Renault face Singapore crash hearing

Could Fernando Alonso lose his Singapore GP win?

Could Fernando Alonso lose his Singapore GP win?

The FIA put out a short media release late this afternoon confirming Renault are being called to answer charges that they deliberately caused a crash to help Fernando Alonso win the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

The statement read:

Representatives of ING Renault F1 have been requested to appear before an extraordinary meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on Monday, 21 September 2009.

The team representatives have been called to answer charges, including a breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code, that the team conspired with its driver, Nelson Piquet Jr, to cause a deliberate crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix with the aim of causing the deployment of the safety car to the advantage of its other driver, Fernando Alonso.

Rumours about the investigation first came to light over the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

Renault is being investigated under the now-infamous article 151c, which concerns bringing the sport into disrepute. It’s the same charge McLaren were found guilty of in 2007 (for obtaining Ferrari intellectual property) and earlier this year (for misleading the Australian Grand Prix stewards).

In 2007 Renault were found to have broken article 151c in another spying inquiry, but no penalty was imposed because, as the verdict read, of a “lack of evidence that the championship has been affected.”

Felipe Massa may rue that Piquet’s crash led to a safety car period during which his race was ruined, costing him vital championship points.

If Alonso’s win were retrospectively taken from him, Nico Rosberg would inherit his maiden victory. But even if the points were redistributed it would not change the identities of Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari as the drivers’ and constructors’ champions.

But how the crash affected the world championship is likely to be of less interest to the panel than the matter of safety. It almost goes without saying that causing a deliberate crash puts drivers, marshals and fans at risk – something the FIA may be extremely sensitive to given recent serious accidents in F1 and F2.

If Renault are found guilty, expect the World Motor Sports Council to press for a very severe penalty.

Renault will go before the World Motor Sports Council on September 21st. Funny how the story came out last thing on a Friday, just as we expected, isn’t it?

The Renault Singapore controversy

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152 comments on Renault face Singapore crash hearing

  1. Remember Max Mosley called Favio ‘head of the loonies’ and Flav was a key part of the power house that got Max to finally resign. You don’t think there could be any witch hunting here in the last days of the MM dynasty? I mean that would assume the FIA was run as a personal fiefdom, which of course is absurd.. right?

  2. S Hughes said on 5th September 2009, 10:30

    I saw this article: http://itn.co.uk/fbb09270a35a7c7f463f89fe06e7f8f8.html

    “Should Renault be punished, it is almost certain the penalty will be severe, especially as deliberately crashing a car puts the lives of not only the driver, but also marshals and spectators at risk.

    Alonso would certainly be stripped of his victory, potentially even all his points from last season, which may result in Renault being forced to pay back all their prize money for 2008.”

  3. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th September 2009, 10:33

    Following Hakki’s comment, I’ve started a poll to see how many people think it was deliberate: Did Piquet crash on purpose? (Poll)

  4. Keith

    Please do a poll!
    I do want to know how many F1 fans think Flavio did it deliberately.
    What I am interesting most is not if this gate is ture or not, but how many fans trust F1.

    Flavio might disappoint fans, but before any proof is revealed, I never want to doubt of this sports.

    mp4-19b
    Yes It is true, Japanese was disappointed at Honda and Toyota.
    Now in Japan, Honda airs a TV CM saying ” We take part in Eco GP!”(Which means they quit racing and focusing on Eco solution.)…  

  5. S Hughes said on 5th September 2009, 10:50

    I have posted this before, but I think it is really relevant to every article on this subject. This is from ‘The Official Formula 1 Season Review 2008′ book that I was bought for Christmas:

    “TALKING POINT WAS ALL AS IT SEEMED
    Although nobody wanted to be too outspoken on the record, many teams were deeply suspicious that Fernando Alonso’s victory in Singapore, the first of the year for Renault, had been choreographed, with Nelson Piquet Jr crashing at an opportune moment to trigger the safety-car period that swung the race towards Alonso.

    Alonso had been quick from Friday’s first free practice and was deeply unhappy when a fuel-feed problem afflicted him early in Q2, before he’d had a chance to set a time. Starting only 15th on the bumpy Singapore street circuit, where overtaking was doubly difficult, his prospects were not promising. Piquet Jr had not made it out of Q1.

    Normally, faced with Alonso’s situation, a team will fuel up and run a long first stint one stopper in an attempt to make up track position on some of the two-stopping cars and those one-stoppers with shorter stints. To go aggressive on strategy will only work on a circuit where overtaking is particularly easy and you have good top-end engine performance. Neither applied to Renault at Singapore’s spectacular Marina Bay circuit and Alonso said they did it because the brakes were running hot all weekend and would not cope with a heavy one-stop fuel load.

    Alonso’s first stop, on lap 12 of the 61, was very early. On the next lap, team-mate Piquet Jr, who had already spun on the warm-up lap, received a radio instruction: “Push, Nelson!” At the time, he was going nowhere fast, stuck down in 16th position behind Barrichello’s Honda from the start. Was this a coded instruction? On the very next lap, Piquet Jr gyrated into the wall and brought out the safety car.

    Rosberg and Kubica were forced to pit under the safety car, as they would otherwise have run out of fuel, attracting driver-through penalties as a result of this year’s safety-car regulations. It proved that the first scheduled stints by anyone other than Alonso had been to pit on laps 14 and 15. Most teams have a very good handle on when the opposition are going to stop, so Alonso’s lap-12 stop was both as early as it legitimately could be and as late as possible if any ‘plan’ was to work.

    “Looking at it from a purely statistical point-of-view,” said a rival team strategist, “on a track like Singapore, stopping on lap 12 is not aggressive, it’s stupid, It’s something that cannot work. Your grandmother wouldn’t do it… Then, it’s true that stopping on lap 12 is the only way to open up a two-lap gap when the safety car will benefit only one car – the one that has stopped. And then, when you create this two-lap window and in it your team-mate crashes… If you add up the probability, you end up with a figure that is very close to zero.””

    • John H said on 5th September 2009, 11:47

      When was the last time anyone planned to stop that early on (just less than 20% of the race distance) in a race?

      note: Remember that Schumacher’s 4 stop stratergy at Magny Cours was decided 2 laps into the race, and so does not count.

      • Patrickl said on 6th September 2009, 9:03

        Form a starting position that far down the grid, the only one that comes to mind is Hamilton in Monaco this year.

  6. Remember that after Japan 1990, Senna was found guilty of deliberately causing a crash so that he could win the title, but was not punished.

    I know that this was a long time ago, and the situation was slightly different, but the charge was essentially the same as that of Renault’s, and therefore a precedent could have already been set.

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