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Piquet says he felt it hard to refuse Briatore at the time
It seems shocking now that a young driver lost his seat at the highest table of motorsport for agreeing to do something that his team boss ordered him to do.
After a poor qualifying session that left him 15th on the grid at the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix, Renault’s Fernando Alonso was the first driver to make a routine pit stop for fuel and tyres on lap 12, rejoining the race at the back of the field. Two laps later, Alonso’s teammate, Nelson Piquet Jr., crashed into the circuit wall at Turn 17, bunching the cars up behind the safety car before the pit lane opened.
Most of the leading cars ended up behind Alonso after their stops, and the Spaniard went on to win the race after Piquet’s timely accident.
Having being dropped by Renault following the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, Piquet revealed that he had been asked by the team to deliberately crash to improve the race situation for Alonso, and the FIA promptly charged Renault with conspiracy.
Renault stated that they would not contest the charges and announced that the team's managing director, Flavio Briatore, and executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, had left the team.
Briatore was suspended from all F1 and FIA-sanctioned events indefinitely, while Symonds received a five-year ban. Their bans were subsequently overturned by a French court, although they both agreed not to work in Formula One or FIA-sanctioned events as part of a later settlement reached with the governing body.
Piquet now drives in NASCAR for Turner Motorsports and it’s fair to say he will not be exchanging Christmas cards with Briatore this year, a man he described as driving him to the “lowest point” in his life as reported by The Guardian at the time.
I found myself at the mercy of Mr Briatore. His true character, which had previously only been known to those he had treated like this in the past, is now known. Mr Briatore was my manager as well as the team boss, he had my future in his hands but he cared nothing for it. By the time of the Singapore GP he had isolated me and driven me to the lowest point I had ever reached in my life. Now that I am out of that situation I cannot believe that I agreed to the plan, but when it was put to me I felt that I was in no position to refuse.