that Renault would sell up (to Flavio) because the negative PR from this would damage the brand

(which being in F1 really doesn’t make their road-cars any more desirable) can concentrate on their Formula Renault series around the world instead.

Now, it seems Renault have outlasted F1 stalwart Flavio. Which, if we’re all honest, we never saw coming.

But what’s in it for Renault? Their name will be associated with a very dangerous incident where winning comes higher than safety. Considering Renault have strived for top marks from the EURO-NCAP safety tests for their road cars, I can’t see how the two go together. In PR terms, this is the worst outcome surely?

What happens next with the FIA will interesting but it’s strange to think back to Australia when we had Flavio, Pat & Ron (Dennis) all still on the Pit wall…


Renault will pull the plug on formula one at the end of the season. If Alonso doesn’t go to ferrari, then he may well end up at Mclaren or Brawn. If he does go then Kimi will end up at Mclaren or Brawn. Rallying if he’s had enough of formula 1.


Alonso to Mclaren! Get real!


who else can afford alonso other than Ferrari? There’s only Mclaren and Brawn. Alonso left Mclaren because of his fall out with Ron Dennis, now he’s gone anything is possible.


So Alonso’s best move will be to Force India, they have more potential than Ferrari.


This has been well covered by previous correspondents and above all, by you James. However, what about the consequences?

If Renault do leave, or are pushed next Monday, will Fisi find himself starting his role as a reserve driver rather sooner than he expected? Very tempting for Ferrari to take pity on a poor, unemployed ex-Renault driver and give him a go for the rest of the season. Be very entertaining for us at least and give Ferrari a chance to see how those two jolly chaps got on with each other.


I doubt Alonso would like to go against Kimi with absolutely no prior knowledge or experience of the Ferrari car.


Your site has now offically become my first stop when I do my daily internet f1 trawl. Excellent work, James. Thanks.


Cheers for that, Trev. Spread the word


I wonder if the Piquet’s have a counter case of slander since Briatore’s blackmail accusation case will hold about as much water as a sieve now that we know the race was fixed and therefore Briatore has lied.

I’d like to see a means tested fine imposed on individuals who act in a way as to endanger people at the race (such as spectators, officials and other drivers). I think the conspirators should all be subjected to such a fine. The fact is, Briatore et al will face F1 unemployment but effectively walk away scott free leaving the remaining innocent employees of Renault to take the FIA wrath.


Bizarre as it may seem, the fact that an allegation is true is not a defence against a criminal charge of blackmail.

Stuart the Old Geezer

Hello James

A thought occurred to me, – what about the bookmakers?

Race-fixing in the horse-racng world is taken very seriously indeed. Any punter would have got pretty good odds on Alonso winning from 14th on the grid. A ‘few people’ inside Renault might have thought it worth a punt. Did the bookmakers get hit? As this all took place in Singapore it would be interesting to know what their gambling rules are, any experts out there?

Finally, didn’t Frank Williams used to say that F1 Motor Racing was all about money and egos, except for two hours on Sunday afternoons? Be interesting to hear his thoughts today.


Hi James,

I’m interested to know if the FIA impose a huge fine, or any other sanction, are Renault legally bound to pay / honour it?

I accept if a team does wrong a penalty should be paid, but do the FIA have ‘legal authority’ to impose penalties regardless of it’s severity?




That’s a good question. One must presume yes. But it would be tempting to walk away and see what happens.

Opposite Lock (Ken)

It depends upon how much Renault wants to remain in motorsports. If they leave F1, they still have interests in several other FIA-sanctioned series. I doubt the FIA would allow them to continue if they refused to comply with any sanctions levied against them.


After Piquet’s allegations became public, the first thought that crossed my mind was that Symonds and Briatore also were involved in Benetton’s cheating in 1994 with launch-control systems and the like. This was not publicized widely at the time, perhaps because somebody/everybody wanted to avoid further negative publicity after Senna’s death and the Adelaide finale. Benetton’s cheating was described in Richard Williams’ book on Senna. I don’t think I’ve seen anybody comment on the apparent coincidence that the same people have been caught again…


What other crooked dealings have they got up to as well, over the years?


One thing left out of every story is the issue of gambling. What were the odds on Alonso winning the race and was there any suspicious activity (large sums wagered) just prior to the race?


Thanks for the good commentary James, although this latest scandal is really starting to affect my productivity at work.

I read somewhere that the reason NP & son spoke out was because Flav’s management co had rights to a fifth of his earnings for the next 15 years and they needed to show breach of contract in order to get out of the deal. Still, some way to wriggle out of a contract.

