What a wonderful weekend we had. The championship is starting to tighten a little and Spa was a welcome relief from all the Tilke inspired garbage that litters the F1 calendar. We had also been granted a brief reprieve from all the political wrangling.
It was nice while it lasted. Renault is in the hotseat and we have a new ‘gate to add to our ever growing list of media circus events. We will dub it ‘Piquetgate’.
Think back to one of the more sublime moments of the 2008 season. Fernando Alonso played a risky strategy to end up winning for the beleaguered Renault squad, starting the race on low fuel and the less than optimal soft tires. Oh, and by the way, he started 15th on the grid. Nelson Piquet crashed on lap 13 bringing out the safety car, immediately after Fernando made his first stop, getting him to the front of the field where he stayed for the remainder of the race.
Most would say this was an amazing coincidence, but it appears that a Brazilian TV station, Globo, has claimed that it was a case of race fixing. Globo also claims they have proof.
It appears the FIA thinks this claim has merit, since they are conducting an in depth probe. Reportedly, several of the Renault team members were interviewed by FIA officials this past weekend at Spa. Further, Speed TV is reporting that the Independent newspaper in Britain is reporting that a source within the sport’s governing body has said “other issues above and beyond Singapore are also to be looked at”.
No official word has come out yet on the source of Globo’s information and “proof”, but most of the speculation is squarely placed on Nelson Piquet himself. He has been very vocal about his “unfair” treatment at Renault which prevented him from being able to compete against his teammate or even to rightly learn to be an F1 driver. In his open letter, he attacked the Renault team for selecting bad race strategies and not giving him equal equipment.
This could explain the other issues that the FIA source alluded to. The FIA has shown that they now look unfavorably on team orders as evidenced by Hungary 2008 where McLaren were taken to the woodshed, along with Fernando Alonso, for impeding Lewis Hamilton from taking a final qualifying attempt. If the FIA finds strong evidence that Renault deliberately ruined any chance for Nelson to compete, along with coercing him to put it in the wall at Valencia, then Renault will face very harsh punishment from the FIA.
But some of this doesn’t add up. Nelson would most likely face pretty harsh sanction as well if he willingly took part in this scheme to deliberately wreck his car. Granted, Renault could threaten him all they wanted, but all Nelson had to do was arrange a quick meeting with Max Mosley and he would have been protected from any fallout from Renault for tattling about their diabolical plots and he would have kept his integrity. Starts to sound a little like Lewis at Melbourne earlier this year.
The FIA’s response to this seems to indicate that they have some pretty credible information. The last thing they would want to do is freak out the entire paddock and the F1 media brigade with an investigation into race fixing with weak evidence. The FIA and FOM can take no chances though with race fixing. The last thing they would want is even a glimmer of doubt to be entertained by the public that their races are a sham. That would leave them in the same boat as NASCAR.