Renault face Singapore hearing today

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Renault face questions from the WMSC about Nelson Piquet Jnr's Singapore crash
Renault face questions from the WMSC about Nelson Piquet Jnr's Singapore crash

The only foregone conclusion as Renault face the World Motor Sports Council today is what the verdict will be. Having revealed they will not contest the charges they caused a deliberate accident during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, a verdict of ‘guilty’ seems inevitable.

But there are many more questions awaiting answers, some of which we may learn today. What will their punishment be? Was anyone else involved in the conspiracy? Was Fernando Alonso? Has it happened on other occasions? And why did it take the FIA almost a year to discover it?

The scale of the conspiracy

So far we know about one conspiracy to deliberately cause a crash which involved three people. The obvious question now are: were more people involved, and were there other deliberate accidents?

Inevitably many people have seized on Alonso as having a lot to gain from the accident, as it won him the race, and therefore asked how it can be that he did not know about it. So far there is no evidence that he did. The stewards’ initial findings said:

As regards Mr Alonso and the other engineers, the Stewards have found no evidence to suggest that they knew anything about any plan to cause a deliberate crash on lap 14.

You can find the summary of Alonso’s remarks to the stewards on page five of this document (PDF). It is expected that Alonso will appear before the WMSC tomorrow to answer further questions. Hopefully this will settle the matter once and for all.

Renault’s punishment

The nature of Renault’s crime is serious – some are describing it as the worst seen in any sport. They cheated to win a race, put the lives of drivers, marshals and spectators at risk, and they kept quiet about it for the best part of a year.

In their favour, once the details of the scandal emerged they took action and Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds left the team. So far this seems to be a repeat of the 2007 ‘spygate’ case, where McLaren concealed significant details at their first hearing WMSC hearing.

We have to go back to 1997 to find the closest comparable case to the Singapore crash, when Michael Schumacher infamously rammed Jacques Villeneuve during the 1997 European Grand Prix. That was different in several important ways: it involved a driver, not a team, the contact involved another competitor, and it was utterly blatant. The WMSC concluded that:

Michael Schumacher’s manoeuvre was an instinctive reaction and although deliberate not made with malice or premeditation.

Despite ascribing these generous mitigating factors, the WMSC issued the following punishment (read the full PDF document):

The World Council decided to exclude Michael Schumacher from the results of the 1997 FIA Formula One World Championship for drivers. The final results of the FIA Formula One World Championship have been modified accordingly. The results of the Constructors’ Championship remain unchanged. Michael Schumacher retains his points and victories recorded during the 1997 season. In lieu of any further penalty or fine, Michael Schumacher agreed to participate in the FIA European road safety campaign for a total of seven days in 1998.

For consistency Renault should at least be stripped of their fourth place in the 2008 constructors’ championship. On top of that, as the teams earn money based on their finishing positions, I expect Renault will get a substantial fine, probably in the eight-figure-dollar range.

Renault do not have any suspended penalties hanging over them following their punishment at the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend. However the safety implications of crashing a car deliberately cannot be underestimated and the FIA will surely appreciate that in light of recent accidents. They may get the one-race ban they escaped last month – or longer – plus a suspended sentence.

Putting precedent and regulations to one side for a moment, we should ask ourselves whether the act of deliberately causing a crash with one car so the other car can win deserves anything less than a ban. I think it will reflect poorly on F1 if the FIA do not exclude Renault from at least one race. With Singapore the next event on the calendar, it would be especially fitting.

However any re-distribution of points from the 2008 race is out of the question – see this comment from Hakka for an explanation why.

As discussed here earlier, Briatore and Symonds are likely to go unpunished, but expect the FIA to discourage other teams from hiring them.

The politics

Unless the penalty is extremely severe, it is likely there will be suggestions the FIA softened it for political reasons. There were doubts over the future of Renault’s F1 team even before the Singapore allegations blew up.

Losing Renault’s F1 team could also mean losing another potential source of engines. Red Bull already use them (but are trying to get rid of them) and Williams are believed to be trying to source Renault engines for 2010.

Renault also run the World Series by Renault, which has helped the likes of Alonso, Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel into F1. And they supply engines for GP2, where seven of today’s F1 drivers last raced before reaching Formula 1.

Just as Max Mosley admitted McLaren’s 2007 spygate punishment was reduced for the sake of the drivers’ championship, political imperatives may soften the blow to Renault today.

