The Renault F1 Team have been handed a two-year suspended ban for their part in the Singapore Grand Prix race-fixing scandal.
A 90-minute hearing in Paris today (Monday 22nd September) saw the team hold its hands up to race-fixing accusations with the FIA describing the actions of the team at last years Singapore Grand Prix as “of unparalleled severity”. The Renault team were called to Paris after their former driver Nelson Piquet Jr. reported to the FIA that he was asked to deliberately crash his car to help teammate Fernando Alonso to victory in last years Singapore Grand Prix.
However the hearing did not stop at metering out the punishment to the Renault team as former team boss Flavio Briatorie was issued with a ban on all FIA-sanctioned events for an unlimited time. Former Engineering Director Pat Symonds has also been given a five year ban of the same severity as Briatorie.
Nelson Piquet Jr. despite being directly involved in the race-fixing has escaped punishment after being offer anonymity by the FIA in return for evidence regarding the incident. It remains to be seen if Piquet has any future in the sport but currently this looks doubtful. Reacting to the decision by the FIUA Renault issued a statement in which it said:
“Today, we fully accept the decision of the Council. We apologise unreservedly to the F1 community in relation to this unacceptable behaviour.”
The action taken by the team to distance itself from the team members involved has appeared to find favour with the FIA and president Max Mosley. The FIA noted in their official press release that Renault had:
1. Accepted, at the earliest practicable opportunity, that it committed the offences with which it was charged and cooperated fully with the FIA’
2. Confirmed that Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds were involved in the conspiracy and ensured that they left the team;
3. Apologised unreservedly to the FIA and to the sport for the harm caused by its actions;
4. Committed to paying the costs incurred by the FIA in its investigation; and
5. Renault (the parent company, as opposed to Renault F1) committed to making a significant contribution to FIA safety-related projects.
These actions have led to the two-year suspended ban and not an instant race ban that could have easily been handed out had these measures not been put in place. FIA President Max Mosley commented on the decision after the hearing by saying;
“The blame has been placed where it should be placed and it’s the right decision. The penalty that we’ve imposed is the harshest one we can but because Renault have demonstrated that they have no moral responsibility for what took place, it would be wrong in the circumstances to impose an immediate penalty.”
Former engineering director Pat Symonds has commented on the incident and stated that it was to his
“eternal regret and shame that he had participated in the conspiracy”.
Grand Prix Blogger says: After what can only be described as a shameful spectacle from the likes of Symonds, Briatorie and Piquet we can finally put this sorry saga behind us. The damage this incident has created to Formula One could be larger than is currently estimated. Grand Prix Blogger cannot help but feel that the decision to simply suspend the Renault team as a blatent reaction by the FIA to keep the French manafacturer in the sport. Does this mean that commercial interests now out-weigh justice when dealing with cheaters and liars in the sport?
Grand Prix Blogger would like to have seen Renault banned from the remainder of the 2009 season despite being forthcoming in the admission of guilt regarding the incident. Ignorance is not a defence in our opinion and the management of the team needs to keep a closer eye on the egos of the likes of Mr. Briatorie and Symonds.
There is no doubt that this is a sorry day for the sport of F1 and has not only cost the careers of two huge names in the sport but the chance of a strong future in motorsport for young Nelson Piquet Jr.Image used under Creative Commons licence from José Manuel G.C.