Monthly Archives: September 2009

FIA decision not strong enough

The FIA has announced its decision on crashgate:

  • Renault has a 2 year ban, but suspended
  • Renault to pay costs of FIA investigation
  • Briatore banned for an unlimited timefrom all FIA involvements and drivers signed to his management will not have their superlicences renewed
  • Symonds banned for 5 years

The FIA have not quite made a strong enough decision here regarding Renault. The team must be extremely relieved that they have only got a 2 year suspended ban plus having to pay the costs of the investigation. However, this weak punishment does not send the right signals out to the other teams as is inconsistent with other decisions (e.g. McLaren in spygate) and will create doubt in audiences minds as to whether other cheating is going on. I think this will encourage other teams to push the envelope and bend rules and if they get caught, they only need to quickly get rid of a couple of ‘rogue’ employees and make a full apology.

The punishment I think should have been stronger. I can understand giving them a suspended ban, but I am shocked that a far more severe financial punishment was not given. McLaren were fined $100 million for a crime deemed by everyone as less damaging to the sport than crashgate and Renault get away with paying just investigation costs! They should have had a fine at least as large as McLaren and also possibly be stripped of their 2008 constructors points and so have to pay back their prize money. This would be a strong enough punishment for a terrible act of cheating that would hit Renault hard, but not cripple them but will also deter other teams from cheating.

I know Renault will say that it was only 3 employees of several hundred, but it was the boss, the technical head honcho and one of the drivers at fault. Renault, as employers, must take responsibility for this, as the rules state, and so should have got a stronger financial punishment.

The FIA have singled out Briatore more than Symonds as he continued to deny his role in the affair and their punishments reflect this and I think seem strict enough to deter others. Piquet Jr is a very lucky boy to have his immunity and most think it is unfair he has it. Briatore, I believe, will have to step down as Chairman of QPR as the English Football Association rules state that he can’t hold this position if disqualified by another sporting regulatory body. He will not be happy about that, but I’m sure he can comfort himself with his millions in the bank. However, as I wrote recently, why did he take the risk of sacking Piquet Jr?!

Alonso has been cleared of any involvement. People will still be suspicious of course, but no evidence was raised or found so his reputation will not be damaged. However, if he is involved or linked to anything else, everyone will bring this and the McLaren incident up very quickly.


Why Eddie Irvine is an Idiot

In an interview with Radio 5 Live earlier today, Eddie Irvine stated that he felt the cheating of ‘crashgate’ has been blown out of proportion and that F1 has become too politically correct. He said what Briatore, Symonds and Piquet Jr did was “probably slightly on the wrong side of cheating”! He said, “When I was in various teams you would do anything to win. Back in the day it was normal”. He added that F1 is not a pure sport and that he saw it more as “gladiatorial”.


I have always been a fan of Irvine and his outspokenness, but he is an idiot for making these comments today. How can something be on the wrong side of cheating? Cheating is just wrong and is not allowed.

I do understand what he is trying to say, that all teams will push to find an advantage and risk bending or breaking the rules on occasion. However, what he is basically saying is that all teams have and will always cheat a bit, so don’t punish them harshly for it. What utter rubbish! Weak punishment of this activity will encourage others to do it too which damages the entire credibility of the sport. James Allen put it well that it is up to the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) to ‘show that F1 is not a sham’ and that the public need ‘confidence that what they are seeing is real’ otherwise it will become ‘ a sort of high speed WWE Wrestling’.

All F1 fans know that it is not the purest sport, that some teams have larger budgets than others and that there is closer and more exciting racing in lower formulas. However, we watch it because it is the best of the best competing against each other in the best and fastest cars. We love the politics of the sport, the egos, the business dealings and the dramas that seem to occur every year. Nevertheless, we have to believe that the teams follow the rules to enjoy it. We need to believe that Barrichello won the Italian Grand Prix because he drove well in the best car designed to the agreed rules and not because his team cheated better than the other teams.

We accept that there are inequalities in size of the teams, share of the prize money (Ferrari!), but we have to believe the fight on the track is real. Irvine referred to F1 as “gladiatorial” and I agree with that, but no one wants to see one gladiator beat the other as he has a gun and the other only a sword.

