Monday saw the FIA World Council meet to hear the case of Renault, Briatore, Symonds and Piquet Jr conspiring to fix the result of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix by Piquet crashing his car, guaranteeing a Safety Car period and thus giving Fernando Alonso the lead and the race win.
Renault F1 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 has conducted its own detailed investigation and its findings correspond with those of Renault F1.
Further, the FIA statement reveals Renault made the following points:
– it had accepted, at the earliest practicable opportunity, that it committed the offences with which it was charged and cooperated fully with the FIA’s investigation;
– it had confirmed that Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds were involved in the conspiracy and ensured that they left the team;
– it apologised unreservedly to the FIA and to the sport for the harm caused by its actions;
– it committed to paying the costs incurred by the FIA in its investigation; and
– Renault (the parent company, as opposed to Renault F1) committed to making a significant contribution to FIA safety-related projects.
Nelson Piquet Jr. also apologised unreservedly to the World Motor Sport Council for his part in the conspiracy.
The verdict is therefore unequivacal: guilty
What of the sentence?
The World Motor Sport Council considers that offences of this severity merit permanent disqualification from the FIA Formula One World Championship. However, having regard to the points in mitigation mentioned above and in particular the steps taken by Renault F1 to identify and address the failings within its team and condemn the actions of the individuals involved, the WMSC has decided to suspend Renault F1’s disqualification until the end of the 2011 season. The World Motor Sport Council will only activate this disqualification if Renault F1 is found guilty of a comparable breach during that time.
This is an interesting penalty. Renault last week removed Briatore and Symonds from the company and are very much distancing themselves from what happened, saying it was between Briatore, Symonds and Piquet Jr. This is believable. If you read the transcript of the radio calls during the race it seems even the race engineers did not know.
It should be noted that Renault (that is the parent company, not Renault F1) will be paying the FIA’s legal costs as well as making an unspecified contribution to the FIA’s safety work.
Flavio Briatore has not escaped so lightly. He is still maintaining his innocence despite all evidence to the contrary, of which the FIA takes a very dim view. Therefore he has been issued with a penalty I have never seen before – a total ban for an unlimited period. That’s not just from running a team, it extends to his driver management programme and his GP2/GP3 involvement as well!
I have never before seen the FIA make a statement like this:
As regards Mr. Briatore, the World Motor Sport Council declares that, 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. Furthermore, it does not intend to 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. In determining that such instructions should be applicable for an unlimited period, the World Motor Sport Council has had regard not only to the severity of the breach in which Mr. Briatore was complicit but also to his actions in continuing to deny his participation in the breach despite all the evidence.
Wow!! Flav’s a goner! Not only that, but all of the drivers he manages will be refused a licence until they change their representation. That means Webber, Alonso and I think Grosjean as well, and there are probably more. They have until the Singapore Grand Prix sessions begin on Friday..
Symonds gets a near-identical penalty to Briatore, the only difference being his is limited to 5 years and that was because he admitted guilt. He’s lucky not to have more, in fact given he’ll be in his 60s when this ban ends it could have ended his career so it could effectively be a life ban, too. Both men thoroughly deserve their penalties.
Piquet Jr was granted immunity by the FIA in exchange for his evidence, which is a shame because as far as I can see he should get a suspended ban, if not a full ban, for his part in all of this. Regardless of the pressure he was under he could have refused, or simply not done it when the time came.
Fernando Alonso has been “not in any way involved in Renault F1’s breach of the regulations” and was thanked for his cooperation. He surely must have thought something was up when he was put on a light fuel load, it can’t be proven that he knew or didn’t know what was going on. I’ll cautiously give him the benefit of the doubt but will remain sceptical.