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The ramifications of the Singapore race fixing verdict

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Andrew Benson | 14:36 UK time, Monday, 21 September 2009

The decision to give Renault only a suspended sentence for the team's attempt to fix last year's Singapore Grand Prix seems lenient at first glance.

And, all in all, Renault probably will be breathing a sigh of relief, even if they know they will be disqualified from Formula 1 if they commit a similar offence before the end of the 2011 season.

As their employers, Renault could have been held responsible for the actions of former team boss Flavio Briatore and engineering director Pat Symonds, yet there has been no fine and no points deduction. Looked at in the context of what happened to McLaren in 2007's spy scandal - when the team were thrown out of the constructors' championship and fined $100m (then £49.2m) - Renault do appear to have got off lightly.

But governing body the FIA has obviously concluded that it would have been wrong to punish Renault for something that it seems it knew nothing about, even if one has to question the culture of a team in which this sort of shocking event could be considered.

Assuming Nelson Piquet Jr fulfilled his promise to tell the truth in return for immunity from prosecution, then the guilty parties in this case were not Renault but former employees Briatore and Symonds, who the Brazilian said proposed the plan.

They have been dealt with heavily by governing body the FIA, with Briatore banned for life from attending FIA-sanctioned race meetings and Symonds excluded from the same for five years. Although whether such bans are enforceable under law is another matter.

There is, of course, the wider question of Renault's decision to hire Briatore as team boss in the first place.

The company's bosses knew full well his reputation when they took him on in 2000 when they bought and renamed the Benetton team. The Italian's combination of a mysterious past, uber-ruthless business ethic, and the ostentation with which he boasted of his wealth have long made some uncomfortable.

His actions in this affair merely serve to underline the air of amorality that has tended to follow him around.

It can be argued that a company with Renault's global presence should have been less eager to get into bed with such a man. But although Renault were ultimately responsible for Briatore's actions, that is not the same as saying they should be thrown out of the sport because of them.

Renault, it should be remembered, have been involved in F1 for more than 30 years, and until now have a pretty much unblemished record - which is more than can be said for many people or organisations who spend that long in such a politically charged environment.

In that context, this decision is certainly expedient.

In the wake of the decisions by Honda and BMW to quit F1, the sport could ill-afford to lose another manufacturer and engine supplier.

For that reason, F1 will breathe a sigh of relief that the FIA has not come down harder on Renault. Likewise, few will mourn Briatore's departure.

There has been more surprise expressed at Symonds's involvement. He is one of those super-clever and understated F1 technicians who always give the impression of being straight-laced and above board, even if at the same time they are extremely cagey about giving away any knowledge about the inner workings of their teams.

Those who remember the dark days of 1994, though, would not consider any senior figure from the then-Benetton team at the time whiter than white.

That leaves the drivers.

The FIA has concluded that Fernando Alonso was "not in any way involved in Renault F1's breach of the regulations".

Not everyone will share that view. Some, including it seems Piquet's eponymous father, believe the double world champion must have known of the plan.

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This argument says that a driver as intelligent and involved as Alonso would have questioned the strategy devised for him by Renault's engineers for the race in Singapore, so would have had to be told why they had decided on it.

Others are not so sure. The strategy Renault adopted for the Spaniard was sellable without him needing to know about the crash. And if you were to try to pull off something like this without anyone finding out, you would surely want to cover yourself by having as few people in on it as possible.

Having questioned all parties, the FIA's own investigators came up with the second conclusion. And, at the risk of appearing naïve, I have to say I'm inclined to believe that, too.

On Monday morning, I re-watched the tapes of the immediate aftermath of the Singapore Grand Prix, when Alonso is joined by Briatore in an ante-room on their way to the podium ceremony.

It is impossible to hear the entire contents of the brief exchange, but it was the Spaniard who brought up the subject of the safety car and he did so with a sense of what I at least read to be genuine surprise. Sort of: "Wow, that safety car was a lucky break, wasn't it?"

Piquet Jr was granted immunity for blowing the whistle on Renault, and it is perhaps surprising that the man at the centre of the whole thing is the man whose actions have been questioned the least.

F1 will not miss Piquet. One reason for that is that he did little in his season and a half in the sport to suggest that he deserved his place on the F1 grid. But more importantly, by his actions in Singapore, he has brought shame on himself and his sport.

Yes, he was young, and yes he felt vulnerable that he might lose his job. But possibly the single most shocking thing about this whole scandal is that a man whose job it was to drive grand prix cars was prepared to deliberately crash one at the request of his team.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said that "beggars belief". And it certainly feels as if F1, which is not exactly known for its saintly moral code, has plumbed new depths with this.

However shaky was Piquet's position at Renault, clearly the right action in the circumstances was to refuse the request of Briatore and Symonds.

Piquet, who issued an apologetic statement on Monday, clearly regrets what he did. It's just a shame he was not able to see things as clearly at the time.

Piquet must take responsibility for his actions, and it should be borne in mind that he was put in that position by the appalling ethics of his team bosses. But he was also there as a result of the entire culture of the sport.

There is a climate of fear within F1 - the teams fear the FIA, and the drivers fear it and their teams. Few people are prepared to speak out when something is wrong, or even express an honest opinion on a matter of controversy, for fear of repercussions from whichever entity it is that holds power over them.

Ultimately, that is what has led to this appalling turn of events and if the FIA wants to stop something similar happening in the future, then it must look much deeper than simply one team's ill-advised actions on the morning of one race last year.

Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    Andrew you seem to have a fine appreciation of all the politics of F1 and the FIA. I understand all the things you have said. However take what Renault did in isolation and then balance it against other teams wrong doings and the needs of the sport in general and see how it feels then.

    Renault cheated. They benefited from that cheating. In the process making a young inexperienced driver do something unethical. Putting the well-being of the driver at risk. Potentially putting the well-being of fans or marshals at risk.

  • Comment number 2.

    I tend to feel that the traction control allegations made against Benetton in 1994 could be also true after this affair.

  • Comment number 3.

    2. At 3:10pm on 21 Sep 2009, flukielukas wrote:

    I tend to feel that the traction control allegations made against Benetton in 1994 could be also true after this affair.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    I agree. Before Senna died he said he was sure the Benetton had traction control. And the fact the FIA found the software for it but could not prove it had been used says it all really.

  • Comment number 4.

    As Renault were guilty of the same kind of technical spying McLaren were in 2007, why is it that this is being deemed as a first offence? Surely the FIA have to conclude that Renault have not learned from that incident, and that must make a suspended ban impossible to support.

  • Comment number 5.

    Has anyone worked out the ramifications to the 2008 Championship if Alonso's result had been disqualified. Hamilton only won by a whisker so would the final result still have left Lewis as world Champion/

  • Comment number 6.

    "Yes, he was young, and yes he felt vulnerable that he might lose his job. But possibly the single most shocking thing about this whole scandal is that a man whose job it was to drive grand prix cars was prepared to deliberately crash one at the request of his team."

    Just like Murray Walker, blame the little guy! Not very big of you or him. I suspect that lots of young ambitious drivers would have behaved in the exact same way. He should never have been put in that position.

  • Comment number 7.

    The FIA's reaction stinks , And now sadly so does F1. .This is a terribly dark day for the sport , I dont blame people for turning away from it, Shame on governing body . .

  • Comment number 8.

    The punishment for Renault feels about right, I think it's good that the FIA have taken into account that only 3 people knew about the scam. As for Briatore, how on earth was he allowed in the first place, to be team principal of Renault at the same time as being manager of other drivers on the grid? Surely there was a massive conflict of interest there.

    As for the enforcability of the Briatore/Symonds bans, Dwain Chambers served his punishment for his offence but is still being refused entry to certain race meets, so I'm guessing they'll still be able to enforce that decision in F1 as well.

  • Comment number 9.

    Total BS.
    I suppose had it been Ferrari, they would have gotten a trophy.
    I firmly believe a very stiff fine is in order, rather that this tiny slap on the wrist.

  • Comment number 10.

    In relation to Flavio's football club, QPR, given that "The qualifying conditions for the fit and proper person test state that nobody can be a director or hold a majority interest in a club if they are "subject to a ban from a sports governing body relating to the administration of their sport", does this mean Briatore will now be forced to sell his stake in QPR?

  • Comment number 11.

    Regarding FB ban for all FIA sanctioned events and the drivers he currently manages, will they be able to get out of their contracts as he has been found guilty of gross misconduct because if not their F1 careers will surely be over

  • Comment number 12.

    Post 5. Hamilton was third and if promoted to second would have got two extra points for second.

    I imagine had Hamilton not have overtaken Glock on the last lap in Brazil and won the championship we would be having a much more intersting discussion re this.
    Massa was 13th and so would not have gained from a Renault disqualification.

    http://www.formula1.com/results/season/2008/801/

  • Comment number 13.

    The ruling is a joke and a major slap in the face to any team that has fallen foul of Ferrari International Assistance and their President Max Moseley at any time in the past. I'd be staggered if the WMSC actually knew how to apply rules and punishment both fairly and objectivley.

    Like the McLaren affair I believe the drivers should be left out of it especially as it's been deemed Alonso knew nothing BUT Renault are ultimately responsible for Briatore, Symonds and the rest of the team, they should have been fined at least 5 times the financial gains in terms of prize money made by the win and dropped from last years constructors championship.

    I'm afraid this gives teams Carte Blanche to get away with whatever they like, unless they are McLaren of course!! The sooner the FIA get rid of Moseley and his unbelieveable stance on rules the better and for heavens sake don't replace him with another Ferrari lackey in the shape of Jean Todt.

  • Comment number 14.

    Awful verdict, unbelievable. So wait....Mclaren gets a 100 million fine and were thrown out of the constructor's championship, but Renault being 2nd time offenders (they WERE found guilty of possessing Mclaren data in 2007) not to mention the fact that this heinous act of deception had put drivers' lives at risk, are given only the equivalent of a slap on the wrist.

    Yes Briatore was fed to the lions, and Symonds to a lesser extent, (justly so as well) but Renault SHOULD have been severely punished because this was of an order of magnitude so many times greater than Spygate. Shame on the FIA.

  • Comment number 15.

    In answer to your question PQuinn, it is very difficult to determine how this affected the world championship. Lewis came third, so if Alonso was disqualified for example, Lewis would still have won the Champsionship, albeit by two more points. The problem is, Massa had the fuel rig problems in his pitstop. If there had been no safety car, who is to say that Massa would not have been pressured to get out of his box quickly taking half the rig with him? It is said that Massa lost the world championship at Singapore, so if there was no safety car, he could have possibly beaten Lewis on the day and possibly taken the championship too.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    Bearing in mind McLaren were thrown out of the championship and fined £50m for being in possession of Ferrari "secrets" (from which, it is not even proved that they benefitted), I find it incredible that Renault were not sanctioned more heavily. The FIA's own statement said that Renault's offence was of "unparalleled severity", putting people's safety (even lives) at risk, yet all that seems to have been dispensed as punishment is effectively just a slap on the wrist!

