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Renault to pay “substantial” libel damages to Piquets over crash scandal
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Renault to pay “substantial” libel damages to Piquets over crash scandal
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Dec 2010   |  8:18 pm GMT  |  135 comments

The Renault F1 team has apologised to Nelson Piquet and his son Nelson Jr and agreed to pay a large amount of damages for libelling them in September last year over the Singapore crash scandal. The matter was heard in the High Court and Renault accepted the outcome.

The Piquets however have indicated that this is “the start rather than the end” of their mission to clear up “wrongs” over what the case which rocked F1.


Piquet Jr was involved in a plot with then team boss Flavio Briatore and engineering director Pat Symonds to deliberately crash his car at a key moment in the race at a specified corner in order to help his team mate Fernando Alonso, win the race.

When Piquet was dropped by Briatore, he went public with the details of the plot and Renault and Briatore’s first reaction, on 11th September, was to put out a statement saying that the allegations were lies and that the intention was to blackmail the team into letting Piquet Jr continue with the team.

Since then the facts of the case have been established, Symonds admitted that the allegations were true and both he and Briatore are serving a temporary ban, which expires at the end of 2012.

After a hearing in the High Court, the Piquets won and Renault F1 has been forced to pay them a “substantial” amount of damages. I asked around in legal circles tonight among lawyers who do this kind of work and heard estimates of £100,000 for the damages and probably slightly more again for costs. But these are pure estimates from legal professionals.

The Piquet’s lawyer, Dominic Crossley, who acted for Max Mosley in his action against the News of the World, said “Today the Renault Formula 1 Team apologised in the High Court for defaming my two clients, the motor racing father and son Nelson and Nelsinho Piquet.

“This marks the start rather than the end of the long journey they are both taking to correct many of the wrongs that took place during last year’s “crashgate” scandal. They were both treated appallingly by Renault F1 when they dared to reveal the scandal to the governing body; and Nelsinho was abused terribly throughout his absurdly short career in F1.”

After the hearing Renault made a statement too: “On 11th September 2009, Renault F1 Team Limited (“the Team”) issued a Press Release, which was repeated on our website, in which we suggested that Nelson Piquet Junior and his father had lied by making false allegations that members of the Team and Nelson Piquet Junior caused a deliberate accident at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix,” said Renault.

“We also suggested that these lies were invented in order to blackmail the Defendant into allowing Mr Piquet Junior to drive for the Team for the remainder of the 2009 season, and he and his father were therefore guilty of a serious criminal offence.

“The Team accepts – as it did before the World Motor Sport Council (“WMSC”) of the FIA and as found by the WMSC in its decision of 21 September 2009 – that the allegations made by Nelson Piquet Junior were not false. It also accepts that Mr Piquet Junior and his father did not invent these allegations in order to blackmail the Team.

“As a result, these serious allegations contained in the Press Release were wholly untrue and unfounded, and we withdraw them unequivocally. We would like to apologise unreservedly to Mr Piquet Junior and his father for the distress and embarrassment caused as a result.

“As a mark of the sincerity of our apology and regret, we have agreed to pay them a substantial amount of damages for libel as well as their costs, and have undertaken not to repeat these allegations at any time in the future.”

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1

very glad to see Piquet Jr has secured an appropriate drive for the season. Trucks. Ha!

http://www.gpupdate.net/en/f1-news/249361/piquet-jr-joins-nascar-truck-series/

2

Hi James,

Is there unanimity of opinion from whispers in the paddock on the identity of Witness ‘X’?

I am surprised that a name has not been widely circulated on the internet by now identifying this person.

I would n’t expect you to divulge any names on your website but I would be interested to know how much you know about this!

3

I think it’s widely considered that it was Alan Permane.

4

There’s an interview with Piquet Jr in The Times today. A bit more vivid description maybe, but otherwise nothing much new on the drama itself. Except however, a bit slipped in near the end which mentions that the Witness X who delivered crucial evidence at last year’s court case was ‘later revealed to be Alan Permane.’ Can anyone confirm if this was the case? If so it’s the first I’ve ever heard of it! I know he was a possibility, but so was James Allison and other senior engineers.

5

That is correct. We posted that here at the time

6

Its somewhat sad that libel law allows this guy to somehow be shown as a victim… gimme a break. He’s always portrayed himself that way over this issue and this just enables his fantasy. He is still a cheat…but since he didnt ‘lie’ I guess that makes him a golden knight. Lets hope we have seen the last of him in F1.

