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Renault – the right judgement is vital for the sport
Renault – the right judgement is vital for the sport
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Sep 2009   |  11:19 am GMT  |  29 comments

The World Motor Sport Council meets today to consider what punishment to hand out to Renault for asking its driver Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash his car in Singapore last year.

Renault’s deputation is headed by Renault Sport president Bernard Rey and Fernando Alonso has also answered the summons to give evidence. He has not had a lot of time to prepare and it will be interesting to see what line the WMSC takes with him. The FIA investigators concluded that Alonso didn’t know anything and it appears he was surprised to be called. One wonders whether the FIA wishes to get under his skin, to see if he did know anything about the plot and, following on from that, he may be asked more wide reaching questions about Briatore’s stewardship of the team.

Symonds has not been requested to appear, which is strange, but there is the possibility that there may be a further written submission from him, as FIA investigators concluded that he appeared to want to say more than he was able to at their interviews with him. It all depends on what might be in it for him to do so and whether he has been persuaded to break ranks with Briatore.

Piquet attended the hearing. There have been dissenting voices from within the FIA about whether he should have been offered immunity from prosecution and it will be interesting to see whether any of the members of the WMSC raise this issue during the hearing.

“I think we need to show balance,” said Bernie Ecclestone, as he arrived at the hearing in Paris. “What they did was very serious. There can be no excuse, but they have acted quickly to get rid of the culprits, and that must be borne in mind.”

Ecclestone knows that the WMSC has to get the judgement right today and more important, be seen to get it right. Because this scandal has resonated far beyond the normal reaches of F1 stories. People who know little or nothing of the sport are aware of a terrible act of cheating in F1 and whereas the McLaren theft of Ferrari data was quite complex to understand and the consequences in racing terms quite hard to establish, the Renault case is very easy to understand and it shows the sport in a bad light.

So the WMSC cannot let the company off, simply because it has fired the two management figures behind it. There has to be a further sanction. One possibility is disqualification from last year’s world championship which means that the company would have to pay back the money it won for finishing fourth in the constructors’ championship, which is something like $50 million. There is also likely to be some kind of personal ban for Symonds and Briatore.

This would echo the way the FIA arrived at its judgement on Michael Schumacher’s deliberate accident with Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez in 1997. They punished him retrospectively, setting the precedent that you prevent people from making any gain from that kind of cheat, rather than banning them for a future period while allowing them to keep the proceeds or benefits of their actions.

There is an appeal open to Renault after today’s judgement. It may be that Flavio Briatore, who has declined to appear today, may choose to make his case at the appeal, should one take place.

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The FIA knew about this last year and did nothing. The reason given that they needed a witness to come forward is a LIE. They should have sent the Quest examiners to Jr. door the next day. If he didn’t want to come forward what is that? Go after him. Instead Max sat on it. Max is then as guilty as Pat Symonds concerning the cover-up. When, and only when the opportune time came for Max to exercise his vendetta against Flav he did so with calculated leaks, dirty tricks and bogus immunity deals. BTW, what happened to Symonds’ immunity deal?

We need a wholesale change at the FIA. Todt is just too tied in with the existing corrupt structure. Even if he is an angel he cannot operate without the taint of present corruption. That he won’t let this perception alone cause him to not seek the office or FIA President shows us all that he too is willing to place personal ambition ahead of any love or concern for the sport.

Go Ari go! It is time for war. The daggers will come out by the mere fact that Ari is running as a reform candidate. Knowing this, Ari should in a gentlemanly way make his case that ONLY his candidacy can bring the fresh change that we all know is needed. He should expect to be “uninvited” to the grid like he was in Monza. Meanwhile Todt flies on FIA paid junkets under the ruse of working with his wife on the sweetheart deal that Max gave her to “promote safety”. Yeah right…

BCE is up to it in his eyeballs too. Did you see the lame excuse he gave for FOM excluding Ari from the Monza grounds? Here is a link: http://www.motorsport.com/news/article.asp?ID=345223&FS=F1

Expecting vindictive resistance, Ari should name names and be extremely vocal about the corruption that needs to be flushed out. He should press his cabinet allies to be more vocal as well.

Go Ari go. The future good of the sport, not just F1 but Rally, DTM etc. all depends on the success of his campaign.


Money talks and BS walks.

Renault face the dreaded finger wag after fixing a race.

Absolutely awful resolution considering the implications: Manipulating the race result carries insignificant penalty.

