Thursday, September 17, 2009

Renault F1's Crashgate

I quit to save Renault: Briatore (sourced from: The Malaysian Insider)

The flamboyant Briatore will leave Formula One with his reputation in tatters. — Reuters pic

LONDON, Sept 17 — Flavio Briatore said he sacrificed himself to save his Renault Formula One team but it will take more than the departure of a flamboyant Italian showman to repair the damage done by race-fixing revelations.

“The worst act of cheating in the history of sport,” declared the back page headline in the Times newspaper today.

“I was just trying to save the team,” Briatore said after Renault announced he and engineering head Pat Symonds had left the team after allegations they fixed last year’s Singapore Grand Prix by ordering Brazilian Nelson Piquet to crash.

“It’s my duty. That’s the reason I’ve finished,” he told British newspapers, whose commentators emphasised the potentially lethal nature of such a crash and portrayed a diseased sport lacking in moral perspective.

Austria’s triple champion Niki Lauda, who almost died in a fiery 1976 crash at the Nuerburgring, said the scandal marked a new low and the governing FIA needed to take a tough stance.

“The McLaren spying scandal two years ago was extremely serious but mechanics have always discussed technical data among themselves,” he told the Daily Mail, referring to a controversy that cost McLaren a record US$100 million (RM350 million) fine.

“This, though, is new. The biggest damage ever. Now the FIA must punish Renault heavily to restore credibility in the sport.”

Britain’s Jackie Stewart, another triple champion, agreed.

“There is something fundamentally rotten and wrong at the heart of Formula One,” he told The Sun.

“Never in my experience has Formula One been in such a mood of self-destruction. Millions of fans are amazed, if not disgusted, at a sport which now goes from crisis to crisis with everyone blaming everyone else.”

Formula One’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, a co-owner with Briatore of English first division soccer club Queens Park Rangers, refused to stand up for a man who had been seen by some as his eventual successor.

“It is a pity that Flavio has ended his Formula One career in this way,” the 78-year-old told the Daily Mirror. “You can’t defend him at all. What he did was completely unnecessary. It’s a pity that its happened.”

Ecclestone still could not resist making light of Briatore’s predicament, suggesting he would now have more time to pick QPR’s team, and said the sport that he has built into a billion dollar business would not suffer.

“He (Briatore) told me recently that he didn’t want to finish up like me, playing with racing cars at my age. So at least he’s been saved that embarrassment,” he said.

“It (the sport) has recovered from so many things when people have said it was finished and it will recover from this. It was supposed to be finished when Ayrton Senna died. It was supposed to be finished when Michael Schumacher retired.

“People say it’s been a torrid year but it always is in F1. There’s always something going on. It’s never peaceful.” — Reuters


FIA may kick Renault out of F1 permanently (sourced from: The Malaysian Insider)

Renault face a permanent expulsion from Formula One, or at least an astronomical fine. — Reuters pic

LONDON, Sept 17 — After deciding not to contest charges of fixing last year’s Singapore Grand Prix, Renault must wait for Formula One’s governing body to decide their punishment.

The main question now is whether, with flamboyant team boss Flavio Briatore falling on his sword, Renault have done enough to escape the ultimate sanction of being kicked out of the championship.

Another concern is whether, given all the negative publicity over ordering Brazilian Nelson Piquet to crash his car to help team mate Fernando Alonso win, the French manufacturer will remain committed to the sport even if allowed to continue racing.

“Out. Total. Exclusion forever, gone, finished. That’s the worst that could happen,” International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Max Mosley said last week when asked what was the toughest possible penalty.

That is no idle threat. Toyota were excluded for a year from the world rally championship in 1995 for using an illegal turbocharger.

The departure of Briatore and his unflappable director of engineering Pat Symonds may act in Renault’s favour however. Precedents suggest being honest and apologising unreservedly will also help.

Mosley has said the Renault cause is potentially more serious than that of McLaren, who were fined US$100 million (RM350 million) and stripped of all their constructors’ points in 2007 for having Ferrari technical data in their possession.

However, the FIA came down particularly hard on McLaren because it felt the team had not been honest.


“One of the bad things about McLaren was that they did not tell the truth, so that went against them,” Mosley said.

McLaren took a very different tack in April when they were again hauled in front of the FIA on charges of lying to stewards at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

McLaren’s British world champion Lewis Hamilton made a public apology, team principal Martin Whitmarsh doing so unreservedly in front of the FIA members. Sporting director Dave Ryan was dismissed and former team boss Ron Dennis distanced.

The FIA highlighted the “open and honest” approach and dealt the team a suspended three-race ban.

The argument that 600 to 700 innocent Renault employees risk losing their jobs because of the actions of individuals who have since left the company will also have weight.

“If we’d excluded McLaren from 2007 and 2008, the business was finished. Shut down, 1,400 people lose their jobs. There’s no way they could have survived that,” said Mosley.

“And so the truth of the matter was that the 100 million... was actually a very light penalty.”

Counting against Renault will be safety issues, with Piquet not only risking his own life and limb but also that of spectators, marshals and even other drivers.


The result of the 2008 championship cannot be changed but the fact the crash may have cost Piquet’s Ferrari-driving compatriot Felipe Massa the title could also be taken into consideration.

Massa, who lost out to Hamilton by a single point, had been leading in Singapore before Piquet’s crash brought out the safety car. He failed to score points after a nightmare pit stop.

The FIA also have to show they are not biased, even if a heavy fine could prompt Renault to follow Honda and BMW out of the sport.

“If we just said we would ignore it then the whole world would turn around and say Formula One is not a sport, it’s a business,” said Mosley.

“(People would say) ‘Because this is a big car company they’re not going to do anything’; ‘Because (Formula One supremo) Bernie (Ecclestone) is friends with Flavio and they’ve got a football club, they’re not going to do anything.’

“The world would see us as corrupt.” — Reuters


By Admin:

What's been done cannot be undone anymore. Briatore and Symonds' decision to quit the team is tantamount to admitting to the charge of race-fixing. They quit because they know they have nothing to fall back on and having no defense to the charge. Their only mistake in this ugly episode was sacking their driver Nelson Piquet Jr. who subsequently pulled the plug on them about the conspiracy to stage an intentional crash into the barriers to effect a safety car deployment during last season's inaugural Singapore F1 race. Nelson Piquet Jr's then team-mate, Fernando Alonso, went on to win the race.

It is now left to be seen what the governing body, FIA, will mete out as punishment to the Renault F1 team. Worse comes to worst, Renault could be kicked out from F1 for good or banned for a period of time, but considering some of the arguments above, they might yet get to stay and race another day, come rain or shine! CIAO!

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