  • Comment number 18.

    I feel that Renault should have been fined, after all they have benefited from this, they were granted a race win they didn't deserve (to put it mildly) and the attendant constructors points and prize money. At the very least they should have been fined what they won.

    On the Alonso front, I can see it both ways... I find it hard to credit that the team could propose a strategy to him that he run light from the tail end of the grid and have him buy into it. On the flip side I could see him proposing such a strategy and claiming that he could make up enough places with a light car to make it work (even if it seems implausible) and the team come up with a Plan B should he fail to make his miraculous gamble pay off. I just hope the FIA publishes its reasoning behind declaring him innocent so that we fans can judge it for ourselves. As it stands it looks like a case of the FIA closing their eyes, putting their fingers in their ears, and humming loudly....

    Personally I can understand why a young driver being faced with loosing his million dollar/pound/euro job, and his highly influential boss and manager telling him "I will personally make sure you can't get a job driving anything faster than a bus" (or words to that effect) might be pressured into crashing his car. Yes he should have stood up, yes he should have gone straight to the FIA but its easy for me to say that sat here at my computer as an armchair fan of the sport...

  • Comment number 19.

    Terrible verdict. The argument that only 3 people at Renault knew about it is not relevant. They were acting in Renault's interests, and Renault should be responsible for their actions. How many employees at McLaren knew about spygate, for example?

    Speaking of which, weren't Renault also guilty of spying? So I'm not sure what the 30 year unblemished record mentioned in the blog is based on.

  • Comment number 20.

    Everyone seems to deride NPJs ability but he was quick in GP2. He gave Hamilton a run for his money and is one of only 2 drivers to score the perfect weekend (pole, win and fastest lap). I get the impression that Briatore used him as a filler in team Alonso and destroyed his self belief. Why did NPJ do it? Well you can get a whipped pup to do almost anything, but be warned it might bite back one day. Is the outcome fair ? I have to say I think it is, however Mclaren must be feeling badly done by.
    BTW what happens to GP2 now, and the drivers who pay Briatore to (mis)manage them?

  • Comment number 21.

    Maybe I'm just way more cynical, but this outcome is just what I expected.
    And the reason?
    A McLaren-like fine and expulsion would have been the straw that broke Renault's back. Without doubt Renault would have done a Honda/BMW and pulled the plug on next year.
    Is that what the FIA/F1 wants? Of course not. Ergo...

  • Comment number 22.

    Regarding the possible implications on last year's championship winner, remember that Lewis got 6 points and Massa none from Singapore.

    So, unless all the points are taken from that race, nothing happens. On the other hand, if the race is considered null, Massa is the World Champion :)

  • Comment number 23.

    I find it very cynical that Renault have been given a 2 year suspended ban from F1, for a severe breach of sporting conduct, which could have put the safety of a driver, marshals, and crowd at risk, whereas McLaren were penalised $100m for receiving design secrets from a Ferrari team member.

    It suggests to me that the FIA wish to provide a company with many other business interests a soft landing, so that it doesn't walk away from the sport, whereas the other company's livelihood depends on its participation in F1 and had no choice other than to pay up.

    Still, at least Mosley will be pleased to have seen off his greatest "Loony" for good.

  • Comment number 24.

    I totally agree with the "F1 will not miss Piquet. One reason for that is that he did little in his season and a half in the sport to suggest that he deserved his place on the F1 grid. But more importantly, by his actions in Singapore, he has brought shame on himself and his sport."

    And as for NPJ being quick in GP2... that's GP2 i'm afraid... not F1!

  • Comment number 25.

    The punishment handed out is weak and meaningless. Whilst I understand the people comparing this to the Mclaren affair and wanting Renault hit with similar fines and being removed from the Constructors Championship there is only one ruling that I wanted from this hearing....Give back the trophies and the prize money that they obtained through cheating. No more no less.

  • Comment number 26.

    @15 I don't think Massa would have a leg to stand on, fuel rig problems happen, drivers make mistakes in the pits and get penalised for it (look at Lewis in Canada the season before... if it hadn't been for the safety car he wouldn't have crashed into Kimi in the pit lane e.t.c.). Drivers have to take the punishment when fuel rigs foul up, as they do when they make mistakes. The race wasn't reg flagged so there is no reason to discount the points scored by other drivers.

    In my personal law courts I would have stripped Renault and Alonso of the win and the points, but let the race results stand, simply have a crossed/blacked out name for the winning car and driver.

  • Comment number 27.

    And who came off best from all of this? Surprise, surprise Max and Bernie of course. At a time when they need as many established teams as possible to commit to the sport they got off scott free. Oh and happily enough one of the major thorns in their side through all of the FOTA potential breakaway, Briatore, is banned for life. Not that I'm bothered about him going but it all seems a bit convenient.

    What this article fails to mention is the frankly astonishing conflict of interests which allows the sports commercial rights holder and FIA president to sit as members of the World Motor Sports Council who make this kind of decision.

    It's not just the banks that need proper regulation, the sooner F1's organisers are overhauled the better.

  • Comment number 28.