I’m dumbstruck, especially if you recall the impact spygate – which carried proper penalties – had on the sport’s image.


Renault have been given a two-year suspended ban – Briatore has been banned for good – Pat Symonds has also been excluded from F1 for five years.

Nice one…..


Unbelievably, it seems the win is going to be allowed to stand. Surely that can’t be right. While Alonso wasn’t involved in the conspiracy the whole fraud was concocted so he could win the race. I can’t see how they can justify allowing the result to stand. Am I missing something James, or is that indeed the case?


I read somewhere that the FIA would have to have been aware of this before November before any results of the race could be changed! Result still stands! Anyway as it wont premote Massa to World Champion so I’m not fussed anyway! ha


What sort of a hearing is this supposed to be when the people directly involved don’t even show up. And Symonds not even asked to appear is ridiculous. Who are they actually going to question at this hearing!?


Lets hope that the WMSC make the right call. Certainly the way the leaks have been made by FIA/WMSC members does not give me much hope.

Can someone explain to me, how BCE, as a member of the WMSC, can possibly not be conflicted in this situation? He, or his employers CVC, have massive vested interests in the resultant publicity of this matter.


Briatore banned for life. Pat symmonds 5 years. Piquet cleared.

(Source: AS)


2 year suspended ban for Renault. Best outcome really seeing as 700 odd people depend on the Raunault team for a living (paying their mortgage etc.). That ban could apparently have an impact on Flav’s interest in QPR though under FA rules.


F1SA are reporting that the meeting was over inside 2 hours (90 minutes they say). Unless there has been a lot of written submission how can this ever be enough time to establish exactly what happened and who knew what? Awaiting the judgement with interest…


They didn’t need to establish what happened during this hearing, they already did that. And, Renault already said they would not contest the charges. No reason to have a trial when a guilty plea has already been given. Today was only about announcing how the participants would be punished.


I think that Renault should get a 2 year suspended ban, this would be a measured punishment and also do the maximum to ensure Renault’s commitment to F1 for the next few years.


Did you know something we didn’t, Owen? 🙂


The Alonso situation seems very strange but ignoring that the only question remaining must be what the punishment is.

As you mention the retrospective dq of the team and the repayment of these winnings rather then a fine would seem best.

I would also be unsurprised if the focus was on Briatore and Symonds with the FIA giving Renault credit for dismissing these people quickly which would help clear the Renault name in all of this.

Surely some of the focus must be on maintaining Renault in F1?

Nelson Piquet should never be allowed in F1 again.


If Renault is banned from the rest of the season as part of punishment and Alonso go free, I can foresee Fisi may have to make way for Alonso/Raikonnen combi for the coming races. I am sure Ferrari will want to test this out despite having a preference to keeping Massa next year.

I suppose Alonso is free to race with other team if Renault is banned, right?


One has to be suspicious of a quasi-judicial body manipulating the evidence presented to itself when they will then say that they can only take into account such evidence when reaching their decision. (Those who are aware of the allegations about the Benneton fuel-rig hearing arrangements will understand how that argument was used by Max to come to the no punishment conclusion in that case, which also involved Flavio).

I don’t see how someone can make their case at an appeal, if they chose not to make their case at an original hearing, so I don’t think that Flavio would have “new” evidence that could not have been presented at the original case.


Briatore and Symonds cast a long shadow of F1.

If capable of succumbing to the pressure of a middling season, it begs the question of how far they pushed the boundaries in the championship years at Benetton in ’94 and ’95, and indeed ’05 and ’06…

Whilst the traction control accusations of ’94 and their part in Spygate II spring to mind I can’t think of anything else that would set off alarm bells – the mass damper was simply innovative, not in contravention of the rules, right?


Surprise surprise.

Piquet is at the hearing this morning in Paris.

Briatore is not.


In my opinion they need to be more severe than Spygate. Deliberately crashing like that endangered human life, even more obvious after the terrible Surtees/Massa incidents. Spygate, whilst serious too, did not endanger life at least

The FIA also need to take into account that Renault were racing under warning in 2008 following their own spy scandal and therefore a further breach of the regulations within the same 12 months needs to be severely punished.

Whether they should stretch to expelling them is tough as F1 can’t really afford to lose another manufacturer. Surely race bans should be on the cards since Honda received as much for their fuel/ballast incident.

James, roughly how many of the guys at Renault now were around in the Benetton days when there were other allegations doing the rounds?