With regard to what happens next, what do you reckon James, will the FIA try to minimise the damage to those still largely untainted in this (mainly thinking of Alonso, whose appeal in the Spanish speaking world and rumoured move to SF must be a consideration), or will they be as genuinely shocked as the rest of us and throw the book at whomever they can?


I can understand; it’s so compelling


“but on the other hand they have to be seen to deal firmly with what is clearly one of the worst pieces of cheating in sporting history, made worse by the fact that it endangered lives.”

I can think of at least three highly successful drivers in Formula One that have crashed into their opponents intentionally to win the championship. That endangered some lives too, huh? But none of them were punished, except Schumacher got a formal penalty in his second attempt so that FIA wouldn’t have looked too ridiculous.

I don’t see how this would be any more severe than what McLaren or Ferrari have done except that those teams enjoy protection due to their success in the past…


Difficult one to judge this. Renault will most likely face a hefty fine and have all constructors points deducted like McLaren had in 2007.


If Renault really want FIA to give them a slap on the wrist for this (tricky), I would expect them to try to put as much distance from Flavio, Pat and the two Nelsons as possible… mainly by suing them for damages.

I can imagine what their arguments in front of the council will be: let’s suppose that Renault had pulled out of F1 at the end of 2008, and someone else bought and ran the same team, from the same factory, with the same workers, etc. Then these revellations came out – would it be right to punish the current team, when the main players are gone..?

Having said all that, I’m finding it a little hard to believe that no technician under Pat Symonds saw the telemetry of Piquet’s crash… it reminds me a little bit of McLaren’s initial statements in ‘Stepneygate’, that the only people that had seen the Ferrari data where Alonso, De La Rossa and Stepney (if I remember correctly)…




My analysis of “Crashgate” is as follows.

The Renault team in Singapore discussed the possibility of using Piquet to assist Alonso if the situation arose. It would be a fairly simple matter to

engineer the deployment of the Safety Car by simply parking Piquet’s car on the circuit. There would be no need to crash a car as parking a car in

the wrong place on a street circuit would have the same effect and could be explained away by gearbox failure. This would have been one of many

scenarios discussed at the team meetings to get an advantage.

However Piquet was too inept a driver to even execute this simple plan and crashed the car on lap 14. Remember that at this point Massa was in the lead of

the race and that Alonso victory was the result of the later Ferrari pit blunder. This explains why Piquet apologises for the crash on the radio as

it was not part of the plan.

In 2009 Nelson Piquet performance was not acceptable and Briatore eventually has to release him. At this point Nelson remembers the team meeting before

Singapore and the crash in the race and decides to get revenge by fabricating the story of a deliberate accident.

Briatore unfortunately has a history of gamesmanship in Formula One and fears that the story will be believed even if it is almost

certainly a half truth at best.

The result is that he and Symonds have to act to protect the interest of the team and resign.


LOL! Creative, very creative. As if this sage needed any more fantasy.


James I think you are a bit too light with Renault,by suggesting they can get away with just a fine because Briatore and Pat left the team.

If this is the only punishment then be assured the door will be left open in the future for more of this WWE wrestling risk that you don´t like.


Cheers James, if I want any up todate information on F1, this is the website to come to.

I think we need to just quickly add, all credit to Renualt. I know their creditability and reputation has taken a serious knock but fair play for taking it on the chin as it was! I know theres far more to come out of all of this.


The thing with the Mclaren lying case was Stepney and coughlan worked together to gain an advantage for Mclaren. It wasn’t Big Ron sitting down with Coughlan and saying, “right you are lad, go and find out all you can about them Ferrari cars, me old son”

Ron went to Max when he found out how much Coughlan had and what he’d done with the information.

Renault, planned to crash the car if Alonso didn’t get a blinding start. Symonds (probably) and Flav (maybe) set out to gain an advantage by causing a safety car and built the stratergy on that plan. It was pre meditated at the highest level.

I think this is far more serious than the Mclaren affair.

Opposite Lock (Ken)

Ron went to Max when threatened by Alonso that he (Alonso) would go to the FIA and tell them about the cheating unless Dennis made Alonso the Number 1 driver in McLaren’s team. (Blackmail?) Whether Ron would have gone to Max regardless is open to debate. I like to think he would have. Alonso precipitated the resulting reactions though he was not central to the cheating he was a willing participant.


How I’ve missed Eddie Irvine!! Do ask him what he means, but I bet he won’t tell tales…


If there is one thing I want to see from all this, is Piquets being punished for blackmailing. Make no mistake, I’m sure they tried to threaten Briatore with the whole scenario but Flavio probably didn’t think they will go through with it because they had nothing to gain and a lot to lose.

