The Renault F1 team has announced that managing director Flavio Briatore and engineering director Pat Symonds have parted company with the team and that it will “not dispute” the allegations of race-fixing when it appears before the World Motor Sport Council on September 21.
The team had been accused of asking racing driver Nelson Piquet Jr to crash deliberately during last year’s Singapore Grand Prix in order to cause a safety car period that would work to his team-mate Fernando Alonso’s advantage. The Spaniard went on to win the race.
Renault were due to appear before the World Motor Sport Council next week to discuss what penalties should be imposed on the team as a result of the crash.
In the press statement, the team said:
“The ING Renault F1 Team will not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.”
“It also wishes to state that its managing director, Flavio Briatore and its executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, have left the team.
“Before attending the hearing before the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 21 September 2009, the team will not make any further comment.”
This surprising turn of events has left question marks about the future involvement of the manufacturer. With Briatore and Symonds out, will the team even take part in the remaining four races of this season or quit with immediate effect?
The CEO and president of Renault Carlos Ghosn had earlier told L’Equipe that the parent company would not react “in hot blood” to the allegations that were made against the Formula One team. “Above all we don’t want to make a premature judgment one way or the other,” he said.
The FIA had charged Renault with “conspiring with its driver, 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.”
Following the crash, which took place on a part of the circuit where no cranes were available to lift Piquet’s car over the barriers, the safety car was deployed. Alonso was the only driver to have pitted before the incident, and consequently he emerged in the lead after the rest of the field refuelled after the safety car came out.
Alonso went on to take the chequered flag at Formula One’s first night race – his first after rejoining the team following a season with McLaren in 2007 – and at a time when Renault were considering quitting the sport because of the huge expense involved at a time when domestic car markets were struggling.