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. My oh my…
    What a shame, I frankly hoped that it wouldn’t come true and NPJ would be wrong… Still cannot believe it. OK, we had Rascasse-gate, Stepney-gate, Lie-gate, now what.. Crash-gate, what an utter, utter shame. Flav and Symonds have been fixtures in this sport for God knows how long, Flav will be forever linked with bringing Schumi to Benetton and all glory that followed.

    What a shameful end to really brilliant career in F1 management. Now we all ask ourselves, what else is/was there that we don’t know yet. What other fixings, manipulations are/were there? What is the overall integrity of the sport? Does FIA need to do more policing to uncover and wrongdoings, collusion, whatever might exist and we (still) don’t know about?

    As for Alonso, I think we’ll all learn truth in due time. My take, he was told to pit early, just following ‘team strategy’ either knowing or not knowing what’s going to happen. I’m not a big fan of FA, but he is great driver and he wouldn’t want to win in such deceptive way (I can be proven wrong, though)

    As I said before, it’s a real smear for a really great season. F1 gets enough of negative publicity to have this dirty ‘nuclear bomb’ as Martin Brundle said, lobbed at it. It’s a black day for the sport and in my view, Flav and Symonds should face criminal prosecution for endangering life of driver and safety violation and fixing the outcome. Let Flav run ‘billionaire’s club’ in jail for couple of years.
    OK, I let my steam off.
    Thanks Keith for providing such great opportunity!
    I love your site!
    Best regards to all folks!

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

      Hi Igor :) just wanted to ask you if you have any classic signed photos of Flavio himself. If you do have it, would to mind to share it with us, before you burn them ;)

      • Oh well, silly me! I don’t have any… :-), so nothing to burn ;-)
        I’ve got some really cool photos from Berger, Moss and old man ‘El Cabezon’ a.k.a. Jose Froilan Gonzalez. Check the galleries.

        That was noble time in F1, the only one who was cheated every race was the death. I was watching (100th time) Grand Prix movie, it was so damn dangerous. And they raced and crashed and raced again… or not… von Trips, Bandini, Scarfiotti, Bonnier, Clark, the count goes on..

        All these guys who bring shame and disrepute to F1 should be banned from approaching this sport for life. Almost like getting restraining order.

    • rmac923 said on 16th September 2009, 23:51

      You forgot Tire-Gate!!! ;) I remember as I was there that fateful USGP…

  2. I think everyone needs to remember that Flavio, Pat and Nelson Jr are not “Renault”. Everyone speaks of the punishment Renault should get, yet Renault was not the perpetrator of this. Punish the three that took part in the fixing–substantially, yes–but don’t go overboard on punishing the team as a whole. And, yes, I do think the team needs some sort of punishment, as Flavio was their employee, and companies should have some responsibility for acts carried out by employees, to a certain extent. Fine the team, or some such thing, but don’t put hundreds of employees on the street with a ban.

    As for Flavio, Pat and Nelson Jr, they made their beds, now they must lay in them. A lietime ban from Formula 1 for those three wouldn’t upset me a bit. And for Formula 1 to be seen as taking responsibility to ensure the sport is free from further scandals like this, a lifetime ban may just be what it takes. As for Alonso, I just don’t know. Could he not have known something in Denmark smelt rotten? The taint of all this will cling to him, I’m sure, in the minds of many. And that may be enough to make it difficult for him to get another seat in Formula 1, if Renault indeed leaves(for whatever reason). It seems the taint of scandal may already have affected his prospects, since Ferrari apparently(obviously, to me) backed away from any thought of signing him for 2010, perhaps at any time.

    But in all, in all the talk of the sport and the fans and the Renault F1 Team employees being losers in this mess, everyone has forgotten another person affected by this–Lewis Hamilton. He must be absolutely gutted. To have won the WDC last year, only to have people now saying that it all would have been different if not for the Singapore race.

    Well, I don’t know that it would have been different. That one race MIGHT have been different, surely, but would it have been the difference in the WDC ? Can anyone know for CERTAIN ? Can any of us be absolutely certain the entire remainder of the season would have been different? I feel badly for Hamilton, whose first WDC will go down in history as the “tainted championship”. Like him or not as a driver or a person, it’s a heck of a thing.

    • S Hughes said on 16th September 2009, 16:27

      Lewis knows how many unfair penalties he had against him last year, so he would be quite happy knowing he won that title fair and square.