    ......and I forgot to mention that no points have been taken away.

    Points = revenue + pitlane placing

  • Comment number 29.

    I would have thought the drivers managed by FB would be given some time to sort out new contracts. Also taking into account the severity of FB actions and subsequent punishement, surely it makes any contract between him and other drivers unenforceable?

    Personally I felt the McLaren punishement was heavy handed. In light of the current financial climate I wonder if they would have recieved such a massive fine this time round. Clearly and quite rightly in my view the FIA took a relaxed approach to any punishement inflicted on the Renualt team, but it does make you wonder about how the FIA and WMSC conduct their affairs. It's time the mist was lifted and some clear cut rules we're brought into force regarding "crime and punishment". An equal playing field is needed for the F1 to stay in pole posistion.

    I'm glad to see FB out of F1, what comes around, goes around and he finally got his.

  • Comment number 30.

    But governing body the FIA has obviously concluded that it would have been wrong to punish Renault for something that it seems it knew nothing about, even if one has to question the culture of a team in which this sort of shocking event could be considered.

    Nah!

    They were scared witless that if they fined Renault £100m they would walk. Difficult to make a detached decision with one hand on the Bible and the other held out for the cash.

  • Comment number 31.

    If Piquet had gone to the FIA, he would've been sacked by Renault and been unable to work for other teams. We live in a world where whistle-blowing is still viewed as snitching.

  • Comment number 32.

    At 3:50pm on 21 Sep 2009, vincepettit wrote:

    And as for NPJ being quick in GP2... that's GP2 i'm afraid... not F1!

    I quite agree, but the boy must have some talent, I would suggest that a lack of equipment, support and encouragement might have affected his performances. Hamilton won the GP2 championship as his teams blue eyed boy and continued in that role in F1. Piquet ran him a close second in GP2 also as his (fathers)teams blue eyed boy and then went to Renault where he was treated like a very poor number 2. Alonso couldn't beat Hamilton in the same car, not because he was slower, because the team weren't behind only him. Not many of the current F1 grid could produce their best in those circumstances, except Kimi of course......

  • Comment number 33.

    Now we know what happened last year.

    How about 1994 ? What was the truth about the Benneton 'hidden software' ? And was Schumi told to crash into Hill in Adelaide ? Was Senna competing against an illegal car ?

  • Comment number 34.

    @32 Are you seriously saying that McLaren weren't behind Alonso when they drove for him? That they signed him on a £20mil a year 3 year contract just so they could ignore him in favour of an untested rookie?

    I do feel that McLaren gave both drivers the same car and did everything they could to support both drivers, something which I very much doubt that Piquet Jr had the benefit of at Renault. Regardless of that Piquet never looked fast or confident.

  • Comment number 35.

    I'm a tad confused by some of the comments suggesting Max and Bernie have somehow benefitted from this. Personally I don't think anyone in F1 has benefitted from this fiasco. I think this has damaged F1's reputation to it's core.

    If they fined/banned renault, then we all lose. F1 would be down to two worx teams and I don't think anyone wants to see that. F1 needs more teams not less.

    Reading some of the other comments I have to agree that Renault should have been stripped of the victory in Sinagpore, made to hand the trophies and the winning purse back.

  • Comment number 36.

    What a load of tosh....of course this is a bigger crime than 'spygate'.
    F1 just can't afford to lose another team from the grid.

    Those accountable are the shareholders who have the duty of care, not the employees.

    Memo to all other teams...ignore the rules, you have one 'get out of jail free card' each.

  • Comment number 37.

    It is about neither NPJ, Symonds or Renault. The purpose of this investigation was to deliver the head of Flavio Briatore. Granting immunity to Piquet; being lenient with Renault; even offering immunity from sanction to Symonds; every effort was made to focus the guilt onto one man.

    Once delivered the punishment is to be as damaging as possible. This has hit many of Briatore's interests F1, driver management, GP2, QPR. The wording and nature of the WMSC decision designed to maximize the damage on Briatore.

    Not to say that it was the wrong decision, but as with the deposing of Ron Dennis earlier in the year the arriving at the 'right decision' was always of secondary importance.

  • Comment number 38.

    McLaren should have their fine reimbursed and be re-instated in last years constructors championship. There is no possible justification for the disproportion in the 2 punishments.

    As for the tired old complaints about Alonso not being supported at McLaren, it is time to let it go. Nobody knows what went on in the garage it is all speculation. Hamilton is a racer, so is Alonso. Lets hope they both soon have the hardware to be pushing each other at the front of the field.

  • Comment number 39.

    electricsoup:

    I didn't mean Max/Bernie benefitted from this - but they certainly came off best from a bad situation. I was referring to the staggering hypocrisy of the hearing, given that the last time a cheating scandal occurred the punishment was a crippling $100m fine. It is no coindence that the pair have always been at odds with McLaren and especially Ron Dennis. This time they've handily relieved themselves of Briatore - who during the FOTA wranglings was the one assigned to 'be the new Bernie'.

    I totally agree that I don't want to see manufactureres leave the sport but a precedent was set and then totally ignored in this instance. The rules should be the same for all competitors - not meted out depending on how it suits those that run the sport.

  • Comment number 40.

    At 4:10pm on 21 Sep 2009, cordas wrote:

    @32 Are you seriously saying that McLaren weren't behind Alonso when they drove for him? That they signed him on a £20mil a year 3 year contract just so they could ignore him in favour of an untested rookie?