BUT, they went to FIA anyway, and although it was right thing to report a crime, they on the other hand did it out of pure malice and not once they stopped to think about the bad press sport will face the possible loss of jobs for the whole Renault team. If Junior went and reported the whole thing before last year’s race or some time after that it could be seen as “doing the right thing”, but he didn’t, he enjoyed the ride and when he was sacked (and absolutely rightly so), he decided to go and stab them in the back.

The thing is, all three took part in the conspiracy and Piquet’s roll was perhaps the greatest, but at least Flav and Pat sticked together and fell together, and there’s some dignity in it (especially since non of the two decided to save his skin while blaming the other one), while Nelson did his part in the most pathetic, despicable way, in a manner fitting for a spoiled brat he is.




Can Flavio and Pat be held accountable towards any fine Renault receive? And will Flavio be held accountable by the Police if he has tried to frame Nelson for the incident?


You say that a leaked transcript put Alonso in the clear.

But I would like just one question answered James.

On that Saturday Alonso must have known he was short fuelled for an early stop.

He must have questioned this with Flav and Pat; such an unusual tactic and totally out of sync with normal race procedure. He is a very savvy operator and knows the games played in F1.

But we are expected to think that he never questioned this short fuelling tactic, and simply went along with it like a good little boy……not a chance.


I think the argument supporting Alonso is that it was a reasonable strategy given that it was a new/night/street circuit and there was a high probability of an early safety car. It was a good risk to take given that a normal strategy would maybe only gain them a few places. It’s kinda like putting on wet weather tyres when everyone else is on slicks in the hope that the clouds overhead will bring rain.

I’m thinking plan A was: Let’s hope for a safety car, and plan B was: If someone else doesn’t, let’s create a safety car situation on our own.



First of all hello from India, and the fact that I like your site so much that it is a must visit for me everyday. Believe me, when your site was showing feeds from wordpress earlier, it was frustrating since wordpress is blocked here in office. Now it can be accessed easily and I have bookmarked it on my computer and my mobile as well.

Returning to your comments, my personal case against licences for team personnel is that, since you know that the worse that can happen is that you lose your licence, it may give people incentive to be a bit more adventurous. Speaking of which, FIA should really lay into Renault this time, lest it is seen as an organization that says “if you come clean, then all is forgiven”.

Keep up the good work.


James, Interesting view re Renault cheating but it does raise some questions. When is crashing on purpose not crashing on purpose? Many time drivers have crashed into each other and altered the results of a race: Senna into Prost in Japan, Prost into Senna again in Japan, Schumi into Hill, Villeneuve, the Monaco barrier….Countless times in Nascar and MotoGP or SBK competitors take each other out, bad judgement or red mist? Very obviously it has been on purpose many times, maybe not planned by the team but what difference does that make? The reaction of the FIA actually needs to be in line with previous precedents and that is to dock points from the team who gained. This will mean Renault losing the win and the 2008 championship results being adjusted accordingly. Unfortunately for Massa it won’t change a thing for him…it may seem outrageous but if this occurred in the days of the garagistes perhaps this would be just a racing incident?

Love your web site and insight, Thanks, Nigel


I would say “the difference” is those incidents you refer to were made by individuals; spur of the moment decisions made in real time. [Yeah, ok, perhaps in the case of Senna vs Prost in Japan, Senna had thought about it pre-race, but his words at the time indicate it was a personal decision.]

Whereas for Renault it was a contrived and planned decision, in such detail, that they knew exactly where to crash to ensure a safety car appearance… and the masterminds behind this were the guys running the team!!


Surely the type of incident you mention would now be dealt with at the time by the stewards as avoidable accidents, and be investigated and punished if required.

I know stewards are often slated for getting things wrong, but it is the best of a bad lot as any additional or change of punishment later than the start of the following race is pointless and removing points often hit the wrong target.


Last years results can’t be changed, although I agree that moral hypocrites have raised to much noise around this. I really don’t see it as such a infernal crime. It’s a crash, but it happened many times before and it was never that big of a deal. There were punishments and everything but far from this caliber.


The main difference is, in the cases you mention the culprit was always the beneficiary. Piquet crashing to facilitate an Alonso race win is a very nasty twist and one that certainly looks bad.

Also, to put things into perspective it’s good to look in the history books, was it 1964 when some Ferrari driver was accused of deliberately crashing into his team-mate’s main title rival, during the decisive last race of the season? F1 has always been a hard business, it smells worse now but still nothing new.


I like the licensing idea a lot, thinking of some of the names being mentioned as potential team principals for the new F1 teams – not racing people at all.

