Renault: The New, Protected Species of Formula One

Craig ChristopherAnalyst ISeptember 22, 2009

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Fernando Alonso of Spain and Renault drives during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza on September 13, 2009 in Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

The FIA is barking mad.

There is no logic whatsoever to the decisions that they make and don’t think for a minute that you might get some kind of consistency in how they apply sanctions to Formula One rule breakers.

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 Nelsinho Piquet, 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!

Compare that with the decision against Michael Schumacher in 1997 for deliberately hitting Jaques Villeneuve’s car at Jerez. Schumi had his points for the season wiped after what the FIA had called an instinctive move, not something that was pre-planned.

Or McLaren’s $100 million fine and stripping of the season’s constructor’s points for espionage. Or Lewis Hamilton being stripped of a race victory for cutting a corner. Of course, deliberately endangering lives isn’t anywhere near as bad as these heinous infractions.

For years, Ferrari has been labelled the protected species of F1, but they may just have handed that mantle to Renault. Admittedly, Renault had put on one the great all-time a**-kissing performances, promising to pay for the investigation and fund some safety research.

Interestingly, there is no need to delve too far back into the history books to see that this isn’t the first time that Renault have got away with something. In 2007 they were let off espionage charges—ostensibly identical to those levelled at McLaren—after being caught with confidential McLaren documents.

Who knows how they do it.

A year or so ago, you could argue that maybe the Renault bosses had some compromising pictures of Max Mosley that they were using as a blackmail device, but everyone has those pictures now. Maybe they’ve got proof that Bernie Ecclestone isn’t human after all.

Perhaps there is a simpler explanation. The hearing was held in Paris—isn’t that in France?


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