Monday, 21 September 2009

F1 Singapore Race Fix - FIA cop out let's Renault off the hook

Bye bye Flav - don't come back too soon! (picture by Nicogenin)

The FIA World Motor Sports Council held it's must anticipated extraordinary meeting in Paris today to decide the fate of the Renault F1 team following their investigation into the Singapore race fix scandal.

The FIA have decided to slap Renault with a two year suspended ban from Formula 1 following their admission of race fixing at last year's Singapore Grand Prix.

The perma tanned lothario Briatore has been given an indefinite ban from all things F1 including driver management, which would appear to leave Alonso, Grosjean, Kovalainen and Webber on the lookout for a new representation.

Fellow conspirator Pat Symonds has received a lesser five year ban due to his co-operation with the FIA investigation.

Both Symonds and Briatore were sacked by Renault earlier this week in advance of the WMSC hearing.

According to the World Motor Sport Council, Renault’s plot to cause a deliberate crash was "an offence of unparalleled severity which warranted permanent disqualification from the sport"

Despite this, it decided to suspend the sentence for two years after taking into account Renault’s unreserved apology and swift action in parting with Briatore and Symonds.

The disqualification will only be activated if Renault is found guilty of a “comparable breach” between now and the end of the 2011 season.

What an absolute cop out!

Members of the Renault F1 team conspired to cause a deliberate accident which could easily have resulted in serious injury (or even worse) to Piquet, other drivers, the marshalls or spectators.

The punishment - if you can call it that - effectively amounts to no more than a slap on the wrist.

No points deduction. No race ban. Not even a reversal of last year's Singapore race result.

Contrast that with the way that McLaren was dealt with after the Ferrari "spygate" incident or Lewis Hamilton after the Australian Grand Prix.

There is simply no consistancy in the way FIA punishments are meted out. The plain truth is, the FIA were scared another manufacturer would leave F1.

Mosley will of course have the satisfaction of knowing that his arch rival and constant critic Briatore is permanently out of the picture before he hangs up his boots at the FIA.

On the other hand, Nelson Piquet Jr's fledgling F1 career now lies in tatters despite being granted immunity from the FIA for giving evidence against Renault.

He has apologised profusely for his part in events and stated that he wants a second chance to show his true potential in the future.

Somehow I don't see that there will be a queue of teams falling over themselves to take him on next year!

This is a shame because I believe away from Briatore's dictatatorial regime he may just have had a chance to blossom (look at the difference in Jenson Button since moving away from Renault).

I saw Piquet race at the innaugral A1 GP at Brands Hatch a few years back and he wiped the floor with everyone there including several former F1 drivers.

The only way I believe Piquet will be reappearing in a F1 car in the near future is if he, or more likely his father, is able to bankroll a drive with one of the new teams joining in 2010.

Renault claim that they conducted a thorough internal investigation into the race fix allegations and in line with the FIA's own investigation (what a surprise) found that “Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds and Nelson Piquet Jr had conspired to cause the crash” and that “no other team member was involved in the conspiracy”.

To be honest this sounds to me like yet another load of old tosh.

Fernando Alonso has therefore been absolved both by Renault and the FIA from taking any part in what happened in Singapore.

I find it very hard indeed to believe that a very experienced driver like Alonso (lynch pin of the Renault Team) when asked to make a stop on lap thirteen of the race would not question this strategy.....

It would not surprise me if more revelations come to light over the next few weeks and months.

Do you agree with me, or do you have your own views on this post?

If so, why not leave a comment now?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Briatore out! Symonds out! Renault out?

Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds have parted company with Renault today ahead of the FIA World Motorsports Council hearing next Monday regarding the alledged race fixing at last years Singapore Grand Prix.

Sacked Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr contacted the FIA to say that he had been instructed to deliberately crash his car during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix by Briatore and Symonds which allowed his then team mate Fernando Alonso to go on and win the race.

Alonso had taken a very early pit stop and Piquet's crash caused the safety car to be deployed ruining the race strategies of the other teams.

In a statement issued today, Renault said “The ING Renault F1 Team will not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix”. They went on to make it clear that Briatore and Symonds had left the team.

Last Friday, Renault and Briatore launched criminal proceedings against Piquet Jr and Snr for making false allegations and blackmail.

Oh dear, oh dear. It looks like the perma tanned one has shot himself well and truly in the foot this time!

It would appear that Renault are holding their hands up to the crime which will leave Briatore hung out to dry. No doubt he will be sued by the Piquets and Renault, maybe even by their title sponsor ING and others.

If found guilty by the FIA, which on the face of it looks pretty clear cut, Renault have to be (at least) in line for disqualification from the 2009 Championship and a ban for next year, or possibly even longer.

Ecclestone has been shrewd as usual and has covered his bases well.

This week, Malaysian owned Lotus has been announced as the official thirteenth team on the 2010 grid and BMW Sauber, who announced their departure from F1 earlier this season but have now been bought by Swiss backers, are the first reserve team in case one of the other teams drops out.....

One consequence of a Renault ban would be engine supply to customer teams although that may be mitigated by the return of Cosworth who will be supplying engines for all the new teams including Lotus.

I personally will be glad to see the back of Briatore in F1.

He was nothing more than a bully, and as has now been shown, a cheat willing to put the lives of drivers, marshalls and spectators at risk for the sake of ten World Championship points.

Nelson Piquet Jr should have a smile of satisfaction on his face right now knowing he has had the last laugh overhis tormentor Briatore. The problem is this sorry episode has probably snuffed out his F1 career before it has had a chance to blossom.

The fact he went along with the race fix plan for whatever reason shows a serious lack of judgment in my opinion.

Pat Symonds should have known better too. His long career may now be in tatters although it is rumoured the FIA have offered him immunity from punishment if he gives evidence against the team.

The FIA, and Max Mosley in particular, would take great satisfaction in destroying Briatore once and for all.

How about Alonso? Was he in on the plan too? He will no doubt deny any knowledge of it but I find that hard to believe. Seeing the underhand way in which he conducted himself at McLaren, conspiring against Ron Dennis with the FIA, makes me extremely suspicious.

It will be very interesting to see what comes out at the FIA hearing next week.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Fisichella's Ferrari Swansong

Ferrari have finally bowed to the inevitable and showed Luca Badoer the door after two embarsassing outings as replacement for the injured Felipe Massa.

Following his recent heroics in the Force India car at Spa (first pole for the team and second place finish behind Kimi Raikkonen), Ferrari have snapped up the services of Giancarlo Fisichella for the remainder of the season.

Fisichella has been announced as Ferrari reserve driver for 2010 which would appear to mean it will be hi's F1 swansong, unless Massa suffers a setback in his recovery or Raikonnen/Alonso have an accident (God forbid).

On the subject of Alonso it would appear that his switch to Ferrari, one of the worst kept secrets, is close to being confirmed. As a precursor, McLaren main sponsor Santander has signed a new five year sponsorship agreement with Ferrari.

It doesn't take a genius to work out why a Spanish owned bank would suddenly take an interest in Ferrari!

Meanwhile back at Force India, Liuzzi has been promoted from reserve driver to replace the departed Fisichella.

Today in the second free practice session in Monza for the Italian Grand Prix, Adrian Sutil was fastest for Force India while Fisichella in the Ferrari propped up the time sheet.

It looks like Force India will make another good showing at Monza. My prediction is that Sutil will make it through to the top ten shoot out and I'm sure that Fisichella will improve and probably qualify around 13th/14th.

Even Raikkonen was off the pace today and the gap back to Fisichella was around 0.7 seconds - already a marked improvement on Badoer.