7

I’m sorry but I just can’t excuse Piquet jr for his actions. Yes he was under pressure to perform and his seat was in jeopardy but why did he think crashing deliberately would be the answer. I think he should have shown some integrity and not done it. Worst outcome would have been him losing his seat and taking a reserve driver role or going to a smaller team, or he could have done a Glock and gone to GP2 to re-build his reputation

As for Alonso, do you really think he didn’t have some idea of what was going on? For me it seems rather strange that he is associated with controversy. McLaren 07, Crash-Gate and Hockenheim 2010

8
Christopher Snowdon

Poor baby, James does an F1 driver need to be taught right from wrong?

Then there’s the unforgivable thing, he put people’s lives on the line (James shouldn’t that be deemed to be criminal activity)

He slandered his family name, and then attempted blackmail (as I understand it, thats also criminal activity)

The ridiculous thing about this situation, there were plenty of drives he could have gone for with the expanded grid.

9

Good point!

10

Agreed on every one’s sentiments that Piquet Jr. is a guilty party for following team orders and crashing his car to alter outcome of the race.

But if you look at how the things panned out, Only person who was given immunity was victimized and evicted from the sport, While the mastermind (Flavio Briatore) in the entire episode goes scot-free, with his head held high, giving “pearls of wisdom” on team-management, driver management, and F1 management to all and sundry.

Not to mention people (especially F1Bers) look forward to him as successor of Bernie to run F1.

Piquet Jr. was just used by all parties (Flavio, Moseley) as tool to meet their selfish motives and thrown on curb once he was used.

I hope the Piquets have separate litigation against Flavio, who single handed destroyed F1 career of of Jr. Jr due to his conflicting roles as driver manager of both the drivers at Renault and that of team principle of RenaultF1 team.

What Flavio “Made” Piquet Jr. do under “Duress” was definitely not in best interest of the Driver. I am sure if Jr. Jr. had “Independent” manager (s)he would have (in all likelihood) prevented Jr.Jr from agreeing to Team Principal’s request and the entire scandal would have been averted.

But then if he had independent manager, he would have never got an F1 drive in Renault in first place (like it happened with every other driver who were denied to drive for Renault previously by Flavio the “Driver Manager”)…

FIA/Jean Todt has not yet plugged that hole in the governance to prevent dual roles and conflict of interests. Of course his own son wears multiple hats that of team owner, and driver manager (though hopefully not in the same team)…

11

The way things are going, we will eventually find out Piquet jnr never crashed the car deliberately for an extended drive in the Renault, it was all done for his love of Renault.

12

Like other commenters, I’m a bit confused about who was actually a winner here; just Mr Crossley I suspect.

If Renault’s statement had been true, then Nelsinho would have been a liar but not a cheat. If it was false then he was a cheat but not a liar. I can’t quite see how the difference between those amounts to “substantial” damage to Piquet Jr’s reputation.

Piquet Sr had a much better case of course, since he was accused of blackmail but wasn’t directly involved in the cheating.

13

That just made Jr an honest cheater …

14

This still goes on and oddly.. no mention of the principle benefactor – Alonso

How he claimes to know nothing about it goes beyond me. Then again I think he got his just deserts this year in the season finale.

15

Can I ask where Nelson Piquet jnr. is racing currently – is he still in Nascar, or where has he ended up?

16

I am no fan of the Piquets but I do think they have been a convient scape goat for the whole affair.

Symons and Briatore will be back in F1 next year and rather than deal with getting rid of certain characters in the sport, Everyone would have rather buried a guy who doesnt stand a cat in hells chance of ever getting back in F1. Out of sight, Out of mind.

Briatores allegations about Piquets private life also showed his true colours. True or not (and given this ruling more than likely false) it has nothing to do with what happend in Singapore and have no place in F1.

17

Completely agree. The actual culprit Briatore is roaming scot-free and some sections of F1 (ignorant fans included) look at this person at helm of F1 as successor to Bernie 🙁

18

Especially after Briatore was linked with a role at Ferrari. All of a suden many Ferrari fans were singing his praises. Incredible!

It seems that no one was ever really punished for Crashgate despite being by far one of the most damaging incidents to F1 in memory.

19

True Ferrari fans are cool and as such have nothing in common with damaged goods like ElFraud and his weirdos.

