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Piquet's Acquitted of Crashgate Scandal, but Will F1 Ever Be Free of Foul Play?

PARIS - SEPTEMBER 21: Renault Formula One team former driver Nelson Piquet Jr arrives at the F.I.A headquarters to attend World Motor Sport Council hearing on September 21, 2009 in Paris, France. Renault will not contest the charges that Nelson Piquet Jr. was ordered by management to deliberately crash his car during the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix, the crash caused the deployment off the safety car, due to team mate Fernando Alonso's race strategy he was able to win the race. The incident has already seen the resignation of  team principal  Flavio Briatore and Director of Engineering, Pat Symonds. The punishment from the FIA could be exclusion of the team from F1, a large fine or a suspended ban.   (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
David HuggettContributor IJune 9, 2016

This week Nelson Piquet Jr and his father, Nelson Piquet, won their libel case against Renault F1 at the High Court.  They had been accused by Renault F1 of "false allegations" and "attempts to blackmail the team" following events at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix where Nelson Piquet Jr was ordered to crash to assist Fernando Alonso to win the race. 

Renault F1 have issued a formal apology and awarded the father and son substantial compensation.

The scandal first erupted when Piquet Jr. was released by Renault F1 midway through the 2009 season due to poor performance. This is when the "crash gate" allegations first appeared and when Renault F1 launched their case against the Piquet's, claiming false accusal of crash orders and blackmail in an attempt by the young Brazilian to keep his race seat at the team. 

This prompted the FIA to investigate the events of the 2008 Singapore race and less than a fortnight later, Renault F1 were found guilty of race fixing. The team was subsequently handed a two race ban while team boss Flavio Briatore was issued a life time ban from F1, which was later reduced to a suspension until 2013. 

Nelson Piquet is a former 80's F1 champion, taking three world titles during his career.  His son initially proved his talents in the GP2 series, taking runner up in 2006 behind Lewis Hamilton. 

Previous to this he claimed titles such as the 2004 British Formula Three champion, becoming the youngest ever driver to do so at 19 years and two months.  At this stage he had also completed several test sessions with Williams F1.

So once again we are discussing the darker side of this great sport and an incident that has possibly cost a young driver his shot at an F1 career.  Despite Nelson Piquet's large wealth and backing through his son's early motorsport days, this was not enough to secure the drive that Piquet Jr. quite possibly deserved. 

There is no doubt that with substantial cash backing, a career in motorsport becomes far more feasible, but no amount of money can buy talent. 

Along with talent, the backing of a team is required to make a success of any driver.  Take Lewis Hamilton at Mclaren, Jenson Button at Brawn or perhaps most importantly, Michael Schumacher at Ferrari.

Many people would suggest that Piquet Jr. was never up to the challenge of F1.  But how will we ever know? How difficult must it have been for him at Renault, with a team boss like Briatore and a teammate like Fernando Alonso?

Imagine getting your shot at a decent F1 drive, during which your are ordered to put your car in the wall? How could that ever be a progressive position?

He is now pursuing a career in NASCAR in the US.  When asked if he would ever return to F1 his answer was very precise: "F1 is F1. You don't just go in when you want to. It didn't work out and I'm not going to keep begging and putting in money to drive."

Would anybody else have done better in this position?  Would he have received as many of the upgrades or R and D that Alonso would have done?

Going back to my previous article about driver pairings and how it affects the outcome of their season, this is probably the best example.  Without the backing of the team, or no doubt a decent relationship with his teammate, Nelson Piquet Jr. never had a chance.

 

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