Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Briatore & Symonds out of Renault F1 Team


Flavio Briatore has left his position as boss of the Renault team after they decided not to contest charges of fixing the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

Executive director of engineering Pat Symonds has also left the team.

Renault were summoned by governing body, the FIA, after Nelson Piquet Jr claimed he had been asked to crash to help team-mate Fernando Alonso's race.

An FIA spokesperson confirmed a World Motor Sport Council hearing in Paris on Monday would go ahead.

Renault have been called to answer charges that they "conspired with Nelson Piquet Jr to cause a deliberate crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix with the aim of causing the deployment of the safety car to the advantage of its other driver, Fernando Alonso".


The hearing will attempt to attribute responsibility for the Singapore "crash-gate" despite the news that Briatore and Symonds have left Renault.

The FIA could still impose sanctions if Renault are found guilty, including excluding the team from the championship, although that must be considered unlikely given the two people Piquet said were responsible have now left the team.

Piquet crashed in Singapore two laps after Alonso had come in for a routine pit stop.

That meant that when race officials sent out the safety car to clear up the debris from Piquet's car, Alonso was alone among the front-runners in not having to stop for fuel and tyres.

Renault's double world champion went on to take the chequered flag at Formula 1's inaugural night race and claim his first victory in two years.

At the time, Piquet attributed the crash to a simple error, but after being dropped by the team after July's Hungary GP the race-fixing allegations emerged.

The Brazilian has since testified to the FIA that he was instructed by Briatore and Symonds when and where to crash.

Renault's response was to accuse the 24-year-old and his father Nelson Piquet of false allegations and blackmail, going as far as saying they would begin legal action against them.

But on Wednesday the team said in a statement they would "not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix."

The statement added: "The team also wishes to state that its managing director, Flavio Briatore and its executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, have left the team."

BBC pundit and former team boss Eddie Jordan said he was surprised by Renault's announcement but believes it was effectively an admission of guilt.

"By suggesting they are not going to contest the allegations is in itself an admission," Jordan told the BBC.

"I don't know what goes on in teams and certainly in the Jordan team you would contemplate all sorts of things but you certainly couldn't contemplate that."

It remains to be seen whether this latest controversy, and the departure of Briatore and Symonds, will affect Renault's decision to stay in Formula 1.

Briatore had denied speculation that the French team's future was under threat and the team have signed a new Concorde Agreement to stay in F1 until 2012.

But this latest controversy, coupled with a decline in cars sales, could yet have repercussions for the staff of around 700, who are are employed at the team's headquarters in Enstone, in Oxfordshire, and Viry-Chatillon in Paris.

Former grand prix winner John Watson told the BBC: "The fact that Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds have left the team was the only solution to Renault.

"A company on the scale of Renault, a world-scale motor company could not afford to have a scandal of this magnitude rattling around in the boardroom."

As it is, Renault's statement draws the curtain on two of F1's best-known protagonists.

Briatore became Benetton team principal in 1991 and when Renault bought Benetton in 2000 to run under its own moniker, the 59-year-old Italian was chosen to lead the team.

Symonds joined the Toleman team, which morphed into Benetton and Renault, in the 1980s and worked his way though the ranks becoming executive director of engineering in 2001.

Briatore was also heavily involved in the teams' association Fota, as it sought to reach an agreement on the future of the sport with the FIA this season.

1 comment:

Bearer of Light said...

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