Nelson Piquet, Sr. Alerted FIA to Suspected Race-Fixing by Renault


What Happens When One Destroys One’s Own F1 Career

1:03pm EST — Autosport.com has confirmed some details regrading Nelson Piquet, Jr.’s crash at the Singapore GP in 2008, and the subsequent FIA investigation.  Apparently, the information that an investigation was required came to the FIA from Nelson Piquet, Sr. on July 26, the date of his son’s last race for Renault in Formula1, nearly a year after the race in question.  On July 30, Piquet, Jr. went to Paris to give his testimony to the FIA and their investigators from Quest.  Thereafter, the stewards from Singapore and external investigators questioned Renault employees at the Belgian GP.  The investigation came to light through Brazilian TV station Globo‘s coverage of the GP.

Piquet, Jr., team principal Flavio Briatore, and Director of Engineering Pat Symonds held a race strategy meeting Sunday before the race in Singapore.  Piquet contends that Briatore and Symonds directed him to crash in order to help teammate Fernando Alonso win the race (which Alonso won). There is no indication whether Alonso knew or did not know about the deliberate crash discussion.

Piquet gave evidence to the FIA that he was later informed that he should crash on lap 13 or 14 near Turn 17, where there would be no cranes to remove his car and a safety car would have to be deployed.  Italian magazine Autosprint has released telemetry data that indicates that Piquet did deliberately crash, as he typically lifted when exiting Turn 17 when the tires of his Renault lost grip.  On lap 14, he continued to accelerate even as his tires lost grip.

Briatore and Symonds acknowledge the Sunday meeting, but claim that Piquet himself suggested his crash, with Symonds being quoted as saying, “It’s true, during the Sunday meeting with Piquet the issue of deliberately causing a SC deployment came up, but it was proposed by Piquet himself. It was just a conversation.”  Such a declaration without a denial could have far-reaching consequences for both Symonds himself and the Renault team.  Briatore has said he is “a victim of extortion by the Piquet family.”

Piquet, Jr. also contends that he only caused the accident because Briatore had not yet made a firm commitment for a 2009 contract, and he thought he would be rewarded for helping the team.  Briatore counters that “I also remember that Piquet at Singapore was in a very fragile state of mind.”

The hearing for Renault is set for September 21, less than a week before the 2009 Singapore GP.  No matter the outcome of this hearing, there are two definite facts.  One: Renault will be re-evaluating their participation in Formula1 with the raft of bad press this accusation will garner, as suggested by Bernie Eccelstone.  Two: whether Nelson Piquet, Jr.’s version of events are the truth or not, he and his father have effectively derailed his racing career.  Virtually no team, and particularly no team in Formula1, will hire a driver who has been publicly connected to a race-fixing scandal such as this.  His credibility as a driver is gone, particularly if he did crash to ensure a personal contract.  If Piquet, Jr. crashed because he was asked to, or if he suggested it and was encouraged to crash (or even if he was discouraged to crash and did so anyway), or if he is quite angry as his manner of dismissal and did not deliberately crash, but is now saying that he did, there will be no top-flight team allowing him to drive their cars in the future.  Good-bye, Nelson.

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