Monday, September 21, 2009

F1: Renault's "Crashgate" debacle concluded

The World Motor Sport Council met today at a hearing in Paris to make a decision on what to do about the "crash-gate" incident that has set the media on fire of late.

For those unfamiliar: Last Formula 1 season during the Singapore night race grand prix, then driver Nelson Piquet Jr. had a crash 2 laps after his Renault team mate Fernando Alonso had pitted. The former world champion Spaniard had started the race light on fuel to maximize his grid position, so pitting dropped him down the race order.

Nelson Piquet Jr. crashing in Singapore 2008
Nelson Piquet Jr. crashing in Singapore 2008 (F1 Renault CrashGate)

But with the mess created by Piquet Jr.'s crash, a safety car had to be deployed until it had been cleared. This left many of the race drivers running low on fuel and needing to pit during this safety car period. Something which would later incur a drive-through penalty.

To sum it up in Alonso's words after the race, the reason for his victory that weekend was: "Safety car".

Alonso with the safety and medical cars
Alonso with the safety and medical cars (F1 Renault CrashGate)

Fast forward to the 2009 season. Nelson Piquet Jr. was dismissed from his role as team-mate to Fernando Alonso after Hungary due to poor performances (being replaced by Romain Grosjean).

Then, released of pressure to keep his drive, he comes clean with the FIA that Renault team boss Flavio Briatore and director of engineering Pat Symonds had asked him to crash on purpose during the Singapore GP to engineer the victory for Alonso. Even where to crash, making it difficult to clean up quickly.

There is no smoke without fire, and although at first dismissive of the allegations, telemetry data and radio traffic had to be submitted to the FIA for analysis.

Renault conducted their own internal investigation, concluding the whole incident was segregated from rest of the team. They lay all blame squarely on Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds, who they have now dismissed.

Pat Symonds before the race (left) and Flavio Brietore with Fernando Alonso after it (right)
Pat Symonds before the race (left) and Flavio Brietore with Fernando Alonso after it (right) (F1 Renault CrashGate)

The World Motor Sport Council today accepted these findings and have done the following.

- Banned Flavio Briatore from all FIA events and race tracks for the rest of his life. Made it more difficult for him to get back into F1 by stating they won't grant a license to any team associated with him, and won't grant a super license (required to drive an F1 car) to a driver managed by him.

- Give a similar ban to Pat Symonds, which will expire after 5 years.

- Issued Renault a 2 year suspended ban from participation in F1. Suspended meaning effectively nothing happens unless a similar incident occurs.

We're sure Renault will be relieved by this, they helped their case considerably by being up front about where the blame lay and taking action against those employees.

The driver management ban for Flavio Briatore will leave Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen looking for a new manager.

[image source bbc]
Nelson Piquet Jr. Paris court (F1 Renault CrashGate)Nelson Piquet Jr. receives no punishment as he was granted immunity for bringing this event to light. He said of it, "I bitterly regret my actions to follow the orders I was given. I wish every day that I had not done it."

Such a burden weighing down upon him must certainly have affected the young fellow's confidence and helps give
insight into his poor form this year.

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