Opposite Lock (Ken)

The problem with the licensing idea is that it will be far easier for the FIA (A Max-like person especially within the FIA) to control and suffocate any dissension by team principals. Imagine if Max had the power to revoke licenses of Ron Dennis, Flavio Briatore, David Richards or even Eddie Jordan. That will be a huge axe to be held over their heads. Any expression of dissatisfaction or disagreement with the way things are run and your license is revoked for bringing the sport into disrepute. It would have quashed the FOTA before it had barely begun. I suggest that it is not being proposed to punish misdeeds as it is to keep dissidents in line. Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors.


I agree that this is very serious damage for the image of the sport as we all love it. Is it maybe even worse than doping at the Tour de France? I mean, Pat Symmonds is around for 20+ years. Whom can we trust now? What happens next? Frank Williams stepping out of his chair saying “It was easier to get sponsors like that”. Sorry, I know this is a hard comparison, but I wanted to make clear how serious the damage is, in my mind. I wonder how these guys managed to look in the mirror the morning after, I certainly couldn’t.


“Why would I want to leave my family every two weeks and hawk around the world, putting loads of passion and effort into it, if what I was covering was all smoke and mirrors, a sort of high speed WWE Wrestling?”

A lot of people follow WWE Wrestling – if they ran F1 you’d never have to put up with t dull race!


If James doesn’t want the job, I’ll swap with him. What a great opportunity to travel the world and then to come back home having missed the family and loving them all the more because of your period of absence.

Move over, James, there’s a long Q behind you.


absolutely – but I would have to learn to type faster!


Interesting piece. From the talk about licences, do you expect that the individuals PS and FB will be given some sort of ban from the sport? Personally I feel they have to be, as especially in the case of PS, as I suspect he remains highly employable within F1. His experience would make him an attractive proposition to the new teams.

Having said that, his reputation has suffered and whether he would want to come back is a different matter.


What a total mess. Not to downplay Briatore’s & Symonds’s role in this, what of Piquet?

Is his moral compass so bent that he could not have said no?


No, he couldn’t say no.

Not to downplay Piquet’s role and guiltiness, I really can’t imagine how one teething youngster still in older adolescent age, can be moral corrector to two adult man, both successful and respected? And esspecially if they are both officially superiors to this youngster?


Hasn’t F1 always been a case of smoke and mirrors? Hasn’t it (like most sports) had something of the WWE Wrestling about it? Haven’t we always thought that on some level we are watching a script? Is a film or play any less interesting or funny or sad or whatever, just because the actors are acting and it is all fake?

I think we can cope with knowing that F1 is managed on some level and that the rules always have been – and always will be – “pushed”. This is all part of the intrigue of F1 … knowing that it is being manipulated in some measure doesn’t hurt … so long as there is some genuine intrigue, then we’re happy.

To be real, Piquet wouldn’t be in F1 but for his his family connections …. so that’s a smoke and mirrors bit of manipulation in the first place, but we accept it. Would half of the Japanese drivers who have had seats in F1 had their seats without Japanese sponsorship or some form of nepotism? How many sons have followed in their dad’s footsteps in F1 … because they have the talent or the money or just because they know the right people?

From the ground up, F1 is an artifice. We don’t see the world’s best drivers, we just see people with the right connections.

We know all the teams have pushed the rules for years …. the problem has always been that the rules have been so badly written that they have been open to being flouted and they have been “enforced” inconsistently.

We all know that drivers and teams and sponsors want to win – they do what they can to push the rules and hope they don’t get found out.

We even know that races are run to fit TV schedules rather to to do what is right on track. We have SC incidents now because Bernie doesn’t want to lose the TV audience with a red flag and a restart.

It is all faked on some level. To DC letting Mika through, or Ferrari trying to have dead heats … fake!

So I think we shouldn’t get upset about this – it is another storm in another teacup. We all might want clean, honest, decent driving with the best teams and the best cars, but we’ve never had that and we never will.

We watch for the glamour and the escapism and the fake sense of competition (a competition in which most years only a couple of drivers have any chance of winning anything). It’s just like watching a film … none of it is very real and none of it means very much at the end of the day.

We like the toys and the exotic settings and the sense of speed.

We like the sense of camaraderie we get of being part of the F1 extended community.

We love the driving and the politicking – even if it annoys us and we cry foul. We love being outraged and wait for the next scandal to hit. We love the glory bits and the dirty bits. It is just what it is. It should be better and cleaner and fairer, but we’ve always known it to be a sham on some level, so we’re not going to get that upset by Renault’s indiscretion now.