    No not at all, what i'm suggesting is that Alonso works best as an out and out number 1 (a la Schumacher). He demanded that at Mclaren when Hamilton proved to be as fast as him so i'm sure NPJs card was marked from day one. I'm not even suggesting that NPJ is a good as Alonso or Hamilton, i just think he was psyched out before he even started and I feel sorry for the kid, made to feel useless and then bullied into a stupid act

  • Comment number 41.

    This was nearly a crime, a murder even....Briatore and Symonds may have been responsible, but Renault are accountable for the actions of their "employees" or those working under the Renault name. They should have been banned for a period of time. I don't think Alonso knew because he didn't have to know - whether he suspected something is a different matter. However, he will now be tarred by association, which is shame as he is still such a phenomenal driver. Button to win 2009 and a McLaren/Hamilton vs Ferrari/Alonso, with Red Bull and Brawn thrown in, should make 2010 the best season for years.

  • Comment number 42.

    From start to finish Piquet had a torrid time at Renault, arguments between Briatore and drivers is hardley something new, if Piquet hadn't thrown his car in the wall and effectively 'Dis-obeyed' then the likely end result would of Piquet being sacked for not showing enough 'pace'.

    Of course he should not of done it, but it looks like it prolonged his F1 career by a year.

  • Comment number 43.

    A convenient verdict that serves the interests of Formula 1 but is a complete traversty of any version of justice. How Renault can get away with this without any fines, suspensions or reduction in points beggers belief, but in the F1 context is entire believable. This sport is becoming more like professional wrestling, a show rather than a sport.

  • Comment number 44.

    @40 I get you, I agree with assessment there. I do think Alonso wants undisputed no.1 Driver status in his team.

    I just wonder who is going to win the 'real' race at Singapore.... Will Ferrari announce Alonso before Kimi announces driving for a different team? (fingers crossed for a McLaren bound Kimi)

  • Comment number 45.

    @43 :( I hope thats not the case, but whilst Max is in charge of the FIA I have to agree.... Hopefully this verdict will just add steam to Vartenen's campaign to take over from Max!

  • Comment number 46.

  • Comment number 47.

    I am just checking that Renault have to be found to be cheating again to be banned for life. So anything that is race related (ie like the wheel flying off at Hungary) will not result in any ban.

  • Comment number 48.

    What a lame punishment. It's nothing more than a slap in the wrist.

    This very bad for F1. It will leave a lot of people feeling the sport is corrupt, much like people do with athletics with regards to drugs.

  • Comment number 49.

    FIA, yet again, fail in their role as steward.

    What kind of precedent does this set ? .. Fix a race, first offence no penalty whatsoever !

    They've proved themselves spineless .. too scared to do the right thing.

    They hammered McLaren (perhaps rightly so) but how harsh does that look now in comparison to this .. McLaren never put a driver / marshall or spectators life at risk.

    Of course Renault are responsible .. corporate responsibility for the people you employ in senior positions .. it all comes down to the pressure exerted from above, the pressure for wins from Renault onto the team, the pressure of Flav onto a young driver to deliver for the team and do the right thing.

    Briatore needs a life ban for this .. he abused his position of authority in both his role as team boss and the drivers manager .. isn't it time this kind of incestuous relationship is banned ?

    In Piquets defence .. I bet 9 out of 10 young drivers who were up against it, as he was, would have done the same thing .. you'd have to have some big cojones to say no to the team and you manager.

    FIA hang your heads in shame.

  • Comment number 50.

    Excuse the typos. Tanks.

  • Comment number 51.

    NPJs statement

    "Having dreamed of being a Formula One driver and having worked so hard to get there, I found myself at the mercy of Mr Briatore," he said. "He had my future in his hands but he cared nothing for it. By the time of the Singapore GP he had isolated me and driven me to the lowest point I had ever reached in my life.

    "Now that I am out of that s situation I cannot believe that I agreed to the plan, but when it was put to me I felt that I was in no position to refuse."

    As I said earlier, I feel a bit sorry for the kid.

  • Comment number 52.

    I think Piquet will regret this for the rest of his days. His time in GP2 showed that he evidently had some talent but we'll never know if he could have blossomed with another team as he's now unemployable....unless his Dad sets up his own team!
    However the problem is not new. The likes of Senna and Schumacher both behaved in a less than sporting fashion on many occassions and they were the drivers the current F1 crop grew up idolising.

  • Comment number 53.

    @6 & 31,

    I agree completely. If Piquet had gone to the FIA he would've been ostracised by the sport and he'll be ostracised for going along with Renault's plan. He couldn't win and the journalists still kick him too.

  • Comment number 54.

    Obviously what Piquet did was wrong but I think we should remember that he was only 23 years old, desperate to hold on to his seat in F1 and faced with the overpowering Flavio Briatore and the highly respected Pat Symonds. If he'd refused to do it, he'd have been sacked. And he could never have reported the incident to anyone because at that point it was just a conversation, so it would merely be his word against that of Symonds and Briatore. It's likely no one would have believed him and his racing career would have been finished either way.
    It was stupid of him to go through with it but he was clearly scared and had been backed into a corner. I'm not defending what he did but I feel sorry for the kid. His career is screwed and I think that's punishment enough.

  • Comment number 55.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 57.

    @54

    You forgot to add having NP senior to live up to..........

  • Comment number 58.

