Briatore and Symonds step down as Renault accepts Singapore crash charge

2009 F1 season

Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds have left Renault

Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds have left Renault

The Renault F1 team has confirmed it will not contest the FIA’s charges against the team over the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

This surprising development is tantamount to an admission that Nelson Piquet Jnr was instructed to crash to help Fernando Alonso win the race.

Renault has also revealed its managing director Flavio Briatore and director of engineering: Pat Symonds have left the team. Only yesterday Symonds had been offered immunity from prosecution by the FIA in exchange for revealing further evidence.

Update: New Renault documents leaked today – see below.

A statement from Renault read:

The ING Renault F1 Team will not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

It also wishes to state that its managing director, Flavio Briatore and its executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, have left the team.

Before attending the hearing before the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 21 September 2009, the team will not make any further comment.

The first question now is how the World Motor Sports Council will choose to punish the team on Monday.

At the very least, Renault must be stripped of their win at Singapore last year. That could mean Williams driver Nico Rosberg being promoted from second place to be handed his first F1 win. (Update: See Hakka’s comment on why this won’t happen)

It’s impossible to ignore the ramifications of what happened. One indirect consequence of Piquet’s crash was Ferrari’s botched pit stop for Felipe Massa, which cost him a likely race win. That could even have changed the outcome of the world championship.

However even if the points from Singapore are re-distributed, Lewis Hamilton will remains the 2008 drivers’ champion and Ferrari the 2008 constructors’ champions.

But the full scale of the punishment could be far greater than just the loss of a race victory. We could be looking at a fine comparable to McLaren’s $100m penalty in 2007, or a one-year ban such as that handed down to the Toyota rally team in 2002.

What do you think should be the consequences for Renault? Will they be racing at next weekend’s second Singapore Grand Prix?

Update: The Daily Mail has leaked the FIA documents on Renault in full. Here’s links to all of them:

Statement of Nelson Piquet Jnr to FIA
Supplementary Statement of Nelson Piquet Jnr to FIA
Letter from Lars Osterlind to Max Mosley
Report of Stewards’ investigation into the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix
2008 Singapore Grand Prix Transcript of Extracts from Renault file
Telemetry 1
Telemetry 2
Telemetry 3
Telemetry 4
Telemetry 5
Partial track map
Recovery vehicle locations
Letter from Flavio Briatore to Nelson Piquet Snr
Letter from Pierre de Coninck
Invitation to an extraordinary meeting of the WMSC

Renault Singapore crash controversy

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386 comments on Briatore and Symonds step down as Renault accepts Singapore crash charge

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  1. Martin Bell said on 16th September 2009, 13:48

    Anyone fancy a nice quiet season next year?

  2. Oh dear oh dear.

  3. I honestly think they’ll be given a slap on the wrist now that Flav is out. It’ll be a somewhat painful slap (perhaps losing any points gained this year) but stop short of a huge fine that would definitely drive a team out of the sport.

    Having said that, I think Renault will be seriously thinking about quitting anyway after this.

    • Really!
      Someone mentioned on a previous, and I apologise for not finding out who, stated that this has major implications for sports betting.

    • does this mean – with flavio and pat out of renault, they wont have to attend the september 21 hearing … thus not having to answer any questions or incriminate the team further?

      if they were innocent – or guilty, they could at least defend or reason what they did somehow, or plead the 5th like pat did this week… but both of them leaving (no doubt being asked to leave), would be a plan to not get the team into further trouble.

      the hearing and the penalty will be done on separate dates, so they could have hung around for the hearing, answered the questions and then resigned as a sacrifice to escape a harsher penalty, but if they are totally out now, and wont be testifying, then the only people to answer questions would be people who can’t.

      so there’ll be no finding out that anyone else had anything to do with it – or that other crashes / events were planned / or that it was a bigger and more planned cover up.

      it also means they wont be able to dig in and find out why it was covered up.

      if it was so obviously discussed – even in passing before the race, pat was part of that conversation.

      another conversation would have gone down with flavio, even if it was just man to man ‘hey piquet talked about it before the race…’

      the team (flavio & pat) would have known about the telemetry prior to the crash and they aren’t stupid people, they can put two and two together.

      so if they did put two and two together, and did between themselves decided to just ride it out and forget about it, then it could justify bigger penalties since they benefited from the accident, they didn’t suspend piquet for his actions and they didn’t report it to the FIA.

      even if it was piquet’s idea 100%, they are just as guilty for the subsequent cover up.