Give Renault a prize for raising the profile of F1 and for fooling the FIA for 12 months. The real culprits in all of this are the lawmakers for not seeing what was going on in front of their eyes, for writing such exploitable rules, and for not investigating this suspicious case much earlier on.

Hurrah for Pat and Flav. Hurrah for Renault. Boo-Hiss to Piquet for crashing in the first place, for keeping quiet for 12 months, and for only speaking out when he had lost his job.

F1 is Fake 1. We know it and we go along with it.

Great script writing Pat and Flav … well done.


I am getting thoroughly fed up with all the talk about what a useless driver Nelson Piquet junior is.

Here is young guy, in his twenties, employed by foul mouthed, interfering, overbearing lout of a boss, who had no knowledge himself of the craft of a racing driver, and whose idea of managing was to threaten him continually if he didn’t perform. Or at least that is the picture I’m getting of what went on.

If that picture of his circumstances is anywhere near correct, I’m not in the least surprised that he didn’t measure up to his two time world champion team mate, who is thought by many to be one of the most complete drivers in Formula One, and is his boss’ darling to boot.

Few people would succeed in his position. So I think that we don’t really know what his potential is. The kid was treated like dirt as far as I can tell.


“… foul mouthed, interfering, overbearing lout of a boss…whose idea of managing was to threaten him continually if he didn’t perform”

All perfectly true, ask Fisi, Trulli, Kovalainen, they have all been publicly criticised and humiliated, (bullied?) by Briatore.

So it’s not as though Piquet jnr didn’t know what he was letting himself in for, same applies to Piquet snr.


Not sure why you’re using “we” throughout. I do not share your opinions in the least. I suspect many others also do not.

If you want/like fake, perhaps you should watch NASCAR.


Best comment of the year!

I would prefer the F1 to be a true sport, but it is not. It is just an entertainment industry where teams are constantly pushing the limits. It is not the best driver who wins every WDC.

Rules are confusing. Bendable. Enforcement is a joke and we have been discussing politics more than races for the last two years.


Mate fair enough if they did something a bit less dangerous. Someone could have got killed.


The cars aren’t fake. They’re fast…

The best drivers aren’t fake,they’re poetry.

I agree the nepotism-politics-ego-money etc is total BS, but I imagine the pressure is pretty real.

All I REALLY care about is lights to flag and the purple numbers on the screen.

I love lap records and I hate crashes(even legitimate ones).

Sure, it’s not always clean but Piju totally smashed one of the mirrors and let a lot of smoke out.

As I tell my friends,

“I like to watch millionaires go around and around in circles, very very quickly”.


A class post Finn!

Sums up F1 rather well, I thought.


Absolutley ‘spot on’-this is all part of the ‘game’!


Fantastic article – but watch out for Max and Bernies lawyers – because as one cynic (I suspect amongst many in the aficionado camp) – to another it doesn’t seem far from the truth particularly in the last 10-15 years! Sorry James but the WWF remark does in my humble opinion have some truth!

But despite all this we all still love and watch the circus and also to read your brilliant blog avidly

So you are not wasting your time James!

One thing I will say about the McLaren and Renault situation is that hell hath no fury like a Formula 1 driver (and a Max?) spurned.

As to what amount Renault are or not fined – it will be a drop in the ocean for them – and similarly it will not matter a jot whether they have sponsors or not . It will be far more a case of whether they want to continue or not. If I was them I would want to prove everybody wrong and beat them all!


2nd bite of cherry – interesting comment by Eddie Irvine – not my fave human being but still…..


james, Do you think Renault will go after the 3 involved for damages?


I’ve no idea. It’s an option.


Briatore and Symonds maybe, but how can Renault go after Piquet Jr for damages if his claims are true?

The two team bosses, both appointed by Renault to oversee and control the F1 team, came up with this plan, then bullied him into it using his 2009 contract as a threat.

Renault damaged themselves when they let Briatore in charge and unchecked, with a clear conflict of interest in being the manager of both the team and the driver in question.


Thanks Kirk, sense at last.


We don’t know who’s idea it was. It could well have been Piquet, desperate to contribute to the team’s results, coming to them and saying “What if I were to do THIS…?”


Interesting points raised there James – just how do the WMSC prove to the world that F1 is fair & transparent, while still protecting Renault’s involvement in the sport? It strikes me that offering immunity to key participants is counter-productive, as it seems to reward “giving the answer that the WMSC wants to hear” rather than “telling the truth”.