The investigation

While the WMSC presses Renault for more details I’m also hoping we’ll learn new facts about the nature of the FIA’s investigation. Specifically, why did it take so long for the FIA to start investigating the claim when Nelson Piquet first told Max Mosley about it at the Brazilian Grand Prix in November last year?

There may be useful lessons the FIA can take from the case as well. One key piece of evidence against Renault is the telemetry from Nelsin Piquet Jnr’s car (PDF), which makes it quite clear that the accident was intentional. It’s easy to say with hindsight that the FIA should have noted the unusual circumstances of Alonso’s win and taken it upon themselves to look at the data right away. But this is something they should now seriously consider doing in future cases.

What do you think will be the outcome of the Renault hearing? How should they be punished? Have your say and share any developments from the meeting in the comments.

Renault Singapore crash controversy

178 comments on “Renault face Singapore hearing today”

  1. Prisoner Monkeys
    21st September 2009, 13:00

    Just take the 10 points from alonso and leave it as that because if they take all of the points all the spanish fans will be up in arms “again” saying the FIA favour Hamilton.

    What does Hamilton have to do with … well, anything in all of this?

    1. Im not trying to say Hamitlon is involved in this just comparing that both teams got caught and 2 totally different vedicts have come up. a cheats a cheat but it looks to me Hamilton and Mclaren got off lightly. you could argue why hasn’t Mclaren got a season bann yet and what i was trying to get round really was a “just if prediction”. if Alonso had all his points taken away for 1 race cheat but it was ok for Hamilton to cheat lose what was it 7 points in AUS? but still continue gaining points how does that work out?

      Hamilton cheats at the start in the 09 season he loses 7 points but can still get points and get up in constructors table no season banns.

      Renault cheats nere the end in the 08 season Alonso loses 61 points and drops down to the bottom in Constuctors table they get 2 season bann.

      i say come down hard on all teams/drivers getting points full stop depending who was involved drivers or constructors.

    2. It doesnt matter to the spanish, Hamilton is the antichrist or is plutonium to alonso.

  2. The verdict better come out soon as I’ve got uni Prisoner Monkeys :P
    And I agree Marcus, Alonso hasn’t really been implicated in it.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      21st September 2009, 13:08

      The verdict better come out soon as I’ve got uni Prisoner Monkeys

      I happen to have uni too … except that it’s 10pm here and I’m on holidays.

  3. Just comparing cheating with people involved I assume. hamilton will probably always be brought up whenever there is a scandal partly because of the past and partly because he is love or hate character.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      21st September 2009, 13:11

      Hate, hate, HATE!

      … I’m sorry, what were you saying?

  4. The scale and nature of the punishment will be completely politically motivated. I think it is naive to even hope for anything else.

    The reason that the investigation took so long is due to the nature of good old fashioned police work. In order to bring a high-profile target to rights you need to construct a water-tight case and make a solid ‘arrest’, else he may be able to evade prosecution. Unless NPJ was willing to go on record there was no case to answer. Even after this happened the evidence against the key target was not strong enough to move.

    So What now? Leak the circumstantial details of the investigation to the press and let them spin it to put pressure on them? Offer immunity to key lieutenants in order to strengthen your case against the key target? Both good options, after all, what do the FIA care of the fate of a mere technical director when there is larger pray to be caught?

    This is the way that the operation had to play out in order to achieve its goals. Now that they are achieved the hearing is academic and can be used for other purposes.

    As to whether Renault can be punished, that depends entirely on whether Bernie can afford to lose them. I currently don’t think he can. The Team Formerly Known As BMW are now willing to enter so there is a contingency should someone pull out, and should Toyota also pull out then there will still be 12 teams – plenty. As an additional bonus, the Make-up of FOTA will have changed considerably.

    The real threat is: where do all the engines come from should Toyota AND Renault both leave? Indications are that Renault could be looking to supply Williams, and may still do so if they withdraw from the sport. I think Max and Bernie will take this opportunity to remove another Manufacturer and gamble on Topota staying around. Still no great shame if they don’t – as Bernie has said before – they have achieved nothing.

