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Piquet Senior lobs another hand-grenade into Renault situation

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Piquet Senior lobs another hand-grenade into Renault situation
Sep 18, 2009, 5:24 PM

Nelson Piquet Senior has said that he informed the FIA late last season, that there was something fishy about his son's crash in Singapore.

Nelson Piquet Senior has said that he informed the FIA late last season, that there was something fishy about his son's crash in Singapore. He alleges that he told FIA race director Charlie Whiting about it a few weeks later at the season finale Brazilian Grand Prix.

Whiting (left) with another ex Brabham man, Herbie Blash (Photo Darren Heath)

According to a leaked transcript of the interview done by a Quest investigator on behalf of the FIA, the three times world champion says that he first learned of the plot,

"I think the next day or maybe two days after the race... I was glad that he didn't hurt himself..but in the race in Brazil I called Charlie and I told the whole story to Charlie. I got him and said: 'Look, what could happen to Nelson if I bring this up?' and I was afraid to screw up the career of Nelson. At the race in Brazil, I called Charlie and I told the whole story to Charlie."

This does not tally with the version of events I understand from the FIA. They contend that, although there were rumours and insinuations about the incident at the end of last season, they only got involved when Piquet came to them on 26th July 2009 with the information and FIA president Max Mosley asked him to get his son to make a sworn statement, on the basis of which they would launch an enquiry.

This latest development is not helpful from an FIA point of view because it begs the question, if what Piquet says is true, why did they not launch the enquiry last November? And, as with the double diffuser row early this season, it puts Charlie Whiting in an awkward position.

Piquet and Whiting go back a long way, to the Brabham team in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The team was then run by Bernie Ecclestone and Piquet was the driver and Whiting a senior mechanic.

Piquet also alleged that Fernando Alonso was in on the plot, something which Alonso himself denies and for which the FIA investigators can find no evidence.

"Look, if, if you wanna ask me if Alonso knew what was gonna happen, of course he knew. Of course he knew."

What's interesting about this is that in their summing up of the case against Renault, leaked yesterday, the FIA stewards conclude that Alonso was not involved. To reach that conclusion they must be discounting Piquet's suggestion that he was. Piquet has no evidence to back up his claims.

Incidentally, Spanish colleagues I spoke to today say that they put Piquet's comments to Alonso and he said, "No, I knew nothing of that."

Alonso has said to investigators that he knew nothing of the alleged plan and has said publicly that he will speak about it only after the world council hearing.

Other drivers I have spoken to lately find it hard to believe that he knew nothing of this and wasn't at least more inquisitive about why he was being put on such an aggressive strategy with little hope of gain from it.

Other teams I have spoken to say that the whole way the crash plot was originated and executed, with only one person in on it from the strategy/engineering side, would be impossible in their teams. Other operational and race engineers would have to know because the system for evolving strategy is more collective.

In other words, the set up at Renault, with Pat Symonds in a position to decide strategy in advance and dictate operations with no recourse to other junior engineers, was possibly unique in F1, creating the circumstances for something like this to happen.
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