The issue of Flavio’s blackamil suit is interesting too – it could be argued that Flavio does indeed have a case, as he has lost his job as a result of the Piquets’ action. It’s not as if he filed a lawsuit for slander or libel, after all – blackmail implies that knowledge of past deeds was used to hold Flavio to ransom over NPJ’s contract with the team, doesn’t it?


Flav was responsible two ways for Piquet’s actions. First as his manager and employer. Second as his manager (and how did he get away with that).

It would make scarcely less sense to suggest he sue himself.


Flav was to Piquet’s manager in two different and conflicting ways, to explain the above.


Good article and I definitely agree that the FIA has to deal with Renault in a strict but fair way to maintain confidence in the sport. It also has to be strict to discourage others from cheating too and not encourage an act of blaming a few ‘rogue’ team members in the hope of getting away with minimal punishment.

The WMSC is independent, of course, but it ma be convenient for the FIA that with BMW being recently purchased, expelling the Renault ‘team’ for a year (but allowing their engines to be used), would allow the new team to take Renault’s place in the 2010 Championship as currently all 13 places are accounted for.


Exactly how is the WMSC independent? This is a kangaroo court orchestrated by Max!

All the leaks have either come from Max himself or the WMSC members.


I see you are one of the many who believe Max Mosley is some sort of evil Lord Sith try to controlling his FIA empire! (

Rather than a Kangaroo court the members of the WMSC are chosen by the FIA General Assembly and consists of Max Mosley, the 7 Vice-Presidents, various Country representatives and Bernie Ecclestone. See and also for full list. Although I am without doubt Max has a lot of influence, and is a persuasive fellow, it would be the Council as a whole that makes the decision.

Supposing you are right and it is a Kangaroo court and they make the decision that Max wants. Renault have the right to take the decision to a Court of Appeal, which is an entirely independent group of voluntary ex-judges and barristers, etc. See Max Mosley interview (about 3mins in):

Regarding the leaks, it is not just Max or WMSC members who could have potentially leaked it. There is also the Piquets and even, although unlikely, Renault. Plus there are lots of other people who could have possibly leaked it … an FIA Advisor or someone from Quest who handled some of the investigation. It is just pure speculation.


Yeah, I am definitely in the minority 🙂 I, of course, respect your right to an opinion too. How boring would it be if we all agreed on everything!


oops, this is the link to the Mosley interview (3mins in is the relevant part):


Thanks Jake. I very much respect your right to an opinion, but I suspect you find yourself in a very small minority. I think your first paragraph, ignoring the dramatics, summarises the position as many see it very well.


I could see this happening too.


yeah if some one is sensible buy the engine rights design and sell em. to other teams. infact when renault are on teir arse on monday i might make them an offer. williams powered y parkin.hmmm i like that


I’m curious, if Flavio admits that he did orchestrate the whole crash-gate saga, can he still sue the Piquets for blackmail?


Yes. If you see me steal a goat you are not allowed (morally, at least, and I suspect legally) to try to extort benefits from me. As James puts it above: “Blackmail isn’t about whether something is true or not it’s about extorting something from someone in exchange for not spilling the beans on something they don’t want people to know about.”

Cockney James Hunt

FB has not pleaded guilty to anything, but chosen not to contest the charges laid against him. This is pure speculation, but it could be that he feels that using the WMSC as a forum to demonstrate his personal innocence is a waste of time and that his fate is too inextricably bound up with Renault and Pat Symonds. The continued use of strategically timed and pernicious leaks has, one could argue, harmed Briatore (and Symonds) to such a degree, he felt there was no point in turning up.

Now that he’s no longer associated with Renault he can deal with issue as an individual and in a court of law.

Whatever the weather, this is mental. When the rumours broke about a deliberate crash, I really thought it was nothing but a groundless conspiracy designed to irritate Briatore and, by association, FOTA. I am currently eating my hat while I write this.


Has he admitted that?

Perhaps his resignation is that the incident happened on his watch and he has fallen on his sword as a point of honour for losing control of Pat and Nelson. PERHAPS?! Just because he resigned, it doesn’t mean he did anything wrong. It might just be that he didn’t police his own team well enough. Maybe he does still have a clear case against the Piquets.


I agree with Lauda

Renault should still get a big punishment, even though they have come clean and sacked Briatore and Symonds. The crime is far worse than the McLaren case, so Renault should get a similar punishment: wipe out their points for this year’s championship and give them a $100 million fine. If they had continued to lie as McLaren did then the punishment would have to be a permanent ban, so the reward for owning up should be limited to allowing them to continue in F1.


I don’t agree with Lauda.


Great article James. Thanks for keeping us updated with the development before the hearing.


James, how can Renault seriously still hold strong on the blackmail front, when they have all but publicly stood up and admitted they did exactly what Piquet has said?

