A letter to Joe- Two Cheats

21 09 2009

This was an e-mail I sent to Joe Saward last week in response to his article on Two Crashes , let me know what you think…

I read your blog post on ‘Two crashes’ the other day, and having time to reflect on “crashgate” it got me thinking about two acts of positively unsportsmanlike behaviour which have come to light in F1 this season.

The first being Lewis’ false testimony to the stewards in Melbourne, leading to another competitor being disqualified; and the second, Nelsiniho Piquet deliberately crashing in Singapore last year. Both these incidents have rightly been condemned by the racing press, but the judgements on the protagonists appear to have been quite different. Whilst Lewis took some initial criticism, it was never suggested that he should never drive again; much harsher judgement has fallen on the young Brazilian. Both of them were relatively young guys, the same age as me as it happens, and both of them have put forward defences that they were following the instructions of the teams they had put their trust into.

The two of them battled in 2006 for the GP2 championship, and there was very little to choose between them. As we all know the following year Lewis was given a dream ticket into a seat at McLaren and duly impressed the world, whilst Nelson took up a testing role at Renault before moving into the race team the following season. Whilst Nelson has failed to impress the F1 world, I can’t help but feel he has been treated in a very differently.

For all the mitigating pressures on Lewis, he knowingly gave a false testimony to the stewards in order to have another competitor disqualified wrongly. But was he in a position to lose his place in the team, was his career in jeopardy? The answer to both these questions is no, there were no pressures on him; his actions were borne out of his trust and his loyalty to his team.

Now looking at Nelson, his team asked him to crash (as we are led to believe), and he duly did so, potentially putting himself in the line of injury as he did so. It skewed the result of the race. However unlike Lewis, he was faced with an uncertain future, his results had led to his place in the team being in doubt, and if let go he would face a very difficult challenge to return to top level motorsport.

I am not defending the actions of either of them, but it does seem their treatment has been quite different. Perhaps the manner in which the evidence has come to light has skewed the opinions of some, but the fundamental facts in my mind do not equate to the judgements I have read.

You praised Lewis in your article for his racing spirit, prepared to do everything for the result, even if it resulted in him ending up in a wall. The circumstances for nelson were completely different, but on some level was he not striding for the same thing? A new contract, another chance, another opportunity to win. You can’t get to the chequered flag if you are not on the grid, and if you are prepared to give it all to get to the flag, would you not be prepared to give it all to get on the grid?

I am not saying he has earned another drive based on his performances, which have constantly been below an acceptable standard, rather that he has been judged by a double standard, and he shouldn’t be isolated for the crimes of those who should have known better.

I hope this wasn’t too far out of left field; I am a huge admirer of your writing,



This evening i also responded to James Allen’s post with a similar comment  I thought I would add it here so as not to loose it to the ether

Interesting post James, Perhaps no one will want to hire young Nelson at the moment, but peoples memories in F1 are selective and short.

Take Lewis Hamilton’s cheating, which was every bit as bad as nelsons perhaps even worse. He was under no pressure to cheat, his career certainly wasn’t in danger, yet he still went to the stewards and told lies so his competitor would be disqualified wrongly.

I dont blame lewis for that, he was led astray by people who should have known better, even more so for nelson, who was under pressure from people who should have been helping him. Nelson was a year younger at the time of his incident than Lewis was at his.

For all the moral judgements passed upon him. the verdicts in f1 are fickle, we want to see more of the winners and less of the losers. Nelson’s time in F1 has been as a looser, but if we can see the brilliant kid who took Lewis to the GP2 title come back again, all will be forgiven





7 responses

21 09 2009
Alex Andronov

Didn’t both of them get immunity because they were under pressure from the team? I don’t see the double standard. Confusingly Piquet has been dropped which clouds the issue, however he keeps his superlicence. Nobody wants him to drive for them mainly because he’s rubbish.

21 09 2009

Alex I was referring more to the moral judgement than official sanction.

And Although you are right about his prospects at the moment i hope he is given a chance somewhere in motorsport to prove himself…

21 09 2009

Interesting stuff Nick and I tend to agree with you, though it’s been pointed out elsewhere one was a pre-meditated act that took planning and colusion and the other, something that happened on the spur of the moment.

I am saddened that certain drivers feel their efforts on the track are not enough and they need to go a step further; a step that leads them away from integrity and into deceit. I really hope that these two examples are not just the tip of the iceberg and it goes much deeper.

21 09 2009

It hope it isn’t the start of something deeper, but this would never have come out if Nelson hand been disaffected and offered immunity, i guess we will have to see if anyone else leaves a team under a cloud to find out though. It could be interesting to see if Kimi leaves Ferrari on good terms…

21 09 2009

I really hope that these two examples are not just the tip of the iceberg and it goes much deeper.

… I meant “does NOT go much deeper”.

21 09 2009

I simply do not buy that driver can be as good in the more junior series and be so apparently rubbish at F1 that his biggest contribution was to crash so his team mate can gain benefit. While I would not go out and hire Nelsinho all the while drivers of the calibre of Nick, Robert and Jarno are without seats, he was set-up to fail under Briatore’s guidance. Witness Monaco 2008 where the team as a test of strategy for Alonso set him out on the wrong tyres and he duly crashed. The problem I have with the press is that many looked at the McLaren incident as a spontaneous little lie. It was as much race-fixing as the Renault saga, but one difference is Renault sought UNFAIR ADVANTAGE while McLaren sought UNFAIR DISADVANTAGE (by getting a competing team disqualified). It was pre-meditated since McLaren sought to change the results that initially had Jarno ahead of Lewis. Further McLaren only owned up when there was huge evidence against them, whereas Piquet did come forward, although more for revenge than any other purpose.

I have written my interpretation of the Singapore race at http://f1centric.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/sorry-guys-i-had-a-little-outing/

27 09 2009

Nick, I don’t know how you can even begin to compare these two incidents.

In the case of Lewis Hamilton, it was a spur of the moment thing, directed by his sporting director while he was on the way to the hearing. Incidently, you can see how this developed for Hamilton. He had let Trulli through, thinking it was the right thing to do. You can understand his confusion, given the fact he was peanalised for passing at Spa last year, and the fact race control would not tell the team what to do in this race. Because of completely arbitrary rules, he was probably very confused about what to do or what might happen.I will also say that he seemed genuinely sorry for what he’d done. This doesn’t excuse it, and looking back I wish he had been banned for 2 or 3 races. As it was, he was disqualified from the race, Renault have seen no such peanalty. Incidently, I believe, if Hamilton had told the truth, he had a good chance of regaining 3rd spot. The lies were stupid.

In Piquet’s case, he was part of a pre-medidtated plan to fix a race result, and in the process put himself and others in danger by crashing a car. I don’t care how safe F1 is these days, crashing a car is never safe, and has been said before, he put a lot of others in danger. He did this all just to save his own drive with Renault. Not only that, he only saw clear to reveal the truth once he had been sacked. HE has no moral high ground here. It looks as if he has been pushed around by some very strong personalities, his father, Falvio Briatori, but at some point you have to stand up for yourself. Nelson still hasn’t done this, and is still blaming others.

There has been a history in F1 of people – drivers and team members – breaking rules for their own benefit. The only way for the sport to be taking seriously is to get rid of these people.

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