    It is disgrace to motorsport that Renault has got away with a suspended ban for 'cheating' just so the FIA could make up the number of participants. No other sport has this luxury and frankly should not have this luxury. It is amazing how players such as Renault are allowed by the FIA to get into a position to threaten the survival of F1 sport itself. F1 has survived today but the 'spirit of sport' has been lost. A day of great shame for motorsports!

  • Comment number 59.

    Just had a thought,
    NPJ not speaking out until his contract with Renault was canceled is seen as sour grapes, dummy spitting etc. But....did his contract restrict him with confidentiality clauses, after all this could bee seen as passing on information about the teams strategy which could benefit other teams.

  • Comment number 60.


    Is it any wonder when a man such as bernie ecclestone runs this so called sport that a climate of fear pervades everything?

  • Comment number 61.

    NPJ has been thrown to the wolves by Renault and the FIA.

  • Comment number 62.

    I think in the last few years the FIA have become very uneven in their awarding of justice to teams that break the rules. BAR Honda were banned from racing for some races because they had a sump which had fuel in it and counted as weight a heavy bit of justice for a misunderstanding very harshly treat. Mclaren spygate again this penalty was severe but justified. However this year Mclaren and the lying for one point penalty lose of points and slapped wrist. ferrari and red bull both near caused pit lane crashes ferrari nothing happened bed bull got a drive thru WOW. And now the worst of all RENAULT Major low lifes briatore and symonds get someone to crash to win a race putting the drivers,stewards lifes at risk and the whole image of F1 tarnished and they get and suspended ban.
    Why no fine or a race ban or loss of championship constructors points??????????????????? Poor BAR Honda there face can't of fit at the time.

  • Comment number 63.

    This a joke. I dont think Renault should have been banned or thrown out of F1 as the sport needs them to stay in. However I think they should have been fined, es[ecially when you consider they were caughty spying and got away with it, also if you compare this to Mclaren like so many others have already done it is a farce. If we were not in a global recession they would have been fined as the FIA would not fear yet another major manufacturer leaving the sport. As for the title and points from last year forget about this result, Hamilton should never have been stripped of the win in Spa let alone gaining another 2 points at Singapore.

    In 1994 all I remember is Bennetton cheating, I know there is more obvious things to remember like Imola and a number of terrible crashes but this is relevant. Bennetton or Renault have been run by the same people and always cheated, clear the team out and let them have a fresh start. Also make the punishments fair for all the teams, basically because Bernie is mates with Briatorie Renault got special help!

    P.S I know my spelling is terrible, please dont comment to tell me!!

  • Comment number 64.

    So knowing the tech spec of a rival team is worth a fine ofmillion of dollars and cahmpionship contsructor points but actually crashing a car and changing the outcome of a race equals a suspended sentance as they admitted to their crime. F1 is afraid that another constructor will go and the bottom line is that of the money it draws determines the outcome. When drug cheats are exposed in other sports then positions do change as a result of past races, so who did really win the 2008 Championship?

  • Comment number 65.

    It seems fairly obvious to all that this is a mockery of a ruling. I am waiting for the real verdict to come in, where the WMSC realise the work of hundreds of people, thousands of hours, millions of pounds and years of dedication to safety mean more than money.
    People could have died, that's not a scare tactic soundbite, it's a real possibility. The marshalls, the spectators, the press, the next driver round the corner. According to the WMSC and FIA these are the people whose lives are worthless and therefore worth risking.
    The WMSC and FIA have turned F1 into a joke, not a funny one either. Good time to distance yourself from all the fallout and leave the mess for someone else to clear up, eh Max?

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 67.

    Can someone please tell me what strategy NJP had that meant he could carry on driving in F1? It could be useful for other young drivers to discuss this issue.

  • Comment number 68.

    @66
    Not a fan of NPJ eh?

    Talentless? not really, still a lot better driver than me, and I suspect you.... (Badoer? anybody ?)

    Spineless? takes a lot to burn your bridges to clear your conscience.

    Badly treated by a bully who controlled his present and future......

    I would guess that this has been known for a long time but without his evidence it couldn't be proved, his contract with Renault and hopes for his future probably held him back. He lost his contract but effectively his conscience got the better of his hopes for his future in the sport. He could have kept quiet and got a drive elsewhere or in another category of motorsport. The worm has turned and he should be applauded for ridding the sport of Briatore, something Max et al couldn't do.

  • Comment number 69.

    I do think Renault deserve a lighter penalty than what they would have gotten otherwise. Admitting the guilt and dealing with the guilty parties should count for something.

    The non-punishment however is a joke, Renault should have been stripped the race win, I would simply cross out/ put a black mark over the winner and winning constructor of the 2008 GP and let that stand as a mark of shame against the team, I would also have fined them a minimum of the winners purse and value of the constructors points (that to my mind is the absolute minimum fine). Personally I would also ban them from this years constructors and probably give them a race ban or 2.

  • Comment number 70.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 71.

    @ 68,

    Well said.

  • Comment number 72.

    @70 - Surely punishment should be about more than just not holding your hands up and pleading guilty when caught... Otherwise what is the disincentive to cheating...

    If every team can cheat to its hearts content until it gets caught, then just hold its hands up, fire and couple of 'key people' to get off effectively scot free for 2 years.... then what's the point in playing by the rules?

  • Comment number 73.

