Renault, crashgate and their consequences
Renault announced yesterday that they will not dispute the race fixing allegations at the forthcoming FIA World Motorsport Council meeting. Also team boss Flavio Briatore and technical director Pat Symonds have left the team.
Choosing not to dispute, does that actually mean they're pleading guilty? Probably. But the FIA will still have to prove without doubt the extent and severity of the offense. Innocent until proven guilty - and all that. Certainly the accused choosing not to defend themselves will make the decision easier for the esteemed council members.
Renault's F1 Future
Renault's future in Formula One is in the spotlight, and if they haven't already made a decision, the penalty imposed by the FIA may make it for them. McLaren were fined a record $100m, and excluded from the 2007 Constructors Championship in the "Spygate" affair. This scandal - "Crashgate" if you will - is off the scale in comparison to Spygate. It is one thing to learn a rivals secrets, another to purposefully crash a car, endangering the safety of driver, marshals, spectators and other drivers on the process.
The French car manufacturer's CEO Carlos Ghosn is not quite the F1 advocate, on record in 2005 as saying,
"We are not in Formula One out of habit or tradition. We're here to show our talent and that we can do it properly... Formula One is a cost if you don't get the results. Formula One is an investment if you do have them and know how to exploit them."
Notably he said this when the team had finished the previous season (2004) 3rd, and were leading both drivers and constructors championships (2005) - they went on to win both titles in this and the following season. Performances since have significantly tailed off. Added to the fact that earlier this year the company received a $4bn bailout by the French government; a significant fine from the FIA, and the massive negative publicity, it is quite easy to draw the conclusion that it's very likely they will quit Formula 1.
Continuing that line of thought, while it is conceivable Renault may withdraw the team but remain as an engine manufacturer, they may choose to pull out completely - just as BMW have - which would leave Red Bull without a power plant for next year. However Red Bull have openly criticised the reliability and performance of the engines, and are thought to be courting Mercedes for 2010 anyway.
Just a few weeks back Renault signed the new Concorde Agreement which commits them to the sport until 2012, however there would be little stopping them passing on or selling the team - and grid slot - to another party, just as Honda did last year.
The Dave Richards connection
Yesterday there were reports of Dave Richards visiting the team headquarters in Enstone, Oxfordshire. While reports seemed to suggest him replacing Flavio Briatore as head honcho, it is quite possible - if Renault do wish to sell - for the team to become the "Prodrive F1 team". Dave Richards and Prodrive have been skirting the edges of Formula One for some time, trying to gain an entry - this could be a perfect of finally getting his place on the grid.
Impact on FOTA and BMW Sauber
On Tuesday the FIA gave Lotus the green light to become the 13th team for next year. The decision leaves the former BMW Sauber team in the lurch - however the FIA did give the promise that they would be given a 14th grid slot if one were to become available. Later the same day BMW confirmed that the team had been sold to a mysterious group calling themselves QADBAK Investments Limited.
This looks to me like a huge power play by a certain Max Mosley. By giving the place to Lotus - a brand new team - he puts FOTA in an uncomfortable position. The Teams Association will initially not wish to extend the grid any further - certain player's didn't want the grid to increase from 10 to 13 teams. However he seems to have placed the ball - the future of Renault or BMW teams - firmly in their court. Both teams are significant operations employing hundreds of people, by resisting a 14th team FOTA will effectively be sealing the fate of one of its own.
It's just a big messy mess
Nothing is simple - ever. The thing to remember is like chess, the big players are always working three moves ahead. In the meantime the fans, employees in Hinwil (BMW Sauber) and Enstone (Renault), are caught in the crossfire. Demystifying, demoralising, disenchanting, d-something-else... it's just a big messy mess.
|2||N Rosberg||Williams||+2.9 secs|
|3||L Hamilton||McLaren||+5.9 secs|
|4||T Glock||Toyota||+8.1 secs|
|5||S Vettel||Toro Rosso||+10.2 secs|
|6||N Heidfeld||BMW Sauber||+11.1 secs|
|7||D Coulthard||Red Bull||+16.3 secs|
|8||K Nakajima||Williams||+18.4 secs|
|9||J Button||Honda||+19.8 secs|
|10||H Kovalainen||McLaren||+26.9 secs|
|11||R Kubica||BMW Sauber||+27.9 secs|
|12||S Bourdais||Toro Rosso||+29.4 secs|
|13||F Massa||Ferrari||+35.1 secs|
|14||G Fisichella||Force India||+43.5 secs|
|DNF||K Raikkonen||Ferrari||+4 Laps|
|DNF||J Trulli||Toyota||+11 Laps|
|DNF||A Sutil||Force India||+12 Laps|
|DNF||M Webber||Red Bull||+32 Laps|
|DNF||R Barrichello||Honda||+47 Laps|
|DNF||N Piquet Jnr||Renault||+48 Laps|