20

Damian….not all Ferrari fans…in fact, 90% of Ferrari Fans I chat in the Ferrari forums have threatened to stop supporting Ferrari should Flav have anything to do with the Scuderia including myself. So it’s not really fair to generalize. He might be a good manager, strategist and business man but all that is now overshadowed by this. Anyway, I personally think his visits to Maranello recently might have something to do with Luca Di and Flav planing to purchase CVC and not necessarily a position in the Scuderia. That will most certainly stir up a storm of note 😉

21

And I agree too.

22

…and now Renault are going to create more controversy ‘teaming’ up with Group Lotus, so two black and gold Lotus Renault teams on the grid. The mind boggles

23

I think what Piquet did was wrong, but one also has to understand the demands a sport like F1 places on Drivers especially if you are new , young and a bit immature like Piquet. Nelson probably thought, what he was doing would get the likes of Flavio and possibly the whole team to see him differently, he was probably desperate to keep his seat at Renault and when this did not happen despite him keeping his end of the deal he got upset. Think of the guy’s position for a sec, his F1 Career had ended in a very short space of time and he was involved in some major controversy , must have been very difficult for him to approach and be approached by other teams.He probably felt betrayed , Yes what he did was wrong , but maybe the money will make up for for his short lived career in F1.Right or Wrong Renault had an agreement, maybe not Renault as such but Flavio being the Team Principal at the time, it is just unfortunate that other people must now deal with this mess after all these guys are gone.

24

After all this I have been left with the question of what is more scandalous, that such a thing as crashgate happened, or that it is being presented as an isolated “scandalous” aberration in an otherwise gentlemanly sport?

Put big money, power, competition, prestige and attention starved narcissists into a fish bowl watched by media around the world and these sorts of things are not just a possible outcome but more than likely inevitable.

25

So he didn’t lie, but he did cheat. And he didn’t reveal the fact that he had cheated until after he had been dropped.

And for what? Anecdotally, an amount of money that really can’t make any difference to them in real terms.

Has he really cleared his name? I find it difficult looking at any of the men involved in this saga as anything other than cheats. To give any of them credit as professional sportsmen in any sense is distasteful in my mind. I still find it very hard reading Pat Symonds’ articles in F1 Racing every month without feeling complicit in some way.

26

When I think of cheating in sport I think of it as something that a sports person or team carries out for their own benefit at the expense of other competitors. In that sense the cheating here was definitely by the team. Piquet Jnr was just a pawn — a fall guy manipulated by the team for their benefit. As we can clearly see in hindsight — there was no benefit for Piquet Jnr.

27

Broadly I agree, but with the following caveats:

Nelsinho had the benefit of keeping his drive, which was surely under threat

Generally cheating in sport affects the other players or possibly anyone gambling on the outcome. Crashing an F1 car deliberately endangers the lives of the marshals, spectators and other drivers. We can all ask what if, but what if a wheel had come off and hit a marshal?

To say he was a pawn seems to diminish his responsibility. The difference between right and wrong is pretty clear in this case.

The same is true of Symonds and Briatore. They can wring their hands and say they are sorry and regret their actions, but that is only because they got found out.

Once you have cheated, you can’t go back and undo it.

28

When ppl say Piquets(plural)they are actually meaning,or trying to,that both took the decision of crashing the car and is not true.

If I am not wrong Piquet Sr was in Brazil that weekend and knew nothing about it until few weeks later.

Say what you want about Sr’s personality but he was not a cheater when he was a driver.

29

I am kind of confused – so who exactly is guilty here?

30

Was not everyone involved in the plot guilty? Personally I’d say the management were more guilty than the perpetrator. Piquet Jnr was just the fall guy. Interestingly I wonder if we’d have had the same legal outcome without the backing of a famous father?

I think P Jnr should have told P Snr about the plan before he carried it out. I think P Snr would have been more aware of the likely long-term outcome.

31

The words ” . . absurdly short career . . ” do seem to stick out like a sore thumb, and in my view lawyers do not use words or phrases like that for no reason.

If this is the start rather than the end could we see damages sought for loss of Nelson Jr’s (and Snr’s) possible future earnings?

32

I thought the same chris. And the part about this being the start rather than the finish.

I think he should get on with his career outside of F1 and try to do the best he can.

33

I would never forget that event. I was there and I bought the tickets for me and my gf.

That crush was a few meters away from where I was. NP was waving to the fans and I got suspicious because his body language told me as if he did his job but my mates rubbished the idea.

I was supporting Massa and he was doing so well until those cheats not only robed the fans’ money but it also ruined Massa’s race.

34

James,if you can be honest and can say it, what is the off the record word in the paddock about Alonso: did he know about the crash?

