What penalties could the issue following Renault’s decision to admit guilt in the crash-gate case?

16 09 2009

(Slightly different style of post, the blog may move some way in this direction)

The first concern should in my mind be a penalty strong enough to discourage anyone else from attempting anything similar. Yes, it is true that the wider team and parent company did not know what was happening, but they were responsible for the appointment of people who were capable of this and they are ultimately responsible for the team

As I see it, a ban of some sort is essential, at least for Singapore, if not the rest of the season. A fine and a slap on the wrist will not suffice here. The team needs to be punished. Avoiding Singapore may also do the team a favour as it is possible action could be taken against it for match fixing.

Secondly there is the issue of prize money the team won last season, the team rallied late in the season, spring boarding on to a second win in Japan. This entitles them to grab a larger share of the money awarded at the end of the season, to the cost of its rival. Whilst the FIA cannot disqualify the team from last season, it could fine the team the equivalent of the money it won, which would seam like a prudent response, the FIA could then use this money to compensate the teams which finished below them last year.

Thirdly we need to look at the team personnel involved, Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds. Both of them have left the team today, but it seems unlikely this will be sufficient punishment in the eyes of the FIA. Pat Symonds was yesterday offered immunity, we do not yet know if he took this up triggering today’s events, or whether he opted to stand with the team and his long term colleague Flavio.  However if he hasn’t co-operate the evidence against him is pretty damming. He will likely face a ban for the sport for some time. Flavio will likely bit as hard, if not harder. The situation with him is slightly more complicated by his involvement in GP2 and his management of current F1 drivers such as Mark Webber. It will be interesting to see if any FIA penalty affects these activities.

Finally we move onto the drivers. Nelson Piquet Junior has had a difficult F1 career at Renault, perhaps illustrated best when his team principle and personal manager thought the best thing he could do for the team was to crash. He had shown promise when he raced against Lewis in GP2, and whilst I am not suggesting he could have been a future world champion, I don’t believe he was given a fair chance at Renault. Nevertheless, his F1 career appears to be all but over, unless his father can find a way to fund him into a team and he can rebuild his career. NASCAR or other racing in the states may be a possibility, although again it may be difficult with his reputation.

Fernando Alonso the eventually beneficiary of the crash has not yet been named as being involved in this plot at by any of the protagonists, although the bizarre strategy the team put him on must have raised his eyebrows. It’s quite likely he wasn’t told, but I expect he could work out something was going on and sat there waiting for something to happen. It appears unlikely he will be punished, although when people look back at his career wins, there may well be an asterisk next to the number of wins to denote the ‘stolen win’ in Singapore.

All of this is pure speculation on my part at this point, and we will know nothing until the WMSC convenes in Paris next Monday. The future of the Renault F1 team must be called into question. This scandal has undoubtedly damaged the reputation of the car maker, and the team is without a major sponsor for next year. Rumours are that Alain Prost could come in, as well as possible involvement by Dave Richards of Prodrive/Aston Martin. More will become clear over the teams future over the coming weeks.