Piquetgate appears to be picking up steam. Here is an FIA statement released today:
Representatives of ING Renault F1 have been requested to appear before an extraordinary meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on Monday, 21 September 2009.
The team representatives have been called to answer charges, including a breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code, that the team conspired 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.
It would be safe to say that this is a bad sign that there is some merit to the claim that Nelson Piquet intentionally crashed at Singapore last year so that Fernando Alonso could win the race.
It has now been released to the media that Nelson Piquet Jr. was the source of the claims (as we expected). Nelson provided evidence to the FIA’s legal adviser’s. It still is unclear what this evidence is, but certainly it prompted the FIA’s investigation at Spa over the weekend with the help of Quest private investigators.
It would be safe to say that Renault would not have been summoned unless their investigation turned up some pretty substantial evidence. It would further be safe to say that Renault will probably not be at Singapore, Suzuka, Sao Paulo or Abu Dhabi. If the allegations are proven to be true, it could spell the end of Renault’s involvement in F1 permanently (whether by the FIA’s choice or by the team’s election).
Inevitably we have to ask what the long term ramifications would be to the drivers. Nelson Piquet may not get a chance to drive in F1 again. Not many people thought very highly of him in his tenure at Renault and were surprised to see him back with the team this year. It is possible that Nelson was retained at the team as a direct result of his willingness to throw his car off the track to secure another season with Renault. He will most likely find it hard to move into another team next season since he did not show much talent at Renault and the other teams may not think to highly of his integrity after this event. There has also been no indication from the FIA that Nelson will be protected as a whistle blower. I would not be surprised to see him harshly penalized as well, since he willingly went along with a plot that was dangerous to the other competitors, fans and track workers.
If Nelson escapes this without any penalty, then the FIA is not doing their job. Already this season they have excused Lewis Hamilton for lying to the FIA since the team told him to. It would be a bad precedent to set if the FIA excuses drivers for any infraction as long as the team were the ones who told them to do it. Maybe they will lessen the harshness of their penalty against Nelson since he came forward with the information, but he cannot be excused.
As for Fernando, if he was aware of the scheme then he will be penalized as well. Most likely Renault would have tried to keep this information from their star driver, since they reportedly needed good results at the close of last season in order to keep Fernando at the team. If Fernando felt that these results were in any way fraudulent, then he would not have been a happy camper and may have reported the team to the FIA himself.
Clearly, much of this article is speculation, but based on the FIA’s actions in the past, one thing can be said with absolute certainty: Flavio is now finding out what it is like to be Ron Dennis.