35

One more thing that occured to me: if you plan something illegal, it’s best to involve as few people as only possible in it, in case something goes wrong. So I think Alonso wasn’t involved in planning the crash (the rest of my theory about him knowing about it is described in my other reply to your comment), what’s more Alonso was Flavio’s beloved driver, so I don’t think Flavio would be willing to risk Alonso’s career by informing him about the plot (again – Alonso realising what was going on is quite a different thing). What’s more the Piquet men didn’t hold back from accusing some of the important people in F1, so I think they would have come out with any evidence against Alonso, if they had it.

36

I was thinking about the Alonso knew/didn’t know thing a bit. And the way I see it (and it’s based only on, I hope ;-), logical thinking) is: Alonso didn’t really need that win in 2008. Of course it’s always good to win, but he wasn’t fighting for the championship or anything else that season. The win would only be added to his statistics and that’s all. I know that Alonso is perceived as a driver that wants to win at all costs, but I just don’t think he would be so unreasonable to do such a risky thing to get a single race win that actually gave him nothing (apart from the statistics and some good mood). The team was a different thing. Renault needed the win: firstly (quite obviously) – to get more points in the WCC, secondly to keep Alonso. He’s a good driver, no doubt about it, the one that wants to fight for the WDC and not for the e.g. 8-10 spot. Yet the Renault in 2008 was a different Renault that the one he was leaving in 2006. Thus, Alonso would have a reason to leave the team once again so that he could fight for the WDC with a better team. So I think it’s possible that Briatore and Symonds planned this to show Alonso that the car is good and that the team can give him a winning car – to restore the driver’s belief in the team and prevent him from leaving. In order to achieve this goal, Alonso couldn’t have been informed about the whole plan (if he had known about it, then he would have understood that the team can win by cheating but not necessarily because the car is so good and that was not the purpose. The puropse was to show Alonso that the car is good and not that the team is “smart”). However, Alonso is an experienced driver, so I think he must have suspected something before the race. If you start from the back of the grid, then fuel for 12 laps (if I remember correctly) is not a thing that you would expect. So I’m quite sure that Alonso realised that there was something fishy going on. The question is: could he actually expect (before the race) that such a thing was planned? Nothing like that had happened before in F1 (or at least the public doesn’t know about it), so could he have realised that Piquet would crash to help him win? Because you’re innocent as long as you’re not proven otherwise and Alonso was never proven guilty, then I prefer to think that although he could have expected that something suspicious was going on, he didn’t know exactly what it was (I’m still talking about the events before the race). Then, after the race, when he put all the facts together, I think, he could have realised that it was all planned, but what was he supposed to do then? Go to FIA and say that his own team cheated? That wouldn’t be a wise move, because even if you know that your team is not playing fair, there’s always this thing called teamplay and sometimes you have to stick to the team’s politics and pretend that everything is fine. He would have been criticised for going to FIA, telling the truth after the scandal and being disloyal just the same way he is being criticised now for saying that he didn’t know a thing. We must also remember that Alonso left Renault, went to McLaren and then was taken back by Renault after he infamously left McLaren, so he owned something to Renault and had no choice but to stay loyal towards the team. So even if he realised what happened after the race, saying the truth would be unfair towards the team that gave him, in a way, a second chance. He also owns quite a lot to Briatore I guess, so testifying against Flavio wouldn’t be easy for him either.

So – did he know before the race about the plan? I think – no. Did he suspect anything? I guess, he probably did. Did he, after the GP, realise what really happened? I believe he did. Yet, staying quiet then was the only reasonable thing to do. And if he had stayed quite for a year, then he couldn’t have suddenly said in 2009 (when the whole thing was finally revealed) that he realised after the race what happened, because that would have probably worsened his situation.

I think that’s a quite reasonable explanation of what happened, however these are of course only my suspitions.

All in all, I don’t think Alonso was totally unaware of the whole thing – I believe he might have been unaware about the plot before the race (though he might have had suspicions!) while he wasn’t involved in planning it.

Thinking about it for the first time since a long time made me realise that the winter break is really here as the crashgate saga is back. Merry Christmas everyone :).

37

Lilla writes: “Alonso didn’t really need that win in 2008”

Seems to me that Alonso always needs to win and is always fighting for the championship (as are all the best drivers).

History has proved that while ever there is a statistical chance of a Drivers’ Championship, they must fight. Who would have thought in the middle of this year that Alonso would come so close to collecting the big one this year? It proves the point.

38

I stand corrected. However I would still say that if Alonso is in a race, he’ll go for it.

