FIA Release Audio of Renault/Piquet Hearing

In a first for the FIA in this new post-McLaren penalty transparency, they have released an audio recording of the World Motorsport Council meeting in which Nelson Piquet Jr and the Renault F1 team were called to answer charges of race-fixing.

You can listen to the near 77-minute hearing and the 7 minute conclusions, as well as read the 91-page dossier of evidence and the 20-page WSMC decision, on the following link:


Goodbye Flav

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.

FIA statement:

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.

Here is the FIA WMSC decision in full.

Hamilton’s Exclusion

The FIA race stewards in Malaysia have reopened last weekend’s issue of Jarno Trulli’s penalty for passing under Safety Car conditions. I can’t say I ever recall the stewards of one meeting ruling on the events of another, particularly as in F1 the three ruling stewards frequently change from race to race. They say this is to avoid accusations of bias but it leads to inconsistent decision making which makes the FIA look foolish and ineffective.

Of the three stewards in Australia two are present in Malaysia so they can be reasonably familiar with the circumstances.

In the initial stewards’ meeting last week both Hamilton and team manager Dave Ryan told the stewards (and Race Director Charlie Whiting) that no instruction had been given to Hamilton to let Trulli pass him, after Trulli had fallen off the racetrack and lost the position.
This being the case, the stewards gave Trulli the penalty for re-taking that position illegally under the Safety Car.

There was an instruction given over the radio. Lewis himself confirmed it to the media after the race, but before the stewards’ meeting. It now transpires that the stewards did not have access to McLaren team radio, else they would have heard the radio call giving Hamilton the instruction, hence Trulli’s penalty.

The decision this weekend is two-fold:
– cancel Trulli’s penalty, reinstating him to 3rd ahead of Hamilton;
– remove Hamilton from the results because he misled the stewards of the race meeting;

I agree with what has been done here. All too often in the past we have been left with decisions made in previous races which are later disproven when further evidence comes to light – and no correction is made. A lot of fuss was made about this last season and the FIA promised something would be done, and to their credit they have done it.

Perhaps they could now take another look at the Vettel/Kubica incident and cancel Seb’s penalty which seemed to be awarded based entirely on his admission of guilt rather than any examination of the evidence.

Revised results:
1. Button (Brawn) 58 laps
2. Barrichello (Brawn) +0.8s
3. Trulli (Toyota) +1.6s
4. Glock (Toyota) +4.4s
Excluded: Hamilton (McLaren)


Drivers (Revised)
10 Button
8 Barrichello
6 Trulli
5 Glock
4 Alonso
3 Rosberg
2 Buemi
1 Bourdais

Compared to the standings following Trulli’s penalty, this ‘correction’ simply deletes Hamilton and inserts Trulli in his place.

Constructors (Revised)
18 BrawnGP-Mercedes
11 Toyota
4 Renault
3 Williams-Toyota
3 Toro Rosso-Ferrari

Not only does this significantly change Toyota’s score, it means both McLaren and Ferrari have yet to score!

New F1 rules for 2009 – quick and dirty

This CGI video appeared online at the weekend. Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull Racing explains the differences between the 2008 and 2009 cars in an idiot-proof manner! The ‘exploding car’ graphics are a huge help too.

If you haven’t seen it yet go and check it out. If you saw it on YouTube go to this ITV link instead because it should be of a higher quality.

I’ll summarise the changes in March in the run up to the first race of the year, but if you only have a passing interest in F1 you should watch this 2 minute video instead of wading through a chunk of text.

EDIT – hit Sidepodcast’s F1 Debrief #93 for a full-on techie explanation of KERS as well as a roundup of the latest news in F1. You can play on-site or download the MP3 or M4A version, you can even get it via torrent if that’s your thing. I get the MP3 edition to play at my convenience – it even scrobbles in, how cool is that? The podcast lasts one hour precisely, which is an ideal size (the full hour isn’t all about KERS).