The shock-announcement of mother company Renault that managing director Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds have left the ING Renault Formula One team does not mean the case is closed. Briatore and Symonds were ...
The shock-announcement of mother company Renault that managing director Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds have left the ING Renault Formula One team does not mean the case is closed. Briatore and Symonds were apparently not able to convince Renault of their innocence, and Renault will therefore "not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix". However, the Renault F1 team was summoned to the meeting of the Word Motor Sports Council, and not Briatore or Symonds themselves, so Renault still has to face the music next Monday.
It is widely presumed that Renault sacrificed the two hoping the hearing on September 21 of the WMSC in Paris will result in a more favorable outcome for the Renault F1 team. As said, Renault will not dispute the allegations about the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, and this means that Renault in fact admits that Briatore, Symonds and Piquet were indeed involved in a "race-fix" which ultimately gave Fernando Alonso the victory in Singapore last year.
The fact that Briatore and Symonds now are no longer employed by the Renault team, also means that the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) cannot summon them to attend the WMSC hearing next Monday. Could be very convenient for Renault, the last thing they need is two team directors revealing even more smut about the Renault team. The FIA had granted immunity to Symonds, in the hope he would tell everything he knew, and perhaps Renault doesn't want him to tell the FIA what he knows. At the hearing Renault will almost certainly plea guilty and ask the FIA for clemency (the bad guys have been removed from the team now) when determining the punishment, hoping the FIA will not ban them from Formula One this year or next year.
There is another thing the FIA, and everyone else in F1, would like to know, was Fernando Alonso in any way involved in this scheme? After the events in Singapore last year, some teams and drivers already thought it was suspicious Piquet had crashed exactly at the right time and place, but at the time there was not a shred of evidence to support that theory.
Alonso himself said he was very surprised when he heard of the possible scam, and denied he had any knowledge of it whatsoever. But... The race strategy Alonso was on, after qualifying only as fifteenth on the grid, does not make much sense, unless of course, he knew that there would be a safety car on the track after he had pitted on lap twelve. Alonso is an intelligent driver, and if you qualify as number fifteen, a first race stint of twelve laps would be a very bad strategy indeed. But he didn't question his race strategy, and one can only guess why he didn't. Hopefully the FIA inquiry will give an answer to that question as well.
Nelson Piquet was also granted immunity by the FIA, but since he is heavily involved in the crash-gate affair, it would be weird if he just gets a warning or a fine from the FIA. I understand that is was very difficult for him to say no to Briatore and Symonds when they told him to crash deliberately at the now famous turn 17 of the Singapore circuit. Piquet himself stated that he was afraid that his contract would end if he would have refused to do it, and reluctantly agreed.
So it is therefore also even possible that Briatore was blackmailing Piquet, and not the other way around, by threatening to cancel his contract for next season. That is also a matter for the WMSC to investigate. Personally I think Piquet should have refused to do it, any right-minded driver should not jeopardize his life and that of other people, whatever the consequences would be. This is not about a driver who does his boss a favor by letting his team mate past, in the same way Rubens Barrichello 'helped' Micheal Schumacher when they both drove for Ferrari. And let's not forget this: the immunity offered to Piquet and Symonds, is on the condition that they fully co-operate with the FIA investigation.
As for Flavio Briatore and his co-conspirator Pat Symonds, their future in Formula One is uncertain to say the least, although they have sofar not given a reaction on today's events, in fact they even haven't admitted to the charges, it is very unlikely another team in Formula One would hire their services based upon what we now know. Perhaps they come up with a reaction that would shed some light on what happened in Singapore, but it will be very difficult for them to ignore all the allegations and maintain their innocence.
Flavio Briatore is also the manager of a number of Formula One drivers, and this affair could also influence the drivers market for 2010.
As for the ING-Renault F1 team, they could be expelled from the F1 competition for this year or next year, or perhaps even more years, they could face a huge financial penalty (McLaren had to pay 100 million Euro fine as a result of the spy-gate affair), they may have to pay back prize money they won last year, anything is possible. Many fear the Renault board of directors will draw their own conclusion and withdraw from Formula One. And that would also mean about 700 people will lose their job over this scandal, a true disaster for the ones involved.
And there is no doubt that the FIA will react on this very unfortunate and very damaging crash-gate affair, the Renault statement are headlines in the media all over the world, even newspapers who normally don't print one single letter about Formula One, are covering this story on the front page. The allegations are very serious and I think the FIA should do everything they possibly can to make sure the truth and nothing but the truth will emerge, and we will get a full view of all the things that have happened at Renault.
One thing is sure, the last word hasn't been said about this affair, and Motorsport.com will of course keep you up to date.