Surely for it to be blackmail, the blackmailer has to have something to gain, where as in this case Piquet was never going to gain anything but get himself ostracised from the whole F1 community?


It’s tempting to conclude Briatore means the Piquets tried to blackmail him into not firing Junior, which is what Piquet would have gained (not losing his job). However the decision to go public with the threat to sue for blackmail was strange because it failed to tally with Briatore’s denial that there was any substance to the story of his involvement in the crash. Which leads me to think either he (and Symonds, Renault etc) already knew that they’d lost the case or Briatore’s just really not very sharp at thinking through the implications of what he says and does. Difficult call.


Yeah, makes you wonder if there was any “blackmailing” going on at all. Was Flav, at the time, trying to deflect the main issue, that being his “retirement”.

Didn’t really work bless him, and it will be hard for anyone to trust him again.

James, you wrote a blog on what a top bloke Pat Symonds is/was. It must be a massive shock for you that he opted to refuse immunity and choose the Dark Side. Such a shame…


Blackmail isn’t about whether something is true or not it’s about extorting something from someone in exchange for not spilling the beans on something they don’t want people to know about. In most cases I would imagine the subject matter is true


In either of the Piquets statements to the FIA, have they given reason for the whistleblow, apart from disgruntled employee syndrome? Was there any mention of maintaining his ride?


OK, so what was NPJ trying to extort from Renault/Flav/Pat? Has this been confirmed yet?

My view on NPJ is that this pip-squeak should be banned from all forms of motorsport. Regardless of who told him to do it, he was the one that did it. If NPJ had killed someone, he would be facing manslaughter charges….


Who knows… we shall see, I guess.

In the world of cycling, the sport has been panned for having so many drug-cheats… but gradually they are sorting themselves out (by involving the riders themselves to rout out cheats) and the authorities have said, in essence, “we have to go through this pain, to sort the sport out”.

That’s how I’m viewing this seasons incidents in F1… now! I’m not happy about it one iota and it does make you wonder about other historical incidents… but I would prefer for the cheats to be flushed out and we can move forward.


Did Briatore/Renault actually submit anything to the police? Have the police either in France or in the UK confirmed they are investigating any blackmail and/or defamation claims?

I ask becase Briatore on Saturday said he had filled one suit for defamation, due to “the scandalous claims made by the Piquets” – but now that Renault are not going to contest the decision with the FIA this would imply that claims of race fixing the race were true, that Briatore was guilty of something, and leave Briatore without a leg to stand on that particular suit should it ever reach the courts.

And it also amounts that anything Briatore told police (if he ever did contact them, rather than just say so to the press) with regards to the defamation could now be treated by them as wasting police time, false statements etc – maybe the police will be paying Briatore a visit instead!

I also hear the Singapore authorities are monitoring this and could even ask Briatore and Symonds to be extradited to face charges of endangering lives and destroying property.


This is my analysis of the situation.

Renault is facing a trial wherein the main evidence being submitted is the testimony of Nelson Jr. corroborated by other evidence such as telemetry data and radio transmissions.

The investigator and prosecutor of the case is the FIA.

The tribunal that will hear the case is the WMSC, which is a creation of the FIA.

The President of the FIA is Max Mosely. Max Mosely is not in good terms with one of the accused, Flavio.

The FIA gave immunity to Nelson and offered the same to Pat, both of whom, if the accusations are true, are as guilty, if not more guilty than Flavio.

The WMSC is an administrative tribunal, not a criminal tribunal, thus the standard of proof required to prove a case is not “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” but rather the “substantial evidence rule” which means that convictions may be handed out even if there is reasonable doubt as to the guilt and innocence of the accused.

Since the standard of proof required is lower than that of the courts in the WMSC compounded by the fact that the president of the FIA has an ax to grind against Flavio, plus the very unproffesional leaks to the press of the ongoing investigation by the FIA, it would be easy for renault to think that they might actually not get a fair trial.

Thus, what renault is doing now is the best course of action they could take under the given situation.

They want the WMSC to make a decision of the case based on the evidence against them that will be presented before the WMSC by the FIA, which I believe would be the statement of Nelson, telemetry data and radio transmissions.

Renault is choosing not to submit any evidence in their defense.

The resignation of Flav and Pat brings them out of the jurisdiction of the WMSC and thus they cannot be compelled to testify.

consequently, if renault get convicted their conviction will be based mainly on the testimony of Nelson jr., who after losing his drive at renault did nothing but malign Flavio and renault.