    I have not seen any official comment on one of the biggest issues for me - could the safety car period have affected Massa's ability to gain at least a few more points? For me almost certainly - and we would have a different 2008 Champion. Consider the difference that would have made to the careers of Massa and Hamilton ....... and Piquet Jr's penalty will be self-imposed, he's blown it!

  • Comment number 74.

    shame that Alonso gets away with it, also Piquet, I mean he only owned up because he was sacked, nothing to do with feeling bad about it or doing the right thing, he just wanted to hurt Renault

  • Comment number 75.

    @73

    "and Piquet Jr's penalty will be self-imposed, he's blown it!"

    Once his bosses at Renault had put him in that situation what other options did he have other than to keep quiet?

  • Comment number 76.

    Being shown by a TV camera that he knew to be in place and filming him to say "wasn't that Safety Car lucky?" is an interesting detail. If you are of a suspicious disposition you would wonder why the incident just happened to occur in front of a convenient TV camera.

    Quite a lot of people have rreason to be very unhappy about the Singapore incident, not least Rosberg and Kubica who suffered totally bizarre Stop-Go penalties for pitting to re-fuel under the Safety Car rather than allowing themselves to run out of fuel in the middle of the track. Felipe Massa will wonder what might have been too.


    For the record, the race order when the crash happened was:

    1. Massa
    2. Hamilton
    3. Raikkonen
    4. Kubica

    "What might have beens" are the acme of debate. Who knows what would have happened if racing had been allowed to continue?

  • Comment number 77.

    @73, and if there hadn't been the safety car in Canada 2007 then Lewis would have won that year, and if Massa had been penalised last year for almost causing a crash in the pits at Valencia, and if Lewis hadn't been 'unfairly' penalised for giving back a place after cutting a chicane at Spa, but overtaking at the next corner.....

    The fact is the safety car happened, it affected all drivers (apart from Alonso, due to it being engineered by his team to benefit him) equally, and it was a mistake made by Ferrari/Massa that ruined Massa's race. Who's to say that Lewis wouldn't have beaten Massa by 6 points (or more) if Piquet hadn't taken a dive for the pit wall.... If you want to play 'what if' games.... Lewis might have won and Massa might still not have scored any points in which case the season would have been decided before they even went to Brazil...

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    What a cop out just to try to keep Renault on side. A suspended sentence? They were hardly likely to do it again anyway! And what about the successive mega fines that Maclaren had to pay? Luckily Renault will pull out at the end of the season and good riddance.

  • Comment number 80.

    How about MS running Damon Hill off the track when Hill only needed to finish to beat him to the World Championship? Or Nigel Mansell ignoring a Black Flag until he had accidently crashed into one of his rivals?

  • Comment number 81.

    absolute joke that Piquet hasn't been punished. Don't want to see him in F1 ever again. Briatore didn't actually crash the car and leave a pathetic 'i'm sorry guys' radio message.

  • Comment number 82.

    This 'punishment' seems to me to have more to do with not losing Renault from F1 than action against the fixing.

    Compared to the McLaren 'spying' incident I consider Renault's far more serious so the disparity of the 'punishments' is unbelievable.

    I would love to be a fly on the wall in McLaren when the decision was known.

    At the time of 'spygate' many in the paddock said that such 'aquiring' of other teams technical details went on all the time.

    Renault have got off very, very lightly in my view.

    Wonder if the Bernie, Flav buddy, buddy relationship had anything to do with it?

  • Comment number 83.

    @81

    Piquet has been punished, his career in F1 is over. To preserve his career the only option he had when asked to cheat was to resign from Renault before the crash and say nothing. I'm not sure how that would have helped F1. Most sports journalists would've preferred that option - what does that say about the integrity of F1 journalists?

  • Comment number 84.

    An outrageous sham!! I enjoy F1 and do not wish to see Renault withdraw from F1 but this is a discgraceful decision by the FIA and reflects gravely on them and F1 as a sport. $100M fine for McClaren last year and not one cent against the team responsible for the worst cheating in the history of any sport? Ludicrous!! And, please don't tell me that only 3 people in the team knew about the plot; I just can't believe it. Difficult to prove perhaps but there are too many key team members for no one else to know. I am unable to take this sport seriously any more.

  • Comment number 85.

    @68

    Yes, I'm not a fan of NPJ's "talent". Why would I be? There is no place for "good drivers" in F1. There is only place for the best of the best, for the fearless and determined to win. Not for the meek ready to endanger themselves and others to please bosses and keep a job they are clearly incompetent for.

    As for NPJ's conscience, it is so a coincidence his conscience cought up with him when he was sacked by Renault and it was clear he is not good enough to ever drive F1 car. Not!

    He did it out of spite to take revenge. And the fact that he excaped any punishment is a scandal. Let me repeat:

    Briatore did not crash a car on purpose, Symmons did not crash a car on purpose. NPJ did. He should take full responsibility. If you cannot stand up to your boss when he is clearly in the wrong and asking you to endanger people's lives, you should not be in F1 car! Motorsport is dangerous, people die! It is the driver who is in control of the car and it is his responsibility to make the right decisions.

  • Comment number 86.

    With regard to the disparity of the punishment Renault v Mclaren we have to remember the following:-
    Mclaren could afford it and carry on (let's call it means testing)
    Renault cannot as they have to get their budget approved by the board of the (struggling) car company
    MaClaren have to stay in F1 as their whole business model is based on their participation.
    Renault can drop F1 and carry on regardless.
    For F1 the loss of MaClaren is just one team with others waiting to replace them.
    The loss of Renault would mean the loss of the team and the loss of the engines they supply to other teams (why punish the customer teams).
    And lastly when MaClaren were hit by their (admittedly ridiculous) fine F1 had not just been at war over costs, in fact the coffers were full. Max can hardly wish to set a budget cap of £40 million and then fine a team 250% of that amount can he?

