This morning the ING Renault F1 team announced that Briatore and Symonds have left the team and that they will not be disputing the charges made to them by the FIA of cheating at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. As I and many others predicted, this will now be the end of Flavio Briatore in Formula One. This is a shame, as is the loss of Pat Symonds, but they cheated and so they have to go. This kind of activity can not be tolerated ever in the sport. The FIA will now have a tough decision as to how to punish Renault as not only is their reputation tarnished but hundreds of people at the Renault F1 team risk losing their jobs.
Piquet Jr clearly only went to the FIA to report this after he and his father tried to keep or get his job back with Briatore and Renault. Whether it was blackmail and its extent will probably come to light soon as I am sure Briatore will want to take the Piquets to the cleaners. I think Briatore must have thought the Piquets were bluffing and that they would not tell the FIA as it would implicate Piquet Jr too and ruin his motor racing career. However, the Piquets are as stubborn as Briatore and may have felt Piquet Jr’s F1 career was over after his unceremonious sacking and had nothing to lose. Whereas Briatore and Renault had everything to lose. So why on earth did Briatore take this gamble?
Piquet Jr was not doing that well, but he had not had the same equipment as Alonso so why not give him a bit more of a chance and let him finish the season? It’s not as if he had a proven F1 driver to replace him, he put Romain Grosjean in the car who has not really done any better than Piquet Jr. Briatore was also Piquet Jr’s personal manager and so should have looked after him a bit better than this, surely? If he had let him drive for the rest of the season, he could have got rid of him much more easily at the end of the year and in a way that would not have led to him telling all to the FIA on the cheating that took place the previous year.
Therefore, there must have been lots more going on behind the scenes and it seems that Piquet Snr and Briatore have had their share of heated discussions this year. Several of these have been documented and Piquet Jr has alluded to them in a few interviews and perhaps Briatore had got to the end of his teather and wanted Piquet Jr and his father out. Apparently there was a clause in his contract that if he had not scored 50% of the points Alonso had by some mid point of the season, he could release Piquet Jr from his contract.
Ultimately this is a lesson to all employers, be extremely careful about dismissing an employee as it could come back to bite your very hard, even if you have done nothing wrong. In Briatore’s case, he was a fool to get rid of Piquet Jr in this manner, especially when he had conspired to cheat in a race with him, and he will now pay the price.