The FIA World Motor Sports Council (WMSC) came to a verdict regarding the Renault crash-gate affair, after a 90 minute hearing earlier this morning in Paris, attended by Renault F1 president Bernard Rey, head of public relations Jean-Francois ...
The FIA World Motor Sports Council (WMSC) came to a verdict regarding the Renault crash-gate affair, after a 90 minute hearing earlier this morning in Paris, attended by Renault F1 president Bernard Rey, head of public relations Jean-Francois Caubet, Renault driver Fernando Alonso and former driver Nelson Piquet.
According to the FIA, the Renault F1 team stated at the meeting that "it had conducted a detailed internal investigation, which found that: (i) Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds and Nelson Piquet Jr. had conspired to cause the crash; and (ii) no other team member was involved in the conspiracy".
The FIA concluded: "The WMSC considers Renault F1's breaches relating to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to be of unparalleled severity. Renault F1's breaches not only compromised the integrity of the sport but also endangered the lives of spectators, officials, other competitors and Nelson Piquet Jr. himself".
The WMSC also concluded that "offences of this severity merit permanent disqualification from the FIA Formula One World Championship", but because Renault had pled guilty and had taken action "to identify and address the failings within its team and condemn the actions of the individuals involved", the Renault F1 team was handed a suspended race ban until the end of the 2011 season and also has to pay the costs for the FIA investigation.
The verdict was welcomed by Renault: "Today, we fully accept the decision of the Council. We apologize unreservedly to the F1 community in relation to this unacceptable behaviour. We sincerely hope that we can soon put this matter behind us and focus constructively on the future. We will issue further information in the next few days."
Ex-Renault driver Nelson Piquet also apologised unreservedly to the World Motor Sport Council for his part in the conspiracy. At his website he stated: "I am relieved that the FIA investigation has now been concluded. Those now running the Renault F1 Team took the decision, as I did, that it is better that the truth be known and accept the consequences. The most positive thing to come from bringing this to the attention of the FIA is that nothing like it will ever happen again."
Ex-team boss Flavio Briatore got an altogether different treatment from the WMSC: "For an unlimited period, the FIA does not intend to sanction any International Event, Championship, Cup, Trophy, Challenge or Series involving Mr. Briatore in any capacity whatsoever, or grant any license to any Team or other entity engaging Mr. Briatore in any capacity whatsoever. It also hereby instructs all officials present at FIA-sanctioned events not to permit Mr. Briatore access to any areas under the FIA's jurisdiction."
This in fact means that Briatore is banned from any form of motorsport for an unlimited period. But that is not all, Briatore is also no longer allowed to represent or manage Formula One drivers. The FIA: "We will not renew any Superlicence granted to any driver who is associated (through a management contract or otherwise) with Mr. Briatore, or any entity or individual associated with Mr. Briatore". Briatore is also "not permitted access to any areas under the FIA's jurisdiction for an unlimited time", which means he is no longer welcome at races organized by the FIA. In fact, the FIA has declared Briatore a 'persona non grata' in the world of motorsports. For his part in the conspiracy, Renault engineer Pat Symonds was also banned from motorsport, but for only five years, and is also no longer welcome at races organized by the FIA, also for a period of five years. The FIA stated that Symonds got a five year ban instead of an unlimited ban, because he "accepted that he took part in the conspiracy; and told the World Motor Sport Council that it was to his "eternal regret and shame" that he participated in the conspiracy".
Surprise, surprise, or not?
It seems the fact that Renault pleaded guilty and fired conspirators Briatore and Symonds before the hearing of the WMSC, has paid off. They got a suspended race ban, no loss of points, no fine, they were not disqualified from the 2008 season, not even from the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. Renault must be very happy with this result, but many people will not be satisfied by the verdict of the WMSC, and to be honest, I'm one of them.
The WMSC speaks of "of unparalleled severity", but Renault only has to pay the costs of the FIA investigation, that's all. Two people were fired, but other staff members of the team can continue with their work, the FIA has said nothing about the reforms that are needed to make sure things like this will not happen again at the Renault team, or any other Formula One team for that matter.
Just a week ago Max Mosley told the media that he thought race-fixing is worse than cheating. "Fixing is one degree worse than cheating" were his exact words. Two years ago McLaren got a 100 million Euro fine for their part in the spy-gate affair. Ron Dennis accepted the fine, but decided to step down as team principal and just two months later his successor Martin Whitmarsh was confronted with the Lewis Hamilton lie-gate affair. It seems that there is something fundamentally wrong in the way F1 teams go about their business. The phrase 'to win at all costs' comes to mind.
The FIA will not make any further inquiries to see if there is indeed something fundamentally wrong in Formula One, and I think this verdict will further undermine the credibility of not only the FIA, but also of Formula One as a sport. I can't help feeling that the FIA and their president Max Mosley were just out to get the head of Flavio Briatore, instead of restoring the credibility of the sport, as they should have done. Renault should have been banned for at least the last four races of this season, and that would given them plenty of time to think about how to change things within the Renault team.
With the elections of a new FIA president on October 21 now in sight, it is very well possible that the FIA has once again shot its own foot; a lot of other FIA members will not be happy with the decision of the WMSC, and this could play in the hands of FIA president candidate Ari Vatanen, who said in an interview with UK newspaper The Sunday Telegraph that he would be calling for a total break with the current regime, claiming that "WMSC members such as Ecclestone and Montezemolo should not be empowered to sit in judgement over other teams when they have 'vested interests' in the outcome".
We will see whether today's events will have an impact on the FIA elections or not, and in the mean time Renault F1 will have to find a replacement for Briatore, there are plenty of candidates, but instead of naming them all, we perhaps should ask ourselves if any of these candidates would like to be the team principal of the Renault F1 team to start with ...