Since Nelson Piquet Jnr’s statement leaked online yesterday the story has exploded, commanding back-page coverage on many of Britain’s daily papers and dominating the build-up to the Italian Grand Prix.
There are accusations of blackmail, complaints about the media’s handling of the story, more material appearing online and statements flying around. Here’s a quick summary of how the story has developed in the last 24 hours.
New material has emerged which gives further insight into the FIA hearings. In particular, data from Piquet’s car showing how the accident happened, and transcripts from his radio communications and the subsequent FIA enquiry.
The telemetry leaves little doubt that Piquet intentionally lost control of his car by applying an excessive amount of throttle at the exit of the corner.
The article also claims that during the FIA interviews, conducted at the Belgian Grand Prix weekend two weeks ago, Pat Symonds refused to answer several questions about whether they had decided to create a crash. It also says the stewards felt Flavio Briatore’s reaction to being told of the investigation by them was unusual.
Renault threatens legal action against Piquet
Today the ING Renault F1 Team and its Managing Director Flavio Briatore personally, wish to state that they have commenced criminal proceedings against Nelson Piquet Junior and Nelson Piquet Senior in France concerning the making of false allegations and a related attempt to blackmail the team into allowing Mr Piquet Jnr to drive for the remainder of the 2009 season. The matter will also be referred to the Police in the UK.
This is not possible and Renault lawyers in Paris would know this, which makes the statement seem very odd indeed. [...]
In French law it is not possible for a private individual or a company to commence criminal proceedings. All they can do is to claim that a crime has been committed and ask the authorities to investigate.
Despite Symonds’ reported reluctance to answer questions, Briatore is confident about his case against Piquet and representation to the World Motor Sports Council:
You know what? Whatever happens, if someone goes against the rules, they go against the rules. If I tell you to go rob a bank – afterwards, you decide whether to rob the bank or not.
I don’t feel I have any responsibility, and we don’t feel we have done absolutely anything [wrong]. In the case of Piquet we go to the World Council. But the fact already that we have put a criminal plan to Piquet is because we have enough confidence to be successful – the team and myself.
Max Mosley’s take
Autosport have published an interview with Max Mosley in which he suggests Renault could be thrown out of the 2008 world championship:
Question: What could be the penalty if they guilty?
Mosley: It could be anything up to disqualification. Because that’s what’s set out in the code. Disqualification means you are out, finished.
Question. From the 2008 championship?
Mosley: Out. Total. Exclusion forever, gone, finished. That’s the worst that could happen, but don’t for a moment get the impression I’m saying that would happen or will happen. That is the worst that could happen.
He also makes some very interesting remarks about the reaction to McLaren’s $100m fine two years ago.
Nelson Piquet Jnr’s statement
Nelson Piquet Jnr has put out a statement this evening saying:
Regarding the current FIA investigation, I confirm that I have co-operated fully and honestly with the sport’s governing body. Because I am telling the truth I have nothing to fear, whether from the ING Renault Team or Mr Briatore and whilst I am well aware of the power and influence of those being investigated, and the vast resources at their disposal, I will not be bullied again into making a decision I regret.
I have every confidence in the FIA investigation and World Motor Sport Council and I will be making no further comment until the conclusion of the hearing of 21 September 2009.
Nelson Piquet Jnr
It has also emerged that Mosley offered Piquet immunity from punishment in exchange for revealing the details of the plan, just as the McLaren drivers were during ‘spygate’ two years ago.
FIA and FOTA condemn leaks
Both the governing body and the teams’ association has criticised the publication of Nelson Piquet Jnr’s statement yesterday. It first appeared on F1SA (which, at the time of writing, appears to have gone down) and later other sites, including this one. Mosley explained why he was unhappy about the leak and vowed to prevent it happening again in future:
That is actually very unfortunate because it is just one side of the story. We are quite genuinely curious as to how that happened. Next time, when we send out to 20 or 30 people, we will probably arrange it in such a way that we can tell who is leaking stuff.
The Formula 1 Teams’ Association, of which Renault is a member, echoed his views:
All parties to the dispute should have the right to a fair hearing carried out in private and not in the public arena, which is producing adverse publicity damaging to the corporate image and credibility of Formula One.
I don’t agree with these views. Greater transparency can only be a good thing for the FIA, particularly when so many of its recent verdicts have drawn criticism for inconsistent judgements and unclear rules.
As for the suggestions the leaks are unfair because it only shows one side of the story, I am entirely happy to publish Renault’s version of events and I’m sure every F1 fan would like to read it.
Until then, I hope we can spend the next few days with our attention where it should be: on the Italian Grand Prix. If you haven’t made your predictions yet, head over here: Enter your Italian Grand Prix predictions