Renault's Inadequate Race Fixing Sanctions Just Got Even Softer

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Renault's Inadequate Race Fixing Sanctions Just Got Even Softer
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

When Nelson Piquet Jr. was dumped from the Renault F1 team and the allegations surrounding his crash in Singapore in 2008 were beginning to surface, it sent a shockwave through the world of Formula One.

Piquet, still smarting after his ignominious exit, testified that he had crashed deliberately to allow Fernando Alonso to go on to win the race. He further testified that he had been ordered to do so by team bosses. His illustrious father must have been thrilled at having his good name trashed.

According to the FIA’s official finding into the Renault race-fixing allegation, they found Renault guilty as charged and referred to it as being of “unparalleled severity." They went on to further to say, “Renault F1's breaches not only compromised the integrity of the sport, but also endangered the lives of spectators, officials, other competitors, and Nelson Piquet Jr. himself."

This statement seems to imply that the FIA thought that it was pretty bad, so you would expect a pretty tough punishment—wouldn’t you? But what did the FIA deliver? A mild slap on the wrist with a piece of floppy asparagus.

Flavio Braitore received a life ban from the sport—after he had already walked away stating that he wouldn’t come back. Engineer Pat Symonds received a five-year ban and Piquet Jr., the man who actually committed the deed, got immunity because he helped in the investigation.

The team received a suspended permanent ban—only enforceable in the event of a further breach of equal severity. No fine, no points, nothing!

Admittedly, Renault had put on one the great all-time a**-kissing performances, promising to pay for the investigation and fund some safety research. And, of course, their lenient treatment had nothing to do with the fact that Renault is French and the FIA has its headquarters in Paris which, from memory, is somewhere near France.

Earlier this year, a French court decided the FIAs World Motor Sport Council did not have the authority to impose bans for procedural reasons. In addition, because neither Briatore nor Symonds were FIA licence holders, they were not subject to FIA rules.

The court overturned the WMSC bans, effectively allowing Briatore and Symonds back into the sport. It seems that the FIA couldn’t get even this ridiculously insipid punishment right.

Now the two sides have finally settled out of court to avoid further costly legal action that would inevitably flow from the FIA's appeal. The official statement (from F1.com) from the FIA included this gem.

“Each of them (Briatore and Symonds) recognising his share of responsibility for the deliberate crash involving the driver Nelson Piquet Jr. at the 2008 Grand Prix of Singapore, as 'Team Principal' of Renault F1 where Mr. Flavio Briatore is concerned, they have expressed their regrets and presented their apologies to the FIA.”

Briatore sees things differently, also claiming on F1.com that the compromise was reached "without any admission of a personal guilt in these events and without any recognition of the fact that the decision of the World Council rendered against him would have been well-founded."

Both are now free to return to F1 as early as the end of the 2012 season, a long way short of Briatore's life ban and well short of Symonds' ban too. Whether they will or not is irrelevant, the FIA have again been shown to be inept yet again. Surprise, surprise.

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