  • Comment number 87.

    Has justice been seen to be done? Well maybe but maybe not!
    Has Nelson Jnr escaped without punishment? Well on the face of it yes but in reality he is not likely to be very welcome in any motor racing team in the near future never mind F1, so effectively his career in motor sport is over. I think that is very sad for a young man with everything to go for but the way it seems to me 'he acted like a hooker who didn't know she had been raped until the cheque bounced'!
    He needs to put this behind him and see what he can do to make amends to the F1 community and all the fans who supported him - it can be done but it will be a hard slog - let's hope nothing like this ever takes place again. It soils all those of us who have been or are involved with F1

  • Comment number 88.

    I have been following and competing in motorsport most of my life and have spend a long time defending it, but based on this year what can I teach my 11 year son about motor racing as he starts his first series of races.

    It is cheaper to endanger several peoples lives than to steal a design document.
    If you are a friend of the boss you do not need to worry about penalties and can plead poverty and say sorry.
    Independent teams and drivers lives have no value compared to manufacturers.
    If you intend to supply expensive engines that no one wants then you can do whatever you like.
    A multi-billion dollar company is poorer than a car racing team and so are not able to pay a fine.
    If Renault were not pressurising the team for results they would not have done this. They are to blame for this. As with McLaren the team are responsible for the staff.
    You can do whatever you like in your personal life without fear of penalty, unlike any other profession.

    Unfortunately these are not the life skills I want to teach my son and I am withdrawing him from his karting club and my whole family from all future motorsports events sanctioned by the FIA. I am also a marshall and now see how valueless my life is to the FIA and have resigned from this position.
    Solutions are to give Renault a proper penalty or give McLaren their money back and admit they were unfairly treated. Everyone seems to have forgotten Renault were caught doing the same thing but did not get a fine (just in case they left the sport). The sport is better without Renault. They should give all their money from this and last year to charity.

  • Comment number 89.

    awfull decision,but unfortunately totaly predictable given the bias consistently shown by the discredited fia

  • Comment number 90.

    @88
    "Unfortunately these are not the life skills I want to teach my son and I am withdrawing him from his karting club and my whole family from all future motorsports events sanctioned by the FIA. I am also a marshall and now see how valueless my life is to the FIA and have resigned from this position."

    And what do your family think of this, you're really going to let the Singapore 3 and their punishment spoil your families enjoyment? If you really want to do the right thing stay on and show a good example. All the FIA aren't crooks, just like all priests aren't pedophiles, etc etc.
    At least wait to see who the new FIA president is before you make such sweeping changes to your family's spare time activities.

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797)

  • Comment number 91.

    Seems to me that money has done the talking rather than a panel of unbais people. McLaren got fined a large amount of money for the 'spy' scandal but because Renault are paying for this whole investigation they don't get a fine?! Think the FIA are scared of loosing more teams after Honda & BMW pulled out. Who says money doesn't talk?!

  • Comment number 92.

    There are conflicting news stories on the ban.

    "Renault received a permanent disqualification from the sport, but this is suspended until the end of 2011."

    I read this as the suspension goes into effect in 2 yrs.

  • Comment number 93.

    Ok one to ponder
    Say the FIA had banned Renault but the French want a team in F1. A new team from Peugeot, Citroen or Prost? Or of course Nissan LOL ?
    My wish would be Citroen with Sebastian Loeb as a driver

  • Comment number 94.

    @92 Thats how I read it, but that would make absolutely no sense...

  • Comment number 95.

    It's probably a case of F1 needs Renault more than Renault needs F1.......

  • Comment number 96.

    "Renault received a permanent disqualification from the sport, but this is suspended until the end of 2011."

    This means the ban will only come into effect if they re-offend within 2 years

  • Comment number 97.

    Never mind the might have beens of last season, what about this coming weekend?
    As I read the FIA ruling anybody with contractual connections with Briatori cannot take part in any FIA controlled event. Where does this leave Alonso who is managed by him? I think Webber is also managed by Briatori and Kovalinen has some connection as well. Does this mean they will not be racing this weekend?

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 99.

    @97

    Yes this is what i read

    "In a fairly blunt statement the FIA made clear that any driver associated or managed by Briatore, will not be granted a superlicence - the essential qualification required to compete in Formula One. Kovalainen who is currently seeking a drive for next season will not be able to use the services of Briatore in his negotiations with McLaren or other potential teams."

    Are we alowed to give references?

  • Comment number 100.

    @97
    The statement is that nobody associated with Briatore will be issued a license or have one renewed. Therefore those who already have lisences for this season are OK to race as there is no mention of rescinding them. I think this was very carefully worded to prevent issues with innocent drivers etc.
    BTW Briatore hasn't represented Alonso for some time....
    However another associate of Briatore who may be distancing himself from Flavio is :-
    Uncle Bernie, they share ownership of QPR (with Mr Mittal)and GP2!!!( a sanctioned FIA series)

    It will be interesting to see what else comes to light now FB has gone. One driver has already stated that he had to sign up to FFBB (Flavio's management company) before he could get a Renault contract

 

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