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

  1. Frankly i dont see what the fuss is. A driver intentionally crashes into a wall basically risking very little due to car and track safety.
    We have had some of the greatest names in the sport (Schumi, Senna) INTENTIONALLY crashing into other cars ( which is a hell of a lot more dangerous) and they got punished by being crowned world champions.
    So i fully excpect the punishement to be light now that Flavio is gone.

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

      I seem to remember Schumacher got punished by being expelled from the World Championship.

      I guess you’re referring to 1994, not 1997. But Schumacher always denied that was intentional and there was no evidence to prove otherwise.

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

        Plus, neither the 1994 nor 1997 incident were premeditated.

        • bananaman said on 16th September 2009, 15:05

          Senna’s 1990 crash into Prost was premeditated in a sense. Senna admitted a year later that he vowed to drive Prost off the road if he got ahead by the first corner, because of the injustice of pole position being on the wrong side of the grid.

          • Actually, he said he will do it because Prost did it in Suzuka the year before to him. Not in the first corner though but when Senna was about to pass him.

        • What was premeditated was the 1994 tampering with fuel rigs, probably an even more reckless and dangerous act. Flavio’s original story was that they had been given permission by ‘someone’ in the FIA. then they completely changed their story and said a junior employee – acting without the knowledge of anyone else in the team and done it, and just for Hockenheim. (I paraphrase loosely) As Benetton had been killing Williams with their ultra fast stops up to that point, did anyone really believe Hockenheim was the first race they’d done it? Yet the only punishment was the removal of the junior employee – although behind the scenes Walkinshaw was removed and sent off to Ligier as part of the deal. I suspect something similar will happen here.

          Great article that I feel puts the cheating claims of the last couple of years in context here:
          It always went on… they just used to get away with it.

      • his_majesty said on 16th September 2009, 22:12

        What about the blatant video evidence. I still have that from the day that I taped the race. DC ran into the armco at the pits and it was mansell’s last victory.

    • Nitpicker said on 16th September 2009, 16:59

      So it’s fine for marshals and spectators to have their safety compromised, but it’s more dangerous to crash into other drivers who step into the cars and accept the risks?

      In case you haven’t noticed, I disagree entirely. The punishment for cheating and intentionally causing a crash should reflect McLaren’s ‘spygate’ punishment or perhaps be more severe. It should not be lenient because the driver “risked very little due to car and track safety.” It should not be lenient because Renault may leave the sport. Punishments should be consistent.

      • Hell yes its more dangerous to crash into another car at speed than plan your shunt into a barrier.
        And no its not fine to compromise other people. Im just saying that world champions have been CROWNED by actions far more dangerous than what piquet did.

    • verasaki said on 16th September 2009, 18:03

      “A driver intentionally crashes into a wall basically risking very little due to car and track safety.”

      You mean like it’s completely predictable what part is going to fly off a crashed car if you just crash it the right way and where that part will land? That sort of tiny risk?

  2. Piquet should get some sort of punishment for this too, he was driving the car so at the end of the day he pulled the trigger.

    Let the rest of the Renault Team off with a slap (If just these 3 were involved then the rest of the team is innocent, any punishment would only affect them now) and lets get on with this season.

    • I agree 100%, no one has mentioned Piquet, he is just as guilty as the others. It doesn’t matter that he was pressured, he committed the crime and then only spoke up after he was fired for being a poor driver….coward…

      Assuming the rest of the team had nothing to do with it (or that there is no evidence they did) it would be very unfair to ban Renault for these 3 chumps cheating.

      Symonds, Flav, and Piquet need to be fined/punished.

    • Why should Renault be let off? Are you so naive that you really think only 3 people knew about this? I’m not trying to say that the whole team knew, but you can be sure most of the top brass knew it was going to happen.

  3. Prisoner Monkeys said on 16th September 2009, 14:06

    I think that Renault as a whole should be allowed to compete. They’ve evidently run their own investigation of sorts, and they’re not twisting or denying the allegations. In criminal cases, guilty pleas often result in more lenient sentences that pleas of not guilty that the jury believe to be unfounded.

    I’d like to think Renault will be back in 2010, if only to reclaim some honour, as it were (I don’t really have any other word for it). They should stack their team with people from ART Grand Prix or ORECA, and come back and have a proper crack at it.

    While I will join the chorus of people who felt Piquet should never have been in the sport to begin with – or at the very least, should not have been offered a season season – I am not wholly without sympathy for him. Under Briatore’s leadership, Renault have had a toxic culture of bullying, intimidation, coercion, threats and favouritism and places enormous stress and pressure on rookie drivers who must risk death or injury simply to increase their standing with their masters. Briatore and Symonds twisted what the sport represented simply for the sake of getting one more race win.

    I for one would be very interested to see the trajectory Piquet’s career took if he had joined another team. Toro Rosso, or Force India, for instance. That’s not to say that Piquet is exonerated; after all, he still went ahead with it. But he is the latest – and with any luck, the last – in a line of drivers and paddock personalities who have been screwed over by Briatore’s tyranny. Everyone from Eddie Jordan to Alex Wurz, Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button have in some way felt the brute force of Briatore’s dealings.

    I say good riddance.

    • bad_whippet said on 16th September 2009, 14:54

      Briatore and Symonds twisted what the sport represented simply for the sake of getting one more race win

      Just makes it more unbelievable doesn’t it? They did it for just one more race win… it wasn’t even for the championship or 2nd or 3rd even (not that this would have made it ok!).


