Formula One: On and off track - week 15

Formula One: On and off track - week 15

Briatore, Symonds and FIA settlement, Will Piquet be happy?, Happy birthday Max Mosley, and Dallara under fire again Briatore, Symonds and FIA settlement After one and a half years, Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds have reached an agreement...


Briatore, Symonds and FIA settlement, Will Piquet be happy?, Happy birthday Max Mosley, and Dallara under fire again

Briatore, Symonds and FIA settlement

After one and a half years, Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds have reached an agreement with the FIA about the crash-gate scandal during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. Originally, Briatore was banned for life, and Symonds for five years from Formula One for their role in the scandal, which also involved Renault driver Nelson Piquet. The Brazilian driver at the request of both ex-Renault directors crashed his car deliberately to help his team mate Fernando Alonso win the race. Briatore and Symonds, who successfully saw their Formula One ban overturned by the French Tribunal de Grande Instance on January 5 this year, have now agreed they will not be active in Formula One or any other FIA championship before 2013. After recent discussions with lawyers of the FIA and Briatore and Symonds, the dispute was resolved, and both parties will end all legal procedures regarding the crash-gate scandal.

Flavio Briatore before he was banned from Formula One.
Photo by xpb.cc.

According to the FIA, both Briatore and Symonds have recognized their responsibility for the deliberate crash, and have expressed their regrets and have presented their apologies to the FIA. The FIA further stated: "They have also abandoned all publicity and financial measures resulting from the judgment of January 5, 2010, as well as any further action against the FIA on the subject of this affair." In return, the FIA will abandon the ongoing appeal procedure against Briatore and Symonds, which was started right after the French court overturned the FIA ban.

Strangely enough, exactly one month ago, on March 12, FIA president Jean Todt stated during the Bahrain GP he was still very determined to punish Briatore and Symonds. Todt: "We cannot forget that a car was purposely crashed and it cannot be without consequences." The FIA has now made a U- turn and commented about the settlement: "The FIA President has considered that it is in the best interests of the FIA not to allow the perpetuation of these legal disputes, which have received a great deal of media coverage and which, regardless of the outcome, are very prejudicial to the image of the FIA and of motor sport, and thus to accept this settlement solution, thereby putting an end to this affair."

Although they agreed they would not seek publicity over this matter, Briatore issued a statement in which he accepts his responsibility, but at the same time denies any personal guilt. The statement also said that the settlement was not a recognition that the FIA's verdict about Nelson Piquet's deliberate Singapore crash being true was "well-founded". So, he is guilty, but he didn't do anything? Symonds issued a statement today in which he claims he is now free to work as a consultant in Formula One.

This whole settlement is beginning to look like a bad joke, and because both parties have now ceased all ongoing appeal procedures, the question whether Briatore and Symonds were indeed guilty of fixing a race and asked Piquet to crash his car, will for ever remain unanswered. Or perhaps not?

Will Piquet be happy?

Because there is something missing in the FIA statement: not a word about father and son Piquet. And that is remarkable to say the least. The Piquets have recently launched a libel court action against Briatore and Renault because they have accused them of blackmailing. The Piquets have hired French lawyer Dominic Crossley, who ironically also successfully represented Max Mosley during his sex-gate scandal, to represent them in court. They seek ?200,000 in damages and public apologies from Briatore and Renault.

Crossley about the Piquet court case: "Given Renault F1's [and Briatore's] failure to accept the Piquets' invitation to withdraw the allegations and apologize, they feel they have no other choice but to demonstrate the falsity of these allegations in court." Whether Briatore and Symonds will now be prepared to apologize to the Piquets as well remains to be seen. If they don't, this story will without a doubt be continued.

Happy birthday Max Mosley

Ex-FIA president Max Mosley celebrates his 70th birthday today, he was FIA president from 1993 until the end of 2009, serving four terms as president. He had a short career as racing driver himself from 1966 until 1969, after two huge accidents he decided to quit racing. He was the co-founder of the March F1 team, but left the team in 1971. Mosley was very poised to make Formula One safer, and after Ayrton Senna had his fatal accident during the 1994 San Marino GP, he put F1's safety on top of his list. He installed the FIA Advisory Expert Group chaired by Professor Sid Watkins, to research and improve safety in motor racing.

