Sep 21

Renault escapes ban, Briatore banned for life

+ Renault & Piquet comments

Renault escaped Monday’s ‘crash-gate’ hearing with a two-year suspended disqualification, but Flavio Briatore was banned from motor sport for life.

The French team attended the Paris meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in fully cooperative mood, admitting the Nelson Piquet crash conspiracy, apologising, and offering to pay for the FIA’s investigation and make a “significant contribution” to the governing body’s safety projects.

The Council noted the “unparalleled severity” of the incident and said it merits “permanent disqualification from the FIA formula one world championship”.

But because of the company’s contrition and the ousting of conspirators Briatore and Pat Symonds, the body decided to suspend the ban “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,” read a statement.

The Council however came down hard on Briatore, who has been forever banned from even attending let alone taking part in any FIA-sanctioned series.

The 59-year-old Italian will also have to wind up his FFBB driver management company, because the FIA said it does “not intend to renew any Superlicense granted to any driver … associated … with Mr. Briatore” or any of his companies or associates.

Prominent FFBB drivers include Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen.

The FIA said it decided to impose such a harsh penalty on Briatore not only because of the “severity of the breach”, but also for “continuing to deny his participation in the breach despite all the evidence”.

Symonds received the same penalty but for only a five-year period, because he admitted taking part in the conspiracy and, in a written submission to Monday’s hearing, said it was to his “eternal regret and shame”.

Piquet Jr escaped sanction due to his immunity deal, and the FIA confirmed that Alonso played no part in the conspiracy.

“We fully accept the decision of the Council,” Renault F1 president Bernard Rey told the media.

“We apologise unreservedly to the F1 community in relation to this unacceptable behaviour.  We will issue further information in the next few days.”

Renault F1 statement

Following the decision of the World Motor Sport Council concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, Renault F1 Team president Bernard Rey issued the following statement to the media gathered in Paris:

“We are very sad to find ourselves in front of the Word Motor Sport Council today.

“By way of background, as a result of our own enquiries, we informed the FIA last week that we would not defend the charges and we accepted our responsibilities in relation to the incident in Singapore and we immediately took appropriate action inside the team.

“Today, we fully accept the decision of the Council. We apologize unreservedly to the F1 community in relation to this unacceptable behaviour. We sincerely hope that we can soon put this matter behind us and focus constructively on the future. We will issue further information in the next few days.”

Nelson Piquet statement

I am relieved that the FIA investigation has now been concluded.  Those now running the Renault F1 Team took the decision, as I did, that it is better that the truth be known and accept the consequences. The most positive thing to come from bringing this to the attention of the FIA is that nothing like it will ever happen again.

I bitterly regret my actions to follow the orders I was given. I wish every day that I had not done it.

I don’t know how far my explanation will go to making people understand because for many being a racing driver is an amazing privilege, as it was for me. All I can tell you is that my situation at Renault turned into a nightmare. Having dreamed of being a Formula One driver and having worked so hard to get there, I found myself at the mercy of Mr Briatore.  His true character, which had previously only been known to those he had treated like this in the past, is now known.

Mr Briatore was my manager as well as the team boss, he had my future in his hands but he cared nothing for it. By the time of the Singapore GP he had isolated me and driven me to the lowest point I had ever reached in my life. Now that I am out of that situation I cannot believe that I agreed to the plan, but when it was put to me I felt that I was in no position to refuse.

Listening now to Mr Briatore’s reaction to my crash and hearing the comments he has made to the press over the last two weeks it is clear to me that I was simply being used by him then to be discarded and left to ridicule.

I have had to learn some very difficult lessons over the last 12 months and reconsider what is valuable in life. What has not changed is my love for Formula One and hunger to race again. I realise that I have to start my career from zero. I can only hope that a team will recognise how badly I was stifled at Renault and give me an opportunity to show what I promised in my career in F3 and GP2. What can be assured is that there will be no driver in Formula One as determined as me to prove myself.

As my final words on this matter, I would like to repeat that I am so sorry to those who work in Formula One (including the many good people at Renault) the fans and the governing body. I do not expect this to be forgiven or forgotten but at least now people can draw their conclusions based upon what really happened.

source: GMM / npiquet.com / renaultf1.com