      • I think it was probably a little more than just a race win to them, there were loud rumblings about Renault continuing in F1 at the time, especially with the dire season they were having.

    • Nitpicker said on 16th September 2009, 17:08

      In criminal cases, guilty pleas often result in more lenient sentences that pleas of not guilty that the jury believe to be unfounded.

      This isn’t a criminal court, it’s F1, and McLaren didn’t get a lenient sentence. Their cheating was committed by an individual who was dismissed. The two cases appear similar in that way.

      … places enormous stress and pressure on rookie drivers who must risk death or injury simply to increase their standing with their masters.

      F1 is a dangerous sport. All the drivers are risking their safety and wellbeing to compete. Fortunately we haven’t had a fatality in F1 for 15 years but Massa’s accident is a stark reminder of what motor racing consists of.

      I say good riddance to Flavio “David Dickinson” Briatore as much as the next fan, but I don’t think Renault should be off the hook because Piquet, Flav and Symonds have all left the team.

  4. F1Outsider said on 16th September 2009, 14:07

    This is some heavy s**t!!

    I hope for the sake of F1, and the 700+ Renault employees that the team is spared a larger fine or overwhelming race ban. One or two races should suffice. The perpetrators have had their punished. They’ll never step in an F1 paddock again in their lives.

    As for Alonso… He’s as sneaky a person as he is a good driver. I have no doubt that he’s part of this somehow… But there’s no proof, therefore he will walk.

    • sato113 said on 16th September 2009, 18:20

      yeah but a large fine could force them to leave. Renault are struggling financially in the real world, and these fines tend to be big!

  5. It does seem now that Piquet was told to crash, and if that is the case I don’t see how the FIA cannot hand out a big punishment to Renault, at least something the size of McLaren’s 2007 $100m fine and exclusion from the championship, and if that is the case I don’t think Renault will stay in F1.

    • bananaman said on 16th September 2009, 15:10

      Two wrongs don’t make a right. Many of those calling for a big fine for Renault were people who thouht the $100m fine for McLaren was outrageous. By all means, disqualify or ban Renault, but I think it is ludicrous to make such a fine. If a fine is imposed, it should be a fine that any team would be made to pay for doing the same thing.

      • UnicornF1 said on 16th September 2009, 16:27

        Indeed 100m is outrageous,
        but it is nothing compared to a ban from the championship.

        • the difference between the spygate and the crashgate are bigish.

          with the mclaren dramas, the whole team benefited with the tech and what not.

          whereas this renault case, there was just the one outcome.

          the whole team should not be punished with 100m.

          better off stripping them of the points and the points money.

          • I do think the McLaren punishment was over the top, but I was merely using it as a comparison as a recent high profile case in F1.

            Personally I think asking a driver to crash is a much more serious crime, with all the safety implications not just to the driver involved but also to the rest of the drivers in the race and to the marshals as well.

            Spying on a rival team in F1 is wrong and it may have been going on to varying degrees for years but no ones life was risked doing it.

            If this case was just about race fixing I think it could be argued it was on the same level as the McLaren case, but because of the safety implications I think it is worse.

  6. HounslowBusGarage said on 16th September 2009, 14:09

    The Piquets will now sue Team Renault for wrongful dismissal.
    Then they will sue Briatore for slander and defamation.

    *If* Team Renault continue to race next year, I wonder if Piquet could claim his drive back . . .

  7. SLK Maniac said on 16th September 2009, 14:11

    Sounds like a quick and cheap way out for Renault – they can just sell the lot to one of the new teams and walk away.

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

    Now what will happen to all that criminal proceedings initiated by Flavio & Renault against the Piquet duo?

  9. It’s a real shame to lose Flavio from F1… if you would like to leave a farewell message, Badger is collating them…

  10. I think Renault will escape punishment now unless there’s any evidence the plans were known beyond these three individuals. If the evidence can’t implicate the more of the team (I can’t imagine the pit crews were ‘in on it’) surely there’s no case for the team to answer.
    I’d hate to see any of the three back in F1.

  11. Disappointed in Symonds, not surprised at Fatio. Disgusted if they just walk away from this unpunished.

  12. Bartholomew said on 16th September 2009, 14:18

    This is a pity, did not expect this outcome. Renault should continue to race this season, and I am sorry for the many talented people working there.
    Piquet should have kept his mouth shut – he has gained nothing from all this. Now he has to go back to cutting sugar cane with his father.

    • Bartholomew,

      I assure you they got nothing to do with cutting sugar cane…

    • Piquet should have kept his mouth shut – he has gained nothing from all this.

      Really? Well maybe he won’t gain, but WE all do, with 1 less cheating team in F1, just need Alonso to go to Ferrari and Finnish them off too!

  13. Am not suprised in the slightest. I wonder how far back their naughty deeds go, perhaps even to Bennetton/Schumacher era? This can’t be the first time they’ve tried something dodgy as there was a bit of a cloud floating over the Bennetton team then too…

  14. And Alonso gets away scot free again yet again. We need to be asking serious questions of Alonso…

    • And now the Renault executives and frantically looking for an exit strategy. Stay tuned folks…

      • Does anyone know if this means the legal case against the Piquet’s has now been dropped…

        • Furthermore, do I remember correctly, but was Renault not implicated in the McLaren gate controversy but together with Ferrari escaped sanction free…

  15. Favomodo said on 16th September 2009, 14:24

    I think Renault already has decided to get out of this game. So that leaves a place for the old BMW after all.

    I sure hope that all 3 main characters of this play get a ban for life in F1.

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