    • very good points. Flav and Symonds are not Renault, but they represent a team of few hundred talented dedicated workers, engineers, mechanics and so on. What they did they smeared a good name and good reputation of every one who works for the team and the team itself. So, while Renault is not to blame, but Renault F1 team, gained extra championship points, FA got his points AND winning bonus and so the chain reaction follows. Where to draw the line between the punishment for the perpetrators and preserving the good name of the team. Good question.
      FIA is not good at it at all. They just throw the book at the whole team, as they did with McLaren.

      • It’s all very easy: the Renault F1 Team is responsible for the actions of its employees. If those employees cheat during a race, mislead the audience, and subsequently lie about it to the media and the FIA, not only should those individuals be punished, but the company responsible, too. That’s even in the FIA’s Sporting Regulations.

    • Nitpicker said on 16th September 2009, 19:23

      The taint of all this will cling to [Alonso], I’m sure, in the minds of many. And that may be enough to make it difficult for him to get another seat in Formula 1

      Unlikely. Ferrari had no such qualms when taking on Schuey after all his dodgy antics during 1994 (partly down to Flav then too). There are dozens of people commenting here who want to see Alonso strung up, but his involvement is far from proven yet.

  3. Tokyo Nambu said on 16th September 2009, 16:08

    It all seems rather low-rent, though, doesn’t it?

    Let’s assume that the resignations are in fact admissions of guilt, and Renault senior management really did conspire with Piquet to cause an accident. There must also have been others involved, at least tacitly — for example, NPJ’s race a data engineers must have been aware something was afoot, even if they didn’t know what. But let’s lay it at Symonds’ and Briatore’s doors.

    It was a **** conspiracy, though, wasn’t it? The best that could be achieved would be that Alonso would be catapulted to the lead about a third of the way into the race, with a pit-stop to go, but with a safety car meaning that he has no lead. The best outcome is that they win. On the other hand, on a street circuit at night with a pitstop left to go, there’s ample chances to foul up over forty-odd laps and lose anyway, and if they get caught it’s the end of the world. Plotting a conspiracy in which everyone goes to metaphorical jail if they’re caught, between one clever man, one obvious egomaniac and one disgruntled naif, in order to have no more than a racing chance of winning, is the act of desperate men.

    Perhaps they were desperate. Perhaps Renault had said privately that the game was up without a win or two. Perhaps Alonso had said he’d leave without a win and he was critical to the marketing plans. Who knows? But compared to other schemes (Option 13, Schumacher and Senna’s crashes) where one gives a long-term advantage and the others win championships, it’s all incredibly low-rent, the stuff of an F1 Dick Francis.

    Anyway, it’s happened. A sad end to a colourful (Briatore) and respected (Symonds) career, and one which re-opens a lot of old wounds and suspicions. Really,. really, sad.

  4. Well, at last, Briatore gets his comeuppance, after years of cheating. Launch control? Cheaty refueling system? It may have taken 15 years, but he’s finally being seen for the little **** he’s always been.

    • Random Chimp said on 16th September 2009, 17:29

      I have to ask, are the stars part of a censoring system or did you put them in yourself? I’d try myself but I haven’t the grapes.

  5. Through out the trash,keep the rest of the team,rename it Nissan and lets get back to racing!

    • I agree with that. Or they could sell the team to Zoran!
      But to be honest, I think Nissan will cut all ties to them after this.
      If Nissan were to take over the team, then they would gut and start from scratch.

      • Nitpicker said on 16th September 2009, 19:24

        I don’t think Nissan has any say about who they are tied to, since Renault owns Nissan, not t’other way round.

        • Renault owns 44% of Nissans Shares. That means Nissan still owns the other 66% of the shares and they have a 15% share in Renault. Renault is the bigger company, but all Nissan has to do is buy out the 44% that Renault currently has.

  6. This is getting worse every day.
    But I still believe Piquet shouldn’t have brought it out… he got his contract, failed horribly and then started being a baby

  7. Mussolini's Pet Cat said on 16th September 2009, 16:42

    oh, a corrupt Italian, how novel…….

  8. mp4-19b said on 16th September 2009, 16:47

    Flavio was never a classy character. But for his good luck & his association with Luciano Benetton during his younger days, he I am sure would have turned up to become some kind of a crook. This is what he had to say in 1994:

    “All the team owners are orientated towards the technical side rather than the entertainment side, and this is a big fault. Every meeting that I go to, people are talking about pistons and suspensions. Nobody goes to a race to see that kind of thing… People come to see Schumacher and Senna racing each other.”

    Yes! People also come to see people crashing on purpose? You are a sick man Flavio!!

