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And he used to be such a nice, quiet boy

Crashgate: Briatore and Symonds sacked

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Nelson Piquet Jr

Who ever said revenge was a dish best served cold may well have had Nelson Piquet Jr in mind when he said it.  The son of the Brazilian world champion certainly got his own back in good style.

It all started back year, in at the Singapore Grand Prix.  It was Nelson’s debut season and it was going far from well.  It was clear that the Renault team was built firmly around Fernando Alonso, the two time world champion.  Nelson’s role was at best a walk-on one.  He was, allegedly,  given minimal resources and track time to practise.  His relationship with his flamboyant team manager was frosty and fracious.

Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds

Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds

Flavio Briatore was a former business manager of Luciano Bennetton, the fashion magnate.  When his boss expressed a desire to start a Formula 1 team Briatore was pushed into the team principle’s role.  He knew next to nothing about Motor sports and he had to learn fast.  He left the mechanicals to the mechanics and concentrated on the business deals.

Pat Symonds was an old hand at mechanics, and a long serving member of the Bennetton-Renault team.  He became Executive Director of Engineering shortly after Renault bought out Bennetton’s remaining shares.  In the early 2000s it was this pair that brought Renault back to the front of the grid, racing neck and neck with Ferrari.  They brought in Fernando Alonso from Minardi and cheered him on as he took two F1 Championships.

In 2008 they were reforming a new team line up.  Fernando Alonso had returned from a miserable year at McLaren, and he was promised top-billing.  His team mate was a young hopeful, Nelson Piquet Junior.  This handsome young fellow came from a great racing pedigree.  He had some success in GP2 and he had ended the season in second place.  In 2007 he toiled away as the test driver at Renault.

But in 2008 he was underperforming as a race driver.  Alonso was busy making his drive for the championship and Piquet seemed the forgotton man.

In september it was the turn of Singapore to hold it’s first race.  Not only was this a street circuit, but it was also the first F1 night-race.  Renault was having a difficult season and Alonso had only qualified 15th because of a fuel-pump problem.  Briatore and Symonds hatched a fiendish plan to leap-frog him to the front of the grid.  They told him to go into the pits for a quick stop, and as he entered, they ordered Piquet to crash.

Courtesy of sutton-images.com

Courtesy of sutton-images.com

He gritted his teeth and went for it, probably wondering if he was really being paid enough for all this.

In 2008 the rules stated that the pit lane closes for the first few laps while the safety car is out.  As a result Alonso exited the grid a good few places further up the grid than when he left.  He duly went on to win the race.

Piquet was questioned about the crash but he officially stated that it had been a simple mistake.  He kept his mouth shut about any other motives for over a year.

By August 2009 Piquet’s relationship with his team had soured considerarably.  If fact, it was to get downright nasty.  Piquet had not performed to expectations and by August Briatore had lost patience and abruptly sacked him.  A very public slanging match followed.  But Piquet had one card to play up his sleeve.

Max Mosley

He approached the FIA, and particularly Max Moseley, with testamony that he had been ordered to crash in Singapore.  For Moseley this was manna from heaven.  Earlier in 2009 he had been in a very public war with the heads of the F1 teams over the new rules for 2010.  In the end the only way he could get them to accept a revised version of the rules was to agree to step down as FIA President at the end of his term.  The humiliation, on top of various newspaper alligations about his private life, rankled him.  This would be his payback against Briatore and his cronies.

Moseley ordered the FIA to begin an investigation immediately.  Piquet gave his testamony on the record.  Symonds was offered immunity from prosecution if he testified what really happened.  He declined, out of loyalty to his long time friend, Briatore.

On 4th September Renault were charged with interfereing with the outcome of the race, citing a breach of article 151c of the international sporting code.  They were called to an extrodinary meeting due on 21 September.

But yesterday, 16th September, it was Briatore and Symonds that chose to depart Renault, pleading no contest against the charges.  Piquet and Moseley had their revenge.

Now we just have to wait and see what happens at the extrodinary meeting on the 21st.  Stay tuned.

And who said F1 was boring?

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Written by Nick Gilmartin

September 17, 2009 at 11:05 am

One Response

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  1. If only the racing itself was this intriguing!

    Joe Jeffries

    September 18, 2009 at 9:59 am


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