What does Mosley think about Todt's decision?.
Photo by xpb.cc.

He was criticized for the rapid changes he implemented in Formula One directly after the Senna accident, but he never gave up his quest for safety. He reduced the power of the engines, introduced the grooved tyres to reduce cornering speeds, together with Watson he introduced the HANS system, demanded circuits would improve their safety features, and last but not least, he also introduced a mandatory crash testing procedure to check if a chassis is fit for Formula One racing.

He also reformed the FIA who until then was just the governing body for motorsport, now the FIA is also the federation of the world's leading motoring organizations. The FIA is active on many fronts like road safety, environmental protection and sustainable mobility, and funds specialist motorsport safety research. The FIA is now also the home of the International Court of Appeal, the final appeal tribunal for international motorsport. All those changes were initiated by Mosley, and although he has many critics, we should credit him for the current Formula One and other motorsport series safety standards.

His popularity went downhill after a few clashes with several major car manufactures in Formula One, and when he in 2008 was involved in a sex scandal, he almost had to retire as FIA president. Mosley wanted to get rid of the car manufacturers, and warned they would leave the sport when the economic crisis, which by then had already affected the whole world economy, would hit Formula One. Unfortunately he was right, all except Ferrari and Renault left the sport.

Of course there is a connection with the previous topic, at the time of the crash-gate scandal, Mosley said the scandal was even worse than the McLaren- Ferrari spy-gate scandal in 2007, which cost a few good people their job, and cost McLaren a staggering 100 million Euro fine. But the big question for today is of course, what does Mosley think about the way his successor Jean Todt has handled the crash-gate scandal, and especially what does he think about the fact that Briatore and Symonds are now able to make a swift return to Formula One?

Mosley was very much in favor of introducing new teams in Formula One, hopefully he will not be too disappointed by the new teams' achievements when he watches the race in China this weekend. Anyway, happy birthday Mr. Mosley.

Dallara under fire again

Geoff Willis, former Williams, McLaren, Honda and Red Bull technical boss, who is now working for the new Spanish HRT F1 team as technical consultant, has heavily criticized the by the Italian Dallara company build car. Dallara also builds the cars for the Indycar, GP2, GP3 and almost all Formula Three series and the Renault World Series. Dallara won six out of the ten Indy 500 races they participated in, and they were also involved in Formula One from 1988 until 1992 when they produced the chassis for Beppe Lucchini's BMS Scuderia Italia team.

Willis is disappointed about the car, and thinks it is not up to the current Formula One standards. Although he acknowledges the project was hampered because Campos couldn't pay the bills and Dallara therefore stopped the development of the car several times, he still thinks the car is missing the quality and refinement you would expect of a modern Formula One car. Willis said he didn't mind working for a team at the back of the grid, but was more worried about the future plans and funding of the team. HRT has no developing program for the Dallara chassis, and the disappointed Willis is even considering to leave the HRT team, and there are rumors he will join Force India, where technical director James Key has left to join the BMW-Sauber team.

HRT's Manfredi Ravetto has now joined Willis' criticism and also expressed his concern about the development of the car. Ravetto about the car: "What Dallara delivered was a total mess." Apperently Dallara holds all the data and design information which is needed to update the performance of the car, and if Dallara will not develop the car, HRT will have to do it themselves, and that will not be easy without the data and information of Dallara according to Ravetto. It seems the relationship between HRT and Dallara is almost over, Geoff Willis expects he will make a decision about his future at HRT around the time of the Chinese Grand Prix.

Join us again next week for the weekly "Formula One: On and off track".


See also: Formula One: On and off track - week 14

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Fernando Alonso , Ayrton Senna , Nelson Piquet , Flavio Briatore , Geoff Willis , Jean Todt
Teams Sauber , Force India , Williams