Some. I couldn’t say exactly because many don’t travel any more. Of the senior people only Flavio and Pat really.


Interesting to read Briatore’s comments on the singapore gp of 2008 on his own website….

“This is an amazing victory for Renault and for Fernando. Since Friday we knew that the car was very competitive and we were very disappointed at the end of qualifying. Today the car was extremely quick, stronger than the Ferrari and McLaren, and although we had some luck when the safety car came out, we deserved this victory. It’s a very important result for Renault after two difficult seasons and helps us prepare for 2009 in the best way possible”


The FIA have set the bench mark with McLaren being fined $100 million for “spygate”. As most people consider “crashgate” to be a far more serious offence it will be interesting to see how the FIA navigate around what should be a very severe punishment. Perhaps they will issue a refund to McLaren in order to be seen to be fair with the Renault punishment. I realise that Renault are claiming that they knew nothing about this offence, but did anyone prove Ron Dennis and the McLaren board were aware that the spying was taking place.

Thanks for the Great Blog James


If you come offenses then the Renault crashgate is far worse then spygate. HOWEVER,the reason why McLaren were handed such a large penalty was their continual denial of the facts when it was proven that the majority of senior mechanics knew the data was theere and they were wind tunnel testing it. If they came out and accepted the role they played and confessed then I bet the penalty would not have been so harsh. Renault have come to the hearing omitting guilt and therefore you can expect a more lenient sentence. That is why you will never be able to compare the severity of the penalities!


That is one way to look at it but here is another.

Getting caught with another teams data that was GIVEN (Side note: Renault STOLE Mclaren data and got off with it) to the team by another teams employee and was certainly not conceived by the management staff.


Fixing a race by endangering people lifes

A 2 year warning

If someone had dies Flavio would go to Jail and I would like to see Nelson get Immunity from that. Just because noone got hurt does not make the action any less of a crime.

There are always diffenent way of looking at it but if I admit to Murder and someone gets caught stealing there is no way my murder sentence should be less.


You’re right – there is no real burden of proof in either case, and the McLaren fine was seen as vastly excessive, and set a precedent.

However Ron Dennis didn’t walk at that point – he fought it, and I think the bigger issue was that McLaren lied to the FIA about the extent of the use of the data. Flavio and Pat have walked, and Renault have put their hands up and admitted it.

Its the same, but different. Theft and then lying about it, or ask a driver to crash and then admit it. Loss of points and winnings will solve the problem (and possibly not be too dissimilar to the McLaren fine?) but will it be enough for Renault to walk away?


James, has there been any indication given as to what time we might hear the outcome of this?


Just read that Piquet Jnr and Snr are attending the hearing in Paris today.

Also read that Piquet Snr has given an interview in Brazil explaining what he knew of this saga – should come out over the next day or two.

Basically Piquet Snr was not in Singapore that weekend, only heard about the race-fix 2 days after the GP, was really angry with Jnr and Briatore, gave Jnr a serious ticking off, and didn’t speak to Jnr again for about 2 months. Piquet Snr then attended the Brazilian GP so he could speak to Charlie Whiting for advice to what would happen to Jnr if the story came out.


There have been many occasions in F1’s past when you – and I – know that similar things have gone on, either unnoticed or unpunished. Those most at fault in this instance are Piquet Jnr, Flav and Symonds – and they are all currently unemployed in F1. Basically, they shouldn’t have asked him to do it (if they did ask him) and he shouldn’t have agreed to do it, whatever the circumstances. It’s a murky and unpleasant story and thank goodness nobody got injured as they could well have done. It certainly appears that Piquet Jnr was as ham-fisted in crashing as he was in driving, although I suspect that he does have talent that, sadly, may never be discovered now, as a ‘whistle blower’ isn’t likely to be top of any team’s ‘wanted list’. I write this as I await the verdict which I hope isn’t too draconian. As I said at the beginning, the Renault team’s biggest crimes were (a) being so obvious and (b) getting caught. Let’s move on from this and enjoy our sport which is exciting at the moment and potentially even more so next year with the ‘new blood’ and larger grids.


Hi James,

I had the feeling that Symonds and Briatore couldn’t be summoned, as they are no longer part of Formula One. And that they can’t be banned directly from the sport, for the same reason. Hence that, that the FIA will send out a suggestion to teams in F1 not to employ either of them as was used in the Spygate affair on Stepney and Coughlan. Can you comment on that?

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