We are not being naive and know the sport is such big business that if teams can get away with cheating then they will do so, as so much money is riding on it. However, we have to believe it is a fair fight and the FIA are there to ensure that this is so. Therefore, the decision the WMSC make next week is going to be very tough and could have a big impact on the perception of the sport.

Jake McMillan

So why did Briatore risk getting rid of Piquet?

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.

Jake McMillan

Is this the end of Briatore?

He’s one of the most flamboyant and outspoken players in the F1 world. He’s the Renault Team Prinicipal, head of FOTA, masterminded Benetton to driver and constructors’ world championships, but Flavio Briatore’s time in F1 could soon be over due to a disgruntled former employee. On Monday 21st September the FIA will meet with Briatore and other representatives of the ING Renault F1 team to answer charges made by sacked driver, Nelson Piquet Jr., that he was asked to cause a deliberate crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to gain advantage for their other driver, Fernando Alonso.

Update: He has now left Renault, see:

FOTA Press Conference

Piquet Jr. made a statement to the FIA on 30th July this year that Briatore and Pat Symonds, Renault Executive Director of Engineering, asked him if he was willing to crash to help Alonso’s strategy. He agreed, claiming he did so as he feared losing his job, and then Symonds showed him which corner to crash on, where there were no cranes, to ensure a safety car would be brought out. The FIA have granted immunity to Piquet Jr. for his role in this conspiracy and it has been reported that it has also been offered to Symonds if he is willing to make a fuller disclosure to the FIA than the one he made at the Belgian Grand Prix recently.


Symonds claims that Piquet Jr. suggested the crash the day before the race, but regardless of who originally suggested the act, it is clear from Symonds’ non-responses that, at a minimum, Briatore, Symonds and Piquet Jr. more than likely planned and carried out a deliberate crash to benefit Alonso’s low fuel strategy. If found guilty the Renault team will be in a huge amount of trouble and it will cause a massive dent to their company’s image. Renault will need to minimise this and so someone will have to take the fall. Piquet Jr. has immunity; Symonds will be very brave or foolhardy not to take advantage of his and so that leaves Briatore to take the responsibility. F1 has lost Honda and BMW recently, and it will not want to lose Renault either if it can help it.

If true, this will be the end of Briatore in F1 and his dream to take over from F1 puppet-master Bernie Ecclestone will be finished. It will be a shame to lose such a great character and dynamic force within F1, but if he has been cheating then he has to go, end of story.

The reactions around the paddock to ‘crashgate’ have been very interesting with Rubens Barrichello stating that, “it seems someone wants Briatore’s head”. Ross Brawn has come out to defend his former colleague Symonds, saying he is a “man of the utmost integrity”.

However, we cannot take the situation strictly at face value and the water has been muddied by the fact that both the Renault team and Briatore personally have commenced criminal proceedings against Piquet Jr. and Snr. for attempting to blackmail the Renault team into allowing Piquet Jr. to drive for the rest of the 2009 season. This strongly suggests that the Piquets tried to leverage the alleged deliberate crash to keep Piquet Jr.’s seat and that Briatore did not bite or called their bluff (perhaps stating that whistle-blowing would ruin Piquet Jr.’s career?). The Piquets were not bluffing and so it seems everyone loses out, maybe Briatore most of all.


Reading between the lines it seems that the case Renault and Briatore will make is that the crash was Piquet Jr.’s idea. However, for them to escape punishment they will need to demonstrate that they did not sanction or approve this. The whole case will rest on what Symonds does or does not say. If he says, or the FIA believes, they went along with this, regardless of who suggested it, then they have been cheating and Briatore will definitely go and possibly Renault too.

As Martin Brundle said in his recent BBC column, Piquet Jr. has now become ‘unemployable in F1’ and will not be popular in other motor racing formulas either. However, whether he and his Dad have been trying to blackmail Renault or not, it is irrelevant as it seems from the evidence publicly available at the moment that the crash was most likely deliberate and Briatore and Symonds knew about it.

It will be a sad day for F1 if it is true and without doubt it will bring the swift end to Flavio Briatore’s colourful and remarkable time in the sport.

Update: He has now left Renault, see:

Jake McMillan