39

It’s true when talking about this season but not about 2008. I checked the results:

before the Singapore GP, there were four races to go (Singapore, Japan, China, Brazil) and that’s max. 40 points to get (10 for the win). Before Singapore Alonso had 28 points, so if he had won all the races till the end of the season he would have had 68 points. Meanwhile, Hamilton before Singapore had already 78 points and Massa – 77. Thus, Alonso was out of the championship, because no matter the results, he would have never win the WDC that year. The best he could get was 3rd in the final standings (Raikkonen had 57 points before Singapore and Kubica 64), so Alonso wasn’t fighting for the WDC any more and the win was only added to his statistics. And yes – he always fights for the wins, but I just don’t think he would have risked that much for a win that wouldn’t give hi much in a long run (i.e. WDC 2008). I’m not saying he’s innocent, because I think he learnt/found out about the crash at some point, I just don’t think he planned it as IMHO Briatore had more reasons to plan such a thing than Alonso himself.

40

What are the chances that Lewis Hamilton knew that his team was using Ferrari Data in 2007 and that he lied to the FIA ? I remind you that both Alonso & DeLaRosa admitted knowing it.

41

Check the relevant WMSC Sept ’07 minutes at fia.com and you’ll find that when asked if he had any questions for Lew, Nigel Tozzi left no one under any doubt as he answered ‘I have no questions for Mr Lewis Hamilton’. Then he extracted from PdlR the confession that nailed both PdlR and FAD well enough to have both their superlicenses removed for life, no ifs and no buts, period. Incredibly, the WMSC prevaricated and in the “interests” of blah blah etc etc, there you go scot free, boys.

Thoroughly outrageous. Despicable lot.

42

Of course they admitted to it, there was e-mail correspondence between them discussing the Ferrari data. The FIA had full access to Mclaren’s system and found no complicity from Hamilton, given the dislike Alonso has for Hamilton you wouldn’t of thought he’d of covered for him.

43

or shared the information.

I think it is plausible that neither Alonso in the case of Singapore or Hamilton in the case of the Data were in on this.

44

100% he knew. Let’s not be children.

45

I’d have thought it somewhat childish to imagine that Alonso would share with Hamilton any information that would help him.

46

Aha! The Hamilton hit-back!

When will it ever end?

Good Alonso/Ferrari, bad anything to do with McLaren.

Happy Christmas Jo.

47

He has always denied it and no-one has ever found any evidence that he knew. Other drivers say he must have done, but there’s no proof

48

Maybe FA will reveal this in his book someday 🙂

49

I wonder if one day Wikileaks will gives us some details!!

51
CJ the 2cnd, probably...

So, Piquet junior was ‘terribly abused’ was he?

Young children are ‘terribly abused’ by paedophiles, the use of such language in connection with his experience is obscene. At best Piquet was treated ‘a little bit badly’, although personally I would find that an exageration too. Piquet the ‘man of principle’ is not a concept that stands up, given that his whistle blowing did not occur at the time of the incident, only after he had been dropped from the team, at which point whistle blowing was possibly in his own interest. A man of principle would have stopped the plot in its tracks or, failing that, have exposed it immediately after the race. He did neither.

52

how do you know to what degree he was badly treated by Briatore/Renault?

53
CJ the 2cnd, probably...

Of course I do not claim any great insight into the nature of Piquet’s treatment at Renault, my point was about the devaluation of language such as ‘terribly abused’ when applied in this context. We are talking here about pressure applied to a young man from a wealthy and privileged background, pressure to perform, which after all is what he was there to do. If that is ‘terrible abuse’ then we need some different language for real cases of terrible abuse.

My understanding is that Piquet was only prepared to expose the plot when it may have given him some sort of tactical advantage in his negotiations with Renault, hardly the most principled position. He may have won some damages for defamation but I doubt he’s won much respect.

54

I for one would like to see him make a comeback. I’m not a fan, just like the underdogs. And Jr sure is one to ever make a return in an F1 car.

55

Dont put Grosjean in the same bracket as Piquet-no comparison.Grosjean deserves another chance-he’s won in just about everything he has driven since being dropped by Renault after a handful of races.

56

It’s funny that the mud nevers sticks to Fernando Alonso. He reaped the rewards of this scam or strategy in Singapore!Of course he had no idea what was going on and i am a monkeys uncle! Massa moved this year and still he gets away squeky clean! Sounds like he wants to be a winner at all costs!Fernando you piss weak!man up!Anyway it is for the best that Piquet is not racing.

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