Things get messy ahead of Renault hearing


With less than two weeks to go before Renault faces an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council which could see the French team thrown out of F1, the finger pointing is well and truly underway.

According to unsubstantiated reports, Nelson Piquet Snr is alleged to have gone to the FIA at this year's Hungarian Grand Prix - his son's final race with Renault - and reported that at last year's Singapore Grand Prix Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds held a meeting with Piquet Jnr at which he was told to deliberately crash. Several days after the Hungarian Grand Prix, Piquet Jnr is said to have visited the FIA HQ in Paris to give an official statement.

Piquet Jnr is alleged to be claiming that he was told to deliberately crash his car at Turn 17 on either the 13th or 14 lap of the race. The exact timing of the incident was important because it would need to happen after Fernando Alonso hade made his pit-stop, while the location was vital because at Turn 17 there isn't a crane with which cars can be lifted to safety. In other words, the Safety Car would have to be deployed.

For their part, while Briatore and Symonds admit that a meeting did take place, they allege that it was Piquet Jnr who came up with the cunning plan.

With Piquet looking likely to be dropped at the end of 2008, paddock speculation is that Piquet Jnr could have agreed to the plan - or suggested it - in order to keep his seat, while Briatore, with an eye on whether Renault would remain in the sport, might have seen a race win as a way of keeping the French manufacturer sweet. Ironically, two weeks later in Japan, Alonso scored a fine win fully under his own steam.

As Mike Lawrence has written elsewhere, the FIA would never have called the extraordinary meeting of the WMSC unless it had evidence other than that of a driver (and father) with an obvious grudge, and it should be noted that Quest Corporate Investigations & Risk Mitigation, which is headed by a former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and has previously been used by both Max Mosley and Ferrari has been investigating the case.

While the finger pointing and buck passing might be amusing to some, this sorry saga has once again put F1 in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Furthermore, should the allegation be proven and Renault is found guilty it would no doubt mean the end of the French outfit's involvement in the sport and, no doubt, the start of criminal proceedings against those individuals concerned.

That said, some believe Piquet Jnr might have 'cut a deal' with the FIA, thereby following the example of Alonso, who, ironically, gave evidence against his own team (McLaren) in 2007 at the height of the spy saga.

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Published: 10/09/2009
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