Clearly then, his statement and accusations is born out of ill-motive, hatred, and revenge. Some may argue that his statement is a declaration against his own interests as he is admitting to cheating. The answer to that is it is not as the FIA gave him immunity, therefore whatever he says will have no consequence upon him from the FIA. This immunity actually severely, to my eyes, lessens the credibility of his testimony.

With the aforementioned background, It seems that the chances of renault getting convicted or acquitted are the same whether or not they submit evidence in in their defense.

Therefore, it would be most logical for renault not to defend themselves because if they get convicted maybe the FIA would go lenient on them. Moreover, because Flav is gone the FIA might actually rule that there is insufficient evidence to convict renault.

The truth may never really come out.

All we have are just conclusions, not facts.


Great analyses. Couldn’t agree more.


Great summary Jed. This demonstrates very clearly the fact that the FIA as it is structured and organised now, cannot continue to govern this sport in this way.

Whoever takes over from Max, it cannot come soon enough, must reorganise in such a way as to ensure that situations like this are investigated promptly, fairly and that justice is done and seen to be done.

This case could and should have been investigated immediately after the race. Sufficent rumour of the convenient coincidence of Piquets crash promoting Alonso existed for the FIA to have commenced an enquiry.


James, any thoughts on who will replace Symonds & Briatore? Are their roles likely to be filled by by current team personnel?


If they’re punished severely they’re going to struggle to find a replacement for Alonso should he head to Ferrari. Would anyone choose to throw themselves out of the frying pan and into the fire? Would Alonso want to stay even if he isn’t going to Ferrari in 2010? I suppose it depends on their punishment…

Also, are Williams going to get Renault engines? I read that Renault said that Williams could have Renault engines or Robert Kubica, but not both. Is this still the case with Briatore gone?


Hello, James

I would bet that this pic corresponds to FA and not to NP



Yep, that looks like car number 7–Alonso.


Scary future for the team. But I can see only a large fine because the other options are too grave for the sport!

Can I also make a request please? Rather than asking short questions of drivers in the press conference and always switching between the drivers (I think this is breaking up the natural flow of the drivers), can you instead ask maybe 2 or 3 questions to each driver, then go onto the next one?


I dont like this at all.

If renault “confess” then the punishment will be/may be less than if they had not put their hands up.

So if a marshall had of been seriously injured or worse killed then so long as Renault put their hands up and said “yep fair cop guv we did it” then expect more leanient punishment.

Irrespective of whether F1(Mr Ecclestone)needs Renault to stay I personally think this is far worse than the Maclaren spygate indident and the punsihment must be greater than the one given to Maclaren.

now that Renault have admitted this I cannot see how the blackmail case against the Piquets can go ahead – we now know it is true.

Rant over – here endeth the lesson.


First of all thanks for a great blog and also that of those who have conributed.

I have now read all the posts transcripts and supporting articles and now wish to act as juge and jury.

My findings are as follows:-

1. Piquet suggested the crash for a SC to be deployed.(I believe PS)

2. FB thought it a great idea (needs to improve Renault position with a good result) and instructs PS to sort out the methodology

; hence the PS reluctance to divulge more information other than appear to admit his own guilt)

3. PS orchestrates the strategy for the timing of the crash (only one clever enough.)

4. FIA believe FB is party to the actions and feel the only way to verify this is to offer immunity to PS. As FB has denied any knowledge of the events they need more than NP’s statement.

5. Renaults own investigators also interviewed those involved. FB and PS are sacked or resign.

The whole episode is a total disgrace but look at this not in context of a “sport” but a multi-billion pound business with all the vested interests. You will now realize that the FIA are between a rock and a hard place.

They need the manufacturers support and will find it difficult to outlaw Renault F2 Formula Renault etc. They must appear to be fair and consistent. (Fining Mclaren $100M and Stripping all points for a far less serious offence) Not appearing to be just another case of MM carrying out yet another personal vendetta. They have this problem because of the past inconsistent decisions. I do not envy

them or BE as the grand ring-master for the Judgement of Soloman is required.

I for one can’t outguess the outcome other than it will be a total travesty of justice as viewed by some, and totally the correct response as viewed by others.



I don’t see why admitting they caused the accident affects the blackmail case, in fact, in some ways it adds more weight to it – at least now we know there was actually something worth blackmailing over!


Why should Piquet Jnr not be punished for blackmail? From where I’m sitting it looks like he was prepared to keep a lid on all of this provided he could keep his seat. If that’s not blackmail, what is?

Regarding leniency with regards to Renault’s punishment, that’s the way most forms of justice work. If you plead guilty you can typically expect a lesser sentence than if you plead innocent and are subsequently proven guilty.

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