  5. renatul verdict 2 year suspended ban

    1. only if they do it again

  6. Two year suspended ban confirmed by BBC 5 Live.

  7. did i win? My comps slow.. and lol Prisoner Monkeys me too with hamilton

    1. Don’t I win as I had the rumour first?

  8. Bye bye F1, it`s been fun knowing ya.

  9. Jonathan Noble from Autosport just tweeted – Two year suspended ban for Renault.

    1. Noble again – Lifetime FIA ban for Briatore. Five-year ban for Symonds.

      1. Bye-Bye Briatore! We won’t miss you!

      2. And no superlicences will be granted to any driver being managed by Briatore. Fantastic — you’re outta here

  10. Confirmed 2 year suspended ban, payment of costs, no fine.

  11. yes i beat Prisoner Monkeys though to be honest that does not raise a smile because this has been another huge blow for F1; first the race fix itself now this farce of a hearing.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      21st September 2009, 13:24

      It’s only a miscarriage of justice if the Renault higher-ups ordered Briatore to do it and then hung him out to dry. Renault as an entity did nothing wrong.

      1. Renault as an entity did nothing wrong.

        They employed Briatore. ‘Nuff said.

  12. If they get off lightly in our eyes then Renault will be forever the cheating team, but if they are punished heavily then we can move on. If the parties involved are not banned from the sport altogether then they will be seen as cheats forever. Who would employ them now anyway? In my opinion Renault should be banned for the rest of this season and lie low until next season, then they can start afresh with new personnel. A big fine yes but don’t banish Renault forever, unless they decide to go themselves.

    P.s. Keith, a poll on whether Renault should be thrown out maybe.

  13. Is this Max’s farewell kiss to the sport? he has poisoned lips if it is.

  14. A 2 year suspended sentance, Renault are very lucky.

    A 5 year ban from F1 for Pat and an unlimited ban from all fia events for Flavio forever. Well done to the fia for punishing the cheats.

    1. what about the man who did the job??? what about Jr??

      1. Unfurtunatly he was given immunity. He still should have been punished in my view.

        However I’m glad is that Flavio and Pat’s exit from Renault did not prevent them from being banned.


    It is a complete and utter dereliction of duty to mete out appropriate justice.

    1. Flav banned for life. I wonder if Mr Mosley tipped off Renault that this was coming prior to this hearing?

      1. It wasn’t necessary. Renault had to get rid of Flav if they had any chance of surviving today’s hearing.

  16. The crash and i9nvestigation shocked us, and many believed it didn’t happen (I liked that as it showed people still believed in f1), the big shame about this part of the story is that no-one seems surprised at the governing of F1 and the punishments deal out.

  17. Prisoner Monkeys
    21st September 2009, 13:22

    I win, Steph.

    NobleF1 has it:

    – Two-year suspended ban for Renault
    – Five-year ban for Symonds
    – Lifetime ban for Flavio Briatore
    – Superlicences will not be renewed for any driver managed by Briatore (that means Webber, Vitaly Petrov and one or two others)

    1. I win – I came out with the verdict first (look back at the posts).

    2. I think Heikki too.

      1. Prisoner Monkeys,S Hughes,Steph, keith, dsob,BBB,BUS, me etc etc We are all losers!!


  18. Press Release
    World Motor Sport Council

    At an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council held in Paris on 21 September 2009, the ING Renault F1 team (“Renault F1”) admitted that the team had conspired with its driver Nelson Piquet Jr. to cause a deliberate crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, in breach of the International Sporting Code and F1 Sporting Regulations.

    Renault F1 stated at the meeting that it had conducted a detailed internal investigation, which found that: (i) Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds and Nelson Piquet Jr. had conspired to cause the crash; and (ii) no other team member was involved in the conspiracy.

    The FIA has conducted its own detailed investigation and its findings correspond with those of Renault F1.

    At the meeting of the World Motor Sport Council, Renault F1 made the following points in mitigation:

    – it had accepted, at the earliest practicable opportunity, that it committed the offences with which it was charged and cooperated fully with the FIA’s investigation;
    – it had confirmed that Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds were involved in the conspiracy and ensured that they left the team;
    – it apologised unreservedly to the FIA and to the sport for the harm caused by its actions;
    – it committed to paying the costs incurred by the FIA in its investigation; and
    – Renault (the parent company, as opposed to Renault F1) committed to making a significant contribution to FIA safety-related projects.

    Nelson Piquet Jr. also apologised unreservedly to the World Motor Sport Council for his part in the conspiracy.

    The following decision was taken:

    The World Motor Sport Council finds that Renault F1 team members Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds and Nelson Piquet Jr. conspired to cause a deliberate crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. The World Motor Sport Council therefore finds Renault F1, which, under article 123 of the International Sporting Code, is responsible for the actions of its employees, in breach of Articles 151(c) and point 2(c) of Chapter IV of Appendix L of the Code, and Articles 3.2, 30.3 and/or 39.1 of the Formula One Sporting Regulations.

