It just wouldn’t be Formula 1 racing if not for the drama, right? Crashgate refers to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix-the first F1 race held at night. Ferrari driver Felipe Massa started the race from pole. Former F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, driving for Renault started from 15th, seemed a non-factor in the race. Alonso pitted early, and then on lap 13 Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr. spun his car into the wall at over 100mph, bringing out the safety car, wrecking the pit strategies of the front-runners.
With Alonso’s early pit-stop ahead of the safety car, he was able to win the race. Sound fishy? The FIA thought so too. The World Motor Sport Council found Renault F1 guilty of conspiracy and race fixing. The team was also handed a two year disqualification from F1, suspended. Meaning if they screw up again, they are out.
The case against Renault isolates two men-Team Principle Flavio Briatore and Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds. Flavio, an extravagant Italian businessman and playboy, had no racing or engineering experience before joining the elite ranks of F1 racing. Flavio claims no knowledge of directing Piquet to shunt the car. Nelson was fired by Flavio in July, 2009. It should also be noted that Briatore was Nelson’s manager. Pat Symonds has been involved in F1 racing for 33 years.
Here is the punishment-Flavio Briatore is banned from all FIA events for life. He can’t even attend an F1 race as a fan. He also can no longer manage a driver with a Superlicense-what you need to drive an F1 car. And Briatore manages Fernando Alonso, Romain Grosjean, Heikki Kovalinen, and Mark Webber. Pat Symonds was handed a five-year suspension from working in an FIA sanctioned sport. While Mr. Symonds apologized to the team he had served for decades, he threw Nelson Piquet Jr under the bus, claiming it was Nelson that suggested putting his own race car into the wall at 100+ mph to help his team mate. The FIA didn’t care-they smelled conspiracy, and caught it. If the punishment on Renault is light, it is because the FIA doesn’t want the French team to leave. They went after the individuals involved.
Done and done. To summarize Nelson Piquet Jr.’s feelings of Flavio Briatore as team principle, he said it was akin to hearing his sister talk about driving an F1 car.