  4. I hope people take a long, hard look at Alonso now.

    Funny how he is always so close to the big scandals. No smoke without fire.

    • Oh you have no proof. Leave him out of this.

    • Ned Flanders said on 16th September 2009, 14:57

      If it emerges that Alonso played a part in any of this it probably would become the greatest F1 scandal of all time (if it’s not already that), and that is saying something.

      But F1 is such a rotten apple that I suspect Bernie Ecclestone would try and suppress any evidence incriminating Alonso to try and hang on to of the biggest draws in the sport. Jaime Alguersairi and Pedro de la Rosa are hardly going to draw the crowds in to the Spanish races next year.

      Anyway, that’s my conspiracy theory. You heard it here first

      • I think it would be hard to find any evidence against him. If he was involved, he probably only talked to Flav and not Nelson. Flav won’t rat him out. Nelson has no idea if Alonso ever knew about it and like Ned Flanders said, the powers that be will protect the only 2-time WDC on the grid….

        • I don’t think he’s involved based on lots of things, not least when he was in the pre-podium room with Flavio and mentioned that the safety car had won him the race.

          If he was in on it, he would be saying nothing like that before podium. It’s the strongest evidence he’s clean to me.

          • you are naieve then

          • sato113 said on 16th September 2009, 18:01

            it’s called great acting in front the big camera that was staring him in the face.

          • Ned Flanders said on 16th September 2009, 20:37

            Have you considered acting nonchalant about it all could have been part of their cover up? Or that the impact the safety car had on his race perhaps warranted more than saying, ‘the safety car…’ to his team boss?

          • John H said on 17th September 2009, 0:35

            I just think it wasn’t acting and he didn’t know. But of course, I could be naïve as you say.

            As has been mentioned before by Keith I think, why would Renault actually let him in on the act at all when there is no need too?

            The less people in the know the better – the 1st place would still have been secured

    • Of course Alonso knew about it!!! Before or after tghe crash he knew what happens, it is impossible to think he did not knew!!!
      Remember McLaren case.
      But it is sure he will be not punish by the FIA because money issues. Ecclestone need him racing in Spain, a big market.
      It is about money, but we fans now are sure about Alonso lack of honor in sport.
      The worst World Champion in F1 history.

      • Remember what about the Mclaren case? That Pedro called Alonso to tell him about the Ferrari info that the Mclaren mech’s were discussing?

        Are you people retarded? Do you think if there was any use of data it only went to Alonso and not Hamilton?

        The team stood to benefit not Alonso

        • yeah you could say alonso is dirty, but these are two different fires – neither of which he has been implicated on starting.

          the mclaren dramas started with engineers and the renault dramas started with pat and piquet.

          from then on team secrets are team secrets and you cant blame him too much for trying to benefit his team.

          • I agree. Whether or not Alonso is dirty he’s not the driving force behind both of those scandals. I think you could have done what renault did without alonso but still….

      • Harv's said on 18th September 2009, 3:06

        he knew! why else would he use a 14 lap strategy when he qualified 15th. it doesnt make sence otherwise

  5. Fastformula said on 16th September 2009, 13:52

    holy molly, its a sinister stuff

  6. Journeyer said on 16th September 2009, 13:53

    However even if the points from Singapore are re-distributed, Lewis Hamilton will remains the 2008 drivers’ champion and Ferrari the 2008 constructors’ champions.

    But ah, you can argue that because of the intentional crash, everyone’s race was compromised, and thus the race results need to be nullified. Less 6 points for Hamilton…

    But that opens a whole new can of worms, one that’s too difficult to get into at this point. Some people are saying that the previous season’s results cannot be changed once the final standings are released. Can someone confirm this?

    • This won’t happen because the way Massa and Hamilton went about the rest of the season is affected too.

      With this argument, the rest of the championship after Singapore should be nullified!

      • Journeyer said on 16th September 2009, 13:59

        Which is probably why the results will no longer be changed, regardless of what happens.

      • sato113 said on 16th September 2009, 18:08

        if all of renault’s points were taken away from singapore 08 to brazil, then HAM would have gained 2 points more in Singapore, MAS would have gained one point more in Fuji and HAM would have gained another point more in Brazil. so HAM wins by 3 points.

