September 16, 2009

F1 News & Notes: Big Stuff Edition

With Renault's hearing on the whole Nelson Piquet Jr crash at Singapore last year coming up this Monday, it appears that the team is bracing for a bad result.  Earlier today, executive director of engineering Pat Symonds and team boss Flavio Briatore left the team, though it is currently unknown if the two jumped or were pushed.  However, there is this: Renault also announced that they "will not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix."

In other words, someone at Renault, the company, has decided that someone high up in the Renault, the team asked Piquet Jr to crash, and has taken steps to try and minimize the overall damage.  Since the two most likely candidates for the order have now left F1, the team is probably hoping that the World MotorSports Council (WMSC) will be lenient in whatever penalties they hand down.

Fortunately for us, a lot of evidence has been leaked to the media over the past few days.  Everything from a copy of Piquet Jr's statement, telemetry data from his car during the crash (which shows that he accelerated through the crash, instead of braking as one would normally do when control is lost), transcripts of Renault's radio conversations during the incident, to a transcript of Symonds' interview with FIA investigators have all come to light, and it isn't a pretty picture for the team.

For example, here's a snippet from the Symonds' interview:
Investigator: "Mr Symonds, are you aware that there was going to be a crash on lap 14?" Symonds: "I don't want to answer that question."
Investigator: "Mr Piquet Jr says, having had the initial meeting with you and Flavio Briatore, you then met with him individually with the map of the circuit. Do you remember that? Symonds: "I won't answer. Rather not answer that. I don't recall it, but it sounds like Nelson's talked a lot more about it."
Investigator: "Mr Piquet Jr also says that at that meeting, you pointed out a specific place on the circuit where he was to have the accident and said it was because it was the furthest away from any of the safety or lifting equipment, and gave the most likely chance of a safety car being deployed."
Symonds: "I don't . . . I don't want to answer that question."

Ouch.  Penalties could range anywhere from a slap on the wrist to full exclusion from the season.

In other news, Team Lotus is back in F1!  They were awarded BMW's spot on the grid for 2010 since the German manufacturer withdrew from the sport after the announcement of the three new teams.  The brand is currently owned by a Malaysian consortium, though the company itself is still based in Norfolk, England.  For the time being, the team itself will stay in England until a new technical center is built at the Sepang raceway.  In a statement, the team announced that "the car will be made in Malaysia by Malaysians," and will name their drivers by October 31st.  They'll be using Cosworth engines, like the other three new teams.

Finally, BMW has been given the 14th spot on the grid.  I can hear you thinking "huh?  Didn't they quit the sport?"  Well, yes, they did... but nobody wanted a F1 team that wasn't going to be allowed to actually race in F1, so the team duly reapplied to be accepted for the 2010 season.  The FIA hasn't actually given them the right to race in 2010 yet, though.  At the moment, the 14th slot only means that if any other team drops out of the Championship *coughRenaultcough*, the team that was BMW will get their spot.  In addition, there is some speculation that the FIA will allow all 14 teams to run in 2010 anyway.  At the same time, BMW announced that the team had been purchased by Swiss company Qadbak Investments, and it appears that the Sauber name will still be associated with the team.

So, there's the latest news from the F1 World.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:19 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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1 It's interesting that there's a lot more support for this than just Piquet Jr. grousing about his former employer.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 17, 2009 08:50 AM (+rSRq)


Simon Barnes says "It is the worst single piece of cheating in the history of sport."

That's a pretty extreme claim. I'm not sure it really measures up to the Black Sox scandal, for instance. This one decided a race; the Black Sox scandal decided a season.

But it's still quite the scandal, and I think it's going to get really hot for the governors if they don't throw the book at Renault. I bet they'll be DQ'ed from ever participating again -- not just one season, but forever.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 19, 2009 12:43 AM (+rSRq)

3 Reading further, I see that his point is that Renault asked Piquet Jr. to literally risk life and limb. And that's true, and nothing like that was involved in the Black Sox scandal.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 19, 2009 12:46 AM (+rSRq)

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