    The World Motor Sport Council considers Renault F1’s breaches relating to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to be of unparalleled severity. Renault F1’s breaches not only compromised the integrity of the sport but also endangered the lives of spectators, officials, other competitors and Nelson Piquet Jr. himself. The World Motor Sport Council considers that offences of this severity merit permanent disqualification from the FIA Formula One World Championship. However, having regard to the points in mitigation mentioned above and in particular the steps taken by Renault F1 to identify and address the failings within its team and condemn the actions of the individuals involved, the WMSC has decided to suspend Renault F1’s disqualification until the end of the 2011 season. The World Motor Sport Council will only activate this disqualification if Renault F1 is found guilty of a comparable breach during that time.

    In addition the World Motor Sport Council notes Renault F1’s apology and agrees that the team should pay the costs of the investigation. It also accepts the offer of a significant contribution to the FIA’s safety work.

    As regards Mr. Briatore, the World Motor Sport Council declares that, for an unlimited period, the FIA does not intend to sanction any International Event, Championship, Cup, Trophy, Challenge or Series involving Mr. Briatore in any capacity whatsoever, or grant any license to any Team or other entity engaging Mr. Briatore in any capacity whatsoever. It also hereby instructs all officials present at FIA-sanctioned events not to permit Mr. Briatore access to any areas under the FIA’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, it does not intend to renew any Superlicence granted to any driver who is associated (through a management contract or otherwise) with Mr. Briatore, or any entity or individual associated with Mr. Briatore. In determining that such instructions should be applicable for an unlimited period, the World Motor Sport Council has had regard not only to the severity of the breach in which Mr. Briatore was complicit but also to his actions in continuing to deny his participation in the breach despite all the evidence.

    As regards Mr. Symonds, the World Motor Sport Council declares that, for a period of five years, the FIA does not intend to sanction any International Event, Championship, Cup, Trophy, Challenge or Series involving Mr. Symonds in any capacity whatsoever, or grant any license to any Team or other entity engaging Mr. Symonds in any capacity whatsoever. It hereby instructs, for a period of five years, all officials present at FIA-sanctioned events not to permit Mr. Symonds access to any areas under the FIA’s jurisdiction. In determining that such instructions should be effective for a period of five years the World Motor Sport Council has had regard: (i) to Mr. Symonds’ acceptance that he took part in the conspiracy; and (ii) to his communication to the meeting of the World Motor Sport Council that it was to his “eternal regret and shame” that he participated in the conspiracy.

    As regards Mr. Piquet Jr., the World Motor Sport Council confirms the immunity from individual sanctions under the International Sporting Code in relation to this incident, which the FIA had granted to him in exchange for volunteering his evidence.

    As regards Fernando Alonso, the World Motor Sport Council thanks him for cooperating with the FIA’s enquiries and for attending the meeting, and concludes that Mr. Alonso was not in any way involved in Renault F1’s breach of the regulations.

    The World Motor Sport Council would like to thank the Stewards and legal investigation team (in particular Dorothy Cory-Wright of Sidley Austin LLP who conducted the interviews at the Belgian Grand Prix).

    The full reasons for this decision, in addition to a complete recording of the proceedings before the World Motor Sport Council, will be made available shortly.

    1. Heres the link to this press release

      1. Here it is again sorry LINK

  19. Symonds basically 5 years out of the sport Flav lifetime? How did Symonds get that? Thanks for link S Hughes

  20. Symonds basically 5 years out of the sport Flav lifetime? How did Symonds get that? Thanks for link S Hughes

    1. probably Max doesn’t hate him as much as Flavio ;)

    2. Prisoner Monkeys
      21st September 2009, 13:30

      He may have co-operated at the last minute, or the WMSC may have decided that the decision to fix the race was Briatore’s and that Symonds, like Piquet, was only carrying out orders.

    3. Pat is (was?) an upstanding member of the F1 community and very few people in the F1 world believe that he was involved in the scandal in the way Renault are claiming. Rather, as chief strategist he was the designated “fall guy,” just as Dave Ryan was for McLaren earlier this year. The FIA probably knew this and, though they had to be seen to act, they obviously gave him the lowest punishment they thought they could get away with.

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