    • Max Mosley confirmed that the 2008 championship will not be impacted at all:

      What we cannot do is we cannot interfere with the results of the championship, or indeed of that race, because of Article 179B of the International Sporting Code. On the 30th November the championship is finished, whatever. But of course if someone has done something they should not do, they can still get a penalty.

      • Journeyer said on 16th September 2009, 14:01

        Thanks, Hakka.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 16th September 2009, 14:06

        Thanks for that Hakka. It’s probably for the best that whole minefield gets avoided. Still it leaves Alonso with what will now be regarded as one of the least-deserved wins ever on his CV.

        • Ned Flanders said on 16th September 2009, 14:42

          If Alonso gets to keep that win it will be an absolute disgrace, another example of counter productive FIA legislation. It would be far more appropriate to declare no winner in that race.

          • It wouldn’t be the first time that finishers have been disqualified, without the ones behind them moving up in classification or points. The same happened with Rosberg being disqualified from 2nd in the 1983 Brazilian GP, while Lauda and Laffitte remained 3rd and 4th et cetera.

          • Yea, they have to scratch that from the books. No winner(s), fans included.

        • Antifia said on 16th September 2009, 15:48

          Yeah, there is no way to make it “right” for Massa without making it very unfair to Lewis. But one cannot fail to spot the irony: A Brazilian driver spoils the championship chances of another Brazilian driver in order to help Alonso who, I would guess, would have given his right arm to see anybody else but Hamilton being crowned champion…

          • Nitpicker said on 16th September 2009, 16:29

            Very true, well spotted that man. Alonso even stated in the second half of 2008 that he would try to help Felipe any way he could!

          • I love this Comment. very true…Unfortunately he did not have the crystal Ball in hand to see this thing coming. In fact if there was no safety car that day and if Massa had won the race and the championship eventually. Then Alonso would have won more brownie points with Luca and better deal with Ferrari. Anyway I am surprised that every team Fernando races is getting into some sort of problem or other. Beware Ferrai !!!!!!

          • sulzerpower said on 16th September 2009, 19:14

            Well spotted. And would they have gone to such extremes, presumably through pressures to win a race for their sponsors etc, if they knew they were gonna win the very next race…?

        • Why? Are you saying he knew cause that’s a pretty big accusation?

          I for one hope he was not aware.

      • well even though they are both Brazilian, i don’t think massa will be a friend of piquet in the future… his deliberate crash cost him the WDC…

        • Cameron said on 16th September 2009, 18:35

          No it didn’t. Numerous events in the season, from start to finish, cost Massa the championship. Had Massa won this race, who’s to say other results wouldn’t have been different later in the year based on various strategies leaving Hamilton still WDC? Or hell, someone else entirely? It is wrong to make such assumptions that one different race result, would have changed everything! Because the only way it could have, would have been by everything else remaining exactly the same!

        • adz2193 said on 16th September 2009, 22:42

          Had Ferrari got that pit stop right, Massa would have finished easily in the points – enough to win him the championship.

        • Don’t forget the engine failure in Hungary…

          • BNK Racing said on 17th September 2009, 4:03

            what about when hamilton fairly won the belgian in 08 and was given a 25 sec penalty which handed massa the win? had that not happened then look at the advantage hamilton could have won the WDC by

    • David BR said on 16th September 2009, 14:01

      This time travel stuff is fairly nonsensical. Sure, we can imagine one race result being different for a whole number of reasons, but what we can’t then do is project the consequences of this change result on the remaining races since the change in championship points would undoubtedly change team and driver strategies, motivation, risk assessments, etc.

    • William Wilgus said on 16th September 2009, 14:06

      I agree completely that the race should be nullified. As a “race”, it was effectively ended with Piquet’s crash and therefore fails to satisfy the FIA’s race lenght requirements. Wouldn’t that make Massa the rightful Champion instead of Hamilton?

      • James G said on 16th September 2009, 17:46

        You can find any way you want to pretend that Massa was the ‘real’ champion, but it’s not going to change the result. It’s true that Massa was horrendously unlucky, but we can play the ‘would’ve’ game until the cows come home. You can’t take away people’s points because somebody else cheated.

        Also, it would set a dangerous precedent that you could change the result years after the actual race.

        Have there ever been any races in F1 history nullified? I don’t think so, but I’m not sure.

        • The obvious solution would be to strip Renault of their constructors’ points for the race, if not for the rest of the year or the entire year entirely. The rule that final results are final is just silly.

