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Two-year suspended ban for Renault over Singapore conspiracy 21 Sep 2009

Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault R28 crashes into the wall.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Singapore, Sunday, 28 September 2008 Flavio Briatore (ITA) Renault F1 Managing Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, Friday, 11 September 2009 Pat Symonds (GBR) Renault Executive Director of Engineering.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia Spain, Thursday, 20 August 2009 Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Budapest, Hungary, Friday, 24 July 2009

Renault have been disqualified from the FIA Formula One World Championship, with the ban suspended for two years, after the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) found them guilty on Monday of conspiring to cause a deliberate crash in last year’s Singapore Grand Prix.

Investigations by the Council and by Renault found that team boss Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds, both of whom have now left the team, planned the crash with driver Nelson Piquet in order to benefit the race strategy of Fernando Alonso, who went on to win. Alonso was not aware of the conspiracy, which was known only to Briatore, Piquet, Symonds and an additional unidentified witness.

In addition to banning Renault, the WMSC handed out hefty individual penalties to Briatore and Symonds. Neither will be allowed any involvement in FIA-sanctioned motorsport, Briatore indefinitely and Symonds for the next five years. Piquet, who was dropped by Renault in July, was granted immunity from sanction for volunteering his evidence in the investigation.

"We are very sad to find ourselves in front of the Word Motor Sport Council today,” said Renault team president Bernard Rey after the Paris hearing. "By way of background, as a result of our own enquiries, we informed the FIA last week that we would not defend the charges and we accepted our responsibilities in relation to the incident in Singapore and we immediately took appropriate action inside the team.

"Today, we fully accept the decision of the Council. We apologize unreservedly to the F1 community in relation to this unacceptable behaviour. We sincerely hope that we can soon put this matter behind us and focus constructively on the future. We will issue further information in the next few days."

Piquet retired from Formula One racing’s inaugural night race in Singapore last September after hitting the wall on Lap 14, just after Alonso had made his first pit stop. The subsequent safety-car period helped vault the Spaniard, originally 15th on the grid, to the front end of the field.

The full statement from the WMSC:
At an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council held in Paris on 21 September 2009, the ING Renault F1 team (“Renault F1”) admitted that the team had conspired with its driver Nelson Piquet Jr. to cause a deliberate crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, in breach of the International Sporting Code and F1 Sporting Regulations.

Renault F1 stated at the meeting that it had conducted a detailed internal investigation, which found that: (i) Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds and Nelson Piquet Jr. had conspired to cause the crash; and (ii) no other team member was involved in the conspiracy.

The FIA has conducted its own detailed investigation and its findings correspond with those of Renault F1.

At the meeting of the World Motor Sport Council, Renault F1 made the following points in mitigation:

- it had accepted, at the earliest practicable opportunity, that it committed the offences with which it was charged and cooperated fully with the FIA’s investigation;
- it had confirmed that Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds were involved in the conspiracy and ensured that they left the team;
- it apologised unreservedly to the FIA and to the sport for the harm caused by its actions;
- it committed to paying the costs incurred by the FIA in its investigation; and
- Renault (the parent company, as opposed to Renault F1) committed to making a significant contribution to FIA safety-related projects.

Nelson Piquet Jr. also apologised unreservedly to the World Motor Sport Council for his part in the conspiracy.

The following decision was taken:

The World Motor Sport Council finds that Renault F1 team members Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds and Nelson Piquet Jr. conspired to cause a deliberate crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. The World Motor Sport Council therefore finds Renault F1, which, under article 123 of the International Sporting Code, is responsible for the actions of its employees, in breach of Articles 151(c) and point 2(c) of Chapter IV of Appendix L of the Code, and Articles 3.2, 30.3 and/or 39.1 of the Formula One Sporting Regulations.

The World Motor Sport Council considers Renault F1’s breaches relating to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to be of unparalleled severity. 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. The World Motor Sport Council considers that offences of this severity merit permanent disqualification from the FIA Formula One World Championship. However, having regard to the points in mitigation mentioned above and in particular the steps taken by Renault F1 to identify and address the failings within its team and condemn the actions of the individuals involved, the WMSC has decided to suspend Renault F1’s disqualification until the end of the 2011 season. The World Motor Sport Council will only activate this disqualification if Renault F1 is found guilty of a comparable breach during that time.

In addition the World Motor Sport Council notes Renault F1’s apology and agrees that the team should pay the costs of the investigation. It also accepts the offer of a significant contribution to the FIA’s safety work.

As regards Mr. Briatore, the World Motor Sport Council declares that, for an unlimited period, the FIA does not intend to sanction any International Event, Championship, Cup, Trophy, Challenge or Series involving Mr. Briatore in any capacity whatsoever, or grant any license to any Team or other entity engaging Mr. Briatore in any capacity whatsoever. It also hereby instructs all officials present at FIA-sanctioned events not to permit Mr. Briatore access to any areas under the FIA’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, it does not intend to renew any Superlicence granted to any driver who is associated (through a management contract or otherwise) with Mr. Briatore, or any entity or individual associated with Mr. Briatore. In determining that such instructions should be applicable for an unlimited period, the World Motor Sport Council has had regard not only to the severity of the breach in which Mr. Briatore was complicit but also to his actions in continuing to deny his participation in the breach despite all the evidence.

As regards Mr. Symonds, the World Motor Sport Council declares that, for a period of five years, the FIA does not intend to sanction any International Event, Championship, Cup, Trophy, Challenge or Series involving Mr. Symonds in any capacity whatsoever, or grant any license to any Team or other entity engaging Mr. Symonds in any capacity whatsoever. It hereby instructs, for a period of five years, all officials present at FIA-sanctioned events not to permit Mr. Symonds access to any areas under the FIA’s jurisdiction. In determining that such instructions should be effective for a period of five years the World Motor Sport Council has had regard: (i) to Mr. Symonds’ acceptance that he took part in the conspiracy; and (ii) to his communication to the meeting of the World Motor Sport Council that it was to his “eternal regret and shame” that he participated in the conspiracy.

As regards Mr. Piquet Jr., the World Motor Sport Council confirms the immunity from individual sanctions under the International Sporting Code in relation to this incident, which the FIA had granted to him in exchange for volunteering his evidence.

As regards Fernando Alonso, the World Motor Sport Council thanks him for cooperating with the FIA’s enquiries and for attending the meeting, and concludes that Mr. Alonso was not in any way involved in Renault F1’s breach of the regulations.

The World Motor Sport Council would like to thank the Stewards and legal investigation team (in particular Dorothy Cory-Wright of Sidley Austin LLP who conducted the interviews at the Belgian Grand Prix).

The full reasons for this decision, in addition to a complete recording of the proceedings before the World Motor Sport Council, will be made available shortly.

ENDS

The FIA subsequently published the complete dossier of evidence, the official decision, and a recording of the proceedings. For details, click here.