    • I don’t see how that quote makes him a sick mana. Or you really can watch the pistons working while the car is moving at high speed? :-)

  9. Meander said on 16th September 2009, 16:56

    Can Renault sue Flavio?

    • That depends on Flav’s contract and the law that governs it. There may be provisions e.g. requiring him to maintain the good reputation of the company (not uncommon – my employment contract has “conduct” provisions and I’m no F1 boss). If they sue him for breach of contract, then they could claim the value of his contract (i.e. salary) and other consequential losses that could have been reasonably contemplated e.g. if FIA fine Renault, then that would almost certainly be foreseeable. This could be a *very* expensive mistake for Flav, but I doubt it. Renault probably just want to distance themselves as much as poss and pray that Max/FIA don’t ban them or stick them witha fine that drives the team out. (Disclaimer: this is some basic English law, not an expert opinion!)

      Personally, I don’t think Renault should be fined less than McLaren for Spygate. However, that leaves a moral dilemma if such a huge fine would force the team out and add to the current unemployment problem. Fortunately Max isn’t known for his morality as noted above.
      Maybe FIA shouldn’t use such huge fines at all if they can’t enforce them equally over the years. Perhaps a move away from financial penalties is called for? If the only penalties were race-altering (e.g. not retrospective, but future bans/place drops etc) then recessions would have limited effect and Max et al wouldn’t get richer!

    • Maksutov said on 16th September 2009, 17:33

      im sure they can

  10. Crazy Horse said on 16th September 2009, 17:03

    The net reacts quickly, showcasing Renault’s new Singapore livery.

  11. So, The Piquets have finally won over Flavio and Renault.

    A sad day indeed for Formula 1. Flavio Briatore has always been a controversial team head. But he has also been pretty successful.

    First Ron Dennis was removed, now Flavio Briatore. I am assuming the FIA will next go for Ross Brawn!! :( :(

    • Maksutov said on 16th September 2009, 17:46

      First Ron Dennis was removed, now Flavio Briatore. I am assuming the FIA will next go for Ross Brawn!! :( :(

      never! Brawn is too smart for all of the F1 field put together.

      Briatore practically threw himself out when he cut the deals with Piquet… he is too naive and insanely dumb as we now see..

      Ron, played the pretense game too much and .. well, got caught out. or got outsmarted by Max Mosley.

  12. The net reacts quickly, showcasing Renault’s new Singapore livery.

    Mind posting a link or something? Google isn’t working.

    Thanks

  13. I don’t think there will be a draconian penalty for the Renault team; the three party involved in this sad incident are gone from F1; therefore there is not reason to punish 700 employees at the Renault factory for the action of a handful bad apples. The team got a very bad publicity already and that is in my view a hard punishment.

    • Nitpicker said on 16th September 2009, 19:33

      The 700 employees won’t have to pay the fine, Renault will. And if they pay with their jobs, that’s Renault’s decision, it’s not down to the FIA.

  14. After an incident the renault technicians would have checked all telemetry to ensure crash wasn’t due to some failure.. both sides of the garage would have had that info presented.. if, as MM claims, the telemetry is really dodgy then someone on Alonso’s side would have spotted this and probably mentioned it to others in the team and poss Alonso. I’m sure he wasn’t told for plausible deniability, however i’d be amazed if it wasn’t obvious from the info that something wasn’t amiss about the crash.

    I wonder how many teams would give piquet a drive now? he had the “I wasn;t given equal chance” line and clearly has some skills and fans, but i’d be amazed if anyone would even get in his taxi cab now!

  15. S Hughes said on 16th September 2009, 17:44

    I love this comment I saw on the Guardian website – a different take on matters:

    “Nelson Piquet Jnr – Balls as big as steel cannonballs.

    He could have just knocked a wheel off, or broken a wing and parked up a la Schumacher but no. he rammed his renault into one wall, spins across the track and hits the other wall. Then takes on Briatore head on…and wins?

    Crikey. Huge cojones. Shame he probably won’t get another drive in F1. I tip my hat to the lad.”

    • It’s not like he hasn’t had a lot of practice at surviving wipeouts unscathed. The least you’d expect from the lad is a convincing crash!

    • ILoveVettel said on 16th September 2009, 18:40

      I am thinking the matter from a different angle….

      That Piquet might have blackmailed Flav this seoson to get a Renault drive this year!!!!! And when Flav got fed up and sacked him, he went to FIA :D

      Just another theory in these flurry of theories…

    • Nitpicker said on 16th September 2009, 19:53

      If Piquet has any sense, he’d be happy to have that on his headstone. I think we have underestimated him!

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