          The other teams would be happy to get some — or all — of Renault’s share of the prize money too.

    • Jonathan said on 16th September 2009, 14:07

      You can’t go back and re-race the championship.

      In any case, we already knew Massa was the victim of terrible luck last year. Piquet’s crash was just one of many things that caused the championship to slip through his grasp.

  7. 1 year ban would be just about adequate.

    It’s a shame for all the employees at Enstone, but really what has happened here is one of the worst things to ever occur in F1 and should be treated as such.

  8. Alonso for sure should be stripped from his win although not sure if Rosberg deserved the Singapore win. He deserves a win but he did well in Sinpapore because of the crash and maximizing the 3 laps before coming in for his drive through penalty.

    Renault (if possible Flavio himself) should be punished like Mclaren. Give them a 50m or 100m fine as that will hit the team not the fans.

    Exclusion is not helping anyone – it hurts the fans – the circuits and formula 1 itself.

    Flavio should be permantly banned from F1 racing as well as attendance and be forbidden to work for any F1 team for x period.

    We all should be happy that Hamilton did overtake Glock in the final laps of Brasil else you would have a whole debat on who is the rightfull owner of the title F1 worldchampion 2008.

    • Andrew White said on 16th September 2009, 17:36

      I think there already is a whole debate over who is the righful owner of the 2008 WDC.

      • Rosberg benefited from the safety car as well, which’ll mean he’d have won because of this “deliberate” crash. Therefore it’s best the results stay as they are.

    • Flavio should also be banned from punching above his weight and pulling hot women. Makes me sick…

  9. With all this news it’s really hard to remember that there’s racing in f1 sometimes

    • With all this news I’m sure some people will find it hard to believe that there’s racing in f1 sometimes…

  10. I find it strange that Alonso is so close to yet another scandal…

    The guy is a cheat, and encourages those around him to do the same.

    He is only going to Ferrari because of the McLaren scandal. Driving for Ferrari is his reward for nearly bringing down McLaren team.

    Just think about this, Ferrari is the team that has lied and cheated it’s way to many a world championship, and now it will have Alonso driving for it, I feel bad for the other drivers and teams… you wait!!!

    • mp4-19b said on 16th September 2009, 14:03

      I echo your sentiment.

    • S Hughes said on 16th September 2009, 14:31

      I also agree.

    • Ned Flanders said on 16th September 2009, 15:00

      Innocent until proven guilty… but I suspect you’re right

      • Praveen Titus said on 16th September 2009, 15:50

        I don’t believe Alonso is guilty here, but I could be wrong. One thing I do know is Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds, on the basis of the evidence, are those who don’t deserve to be in Formula One any more.

        Briatore has always made his drivers struggle – Alex Wurz, Jarno Trulli, Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovaleinen would all have an angry or sad tale to tell about their stints with the former Benetton outfit.

        What’s tragic is Renault’s name is marred thanks to their association with this team. They probably shouldn’t have purchased Benetton in 2001.

        • Try to put yourself in the shoes of Carlos Ghosn and see if you can come up with a single good reason to stay in F1 after this.

          • his_majesty said on 16th September 2009, 21:54

            They would be big losers in my book if they walked away right now, this team has left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth as of right now. Try and get drivers that aren’t there because daddy was triple champion and the other a cheat. Not to mention with a director who is nothig more than a playboy, why is he a playboy anyways? He was beaten excessivley with that ugly stick. Win both championships legally to win back some bit of respect. As of right now the stuff on my toilet paper gets more respect

        • Ned Flanders said on 16th September 2009, 17:44

          I wouldn’t go as far as saying Renault shouldn’t have bought Benetton. They’ve won about 20 races and 4 championships with them. I’ve always thought the Toleman/ Benetton/ Renault team was one of the best racing organsiations on the grid, and they’ve probably had more good times than bad times over the years. om what we’ve heard so far this is all the fault of a minority of individuals, rather than the entire team itself

    • I agree too, the second biggest cheat of a driver (Schumacher was No. 1 by the way) going to the team that has cheated the most next year will be a disaster for all fans.

    • David A said on 16th September 2009, 17:49

      Lied and cheated it’s way to many a world championship? The words of a pure HATER?

    • OMG! I can’t believe this actually happened. This is a total disgrace for the sport, and we will never know exactly what happened, I am afraid.
      I am impressed with the evil powers you are projecting on Alonso. His meanness alone is enough to corrupt three very large and powerful teams with 500-1000 completely innocent people in them (that is, innocent before Alonso’s influence). Can it be that Alonso is a very good driver (not the only one out there), and thus, over the years, get’s to drive for many world-champion teams? Can it be that very large and powerful teams have strong temptations to bend the rules? (and then bend them a bit more, and a bit more, and then shatter them)
      There was absolutely no need for Alonso to know anything at all to make this strategy work.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 16th September 2009, 19:30

      I’ve just put up some more of the Renault documents which includes the stewards’ interview with Alonso. They don’t seem to have anything that implicates him.

      • Keith, be that as it may, some of your readers are so rabidly anti-Alonso that I don’t think anything anyone says will ever change their minds. They probably even beleive that Alonso was on the grassy knoll, too.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 17th September 2009, 0:16

          Perhaps, but that’s not going to stop be pointing them in the direction of the facts :-)

        • It’s just so strange how he is always so near to nearly all the biggest and recent F1 scandals, but somehow manages to escape. He is a really lucky SOB if you ask me, and a bloody sneaky one at that!

  11. mp4-19b said on 16th September 2009, 14:01

    Will these two go to jail?

  12. The first question is if (how) Renault could know about this mess and if the punishment should be for the team as a whole or not. They have obviously been told by Renault to be gone and stay gone. Renault is working on damage control right now. The second question is if it is worse to fix a race than to spy on a competitor. I definitely think so.

    My opinion:
    They team should get a hefty fine, at least the same as McLaren.
    These two characters together with Piquet Jr should be banned from F1 for life.
    I’m not sure about stripping points from them this year. Somehow it’s not relevant. But as others have said, Renaults future surely hangs in the air. A year ago I thought that Renault and BMW (in that order) would not be on the 2010 grid as team owners. Now, BMW has sold the team. I guess a deal could be cut so that Renault withdraw from next year, selling the team, and in return they will not be stripped of constructors point or excluded from the championship during their last year in the sport.

    • Nitpicker said on 16th September 2009, 16:51

      The second question is if it is worse to fix a race than to spy on a competitor. I definitely think so.

      Fixing a race is bad, but deliberately crashing is horrendous. What if a marshal or spectator was injured by a piece of flying debris?

      • Indeed. There was actually loads of carbon fibre which could have punctured another cars tyres with unknown consequences.

        It doesn’t look good.

        • Yes, the crash is worst of all and that is why I think Piquet Jr should be banned for life. No matter who decided what, he was that one driving the car and he had the final choice of being a true sportsman or not.

      • Or a similar accident that happend at lemans in 1955 1 driver and 80 spectators dead

        Ok F1 cars are design so that they wont fail in such a way but if the car went into the crowd you could esily have fatatities.

  13. Jonathan said on 16th September 2009, 14:02

    Amazing developments. The FIA will be as lenient as possible on Renault now. Probably a significant but not record-breaking fine.

    My question is this: in pushing out Briatore and Symonds, did Renault know for sure that they were guilty?

    Or was it simply that the risk of standing by them was too great, given the evidence that had leaked?

  14. They should sue Flavio for trying to destroy the sport, and the fine should be even larger than what McLaren got last time around. He should not get away with this just by quitting the team

  15. The FIA has already said that it’s too late to change the results of last year’s championship and even the race. I think it’s like when Schumacher was kicked out of the 1997 championship – the results stood but his didn’t count.

    Right at the time I thought this was just the kind of thing Flavio would do… I’m still surprised at Symonds, but I think that’s just because we all give him credit for his pleasant, affable English manner (in contrast to Flav’s). If you take a step back and look at their records, they’ve been in it together all the way back to option 13 on the 1994 Benetton haven’t they?

    One other point – I find it odd that some commentators are representing this as Flav and Pat “taking one for the team”. Surely, if they did fix this race, Renault will have fired them for cause? It’s not comparable to the situation after Melbourne when Ron Dennis stood down, since neither Flav nor Pat are team owners! My take on these departures is that they probably came from board-level, and are not voluntary at all… particularly when one considers Flav’s vehement denials at the weekend, and attempts to tar NPJ with the whoopsie stick (so to speak).

    Good riddance, that’s my feeling. Pushing the boundaries is not the same as crashing into them.

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