Renault did a Houdini, FIA did a Frank Spencer
Yesterday the FIA World Motor Sport Council met, deliberated, and decided the sanctions to impose on Renault and those involved in the Crashgate debacle. They came up with an oddball range of penalties and punishments;
They seem to have separated the F1 team from the car manufacturer, and neglected to tell us who get's what! All in all there's a permanent FIA Formula One World Championship ban - suspended for 2 years, payment for all of the costs involved in the FIA investigation, and "a significant contribution to the FIA's safety work".
So a slap on the wrist then. Seriously, the ban will only be enforced if the team are "found guilty of a comparable breach" of the rules from now until the end of the 2011 season. What's comparable? Another car in the wall at turn 17 in Singapore? Another safety car inducing incident? Would they have to win the race or would they be punished for coming second? It's not a ban, not a penalty.
Max Mosley (interview available on the BBC) justified it saying, "the penalty that we have imposed is the harshest one we can impose, which is disqualification, that means complete exclusion from the sport" he goes on to say however Renault and Renault F1 have "absolutely no moral responsibility for what took place" which is why the penalty is suspended.
You cannot argue with the first bit, disqualification is the harshest penalty, the problem is suspended disqualification isn't disqualification at all. Will they be racing next week and next year, yes. Are they disqualified then, no. I argued the same when McLaren were given a 3 race suspended ban for deliberately misleading the stewards in Australia, a suspended ban has been used as nothing more than a political bargaining tool.
Then we come onto Renault having "absolutely no moral responsibility". What?!
Article 123 of the FIA Sporting Code reads;
The entrant (see Articles 68 and 69) shall be responsible for all acts or omissions on the part of their driver, mechanic, or passengers, but each of these shall be equally responsible for any breach of this Code or of the national rules of the ASN concerned.
And any Business course student will tell you, power can be passed down to the levels of the company hierarchy, however responsibility cannot. Those at the top are ultimately responsible for everything on their watch.
Renault obviously went into the meeting with a plan, they offered the sacrificial lambs that are the careers of Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds, offered to pay all of the costs in the FIA's investigation, and to make "significant" contributions towards FIA safety projects. This it seems was enough.
I do not wish Renault or the team to be banished from the sport, however this decision probably does more damage to Formula One than the revelations themselves. I think it is entirely fair to conclude that a team ordering a driver to crash to enable your second driver to win will be penalised by not much more than a couple of red faces, and a dont-do-it-again slap on the wrist.
The spotlight is on the sport, and the FIA have failed in their single opportunity to quash popular public thought that Formula One is a bunch of corrupt, over paid, over rated, playboys that parade around 20-or-so times a year in funny looking cars.
Former Renault technical director Pat Symonds was given a 5 year ban of involvement in any FIA accredited series. It is interesting to note that the document states that he admitted to his part in the conspiracy and he felt "eternal regret and shame" for his part - because he was actually offered immunity from such penalty as reported in the press last week.
The former team boss has been given the hardest reprimand of the lot. He has effectively an unlimited ban of any involvement in an FIA series, or organisation or driver connected to any series. That means Formula One drivers Heikki Kovalainen, Mark Webber and Romain Grosjean will have to look for new management, as Briatore managed them and several other up-and-coming drivers' careers.
He is also chairman and co-owner of Queens Park Rangers football club, which he will probably have to give up as Football League rules state that "nobody can be a director or hold a majority stake in a club if they are banned from a sport's governing body.
Nelson Piquet Jnr
The hitman - the man that actually crashed the car - he escapes any penalty because he was granted immunity for coming forward to the FIA with information that lead to this case and verdict.
Of course in reality no F1 team in the right mind would employ Nelson again after the way that he has conducted himself.
And good, because regardless of how bad he feels and how sorry he is now, he still committed the crime. He knew what he was doing and not only carried the dastardly plan, but also kept schtum for over 9 months, until it was no longer advantageous for him to keep the secret.
Whilst a small part of me does feel sorry for him - his situation at Renault was clearly tough - there is simply no getting round the facts, and the mixed up morals that he must possess.
I've seen so many comments about Fernando being made of teflon. He must be! Scandal seems to follow him wherever he goes, but never stick (McLaren - spygate, Renault - crashgate). He was absconded of any guilt or wrong doing by the FIA WMSC.
Singapore and that Race Result p>
There was no clarification today about the result of the race in question - Singapore 2008 (although Max Mosley did say a few weeks ago that the result would not change). To me it seems absurd that the result can stand when the winner of the race has been proved to have won it by cheating. There are several courses of action that the FIA could take to readdress this wrong. Without question at very least they should renounce Alonso and Renault as the winners of the race. That isn't to say declare a new winner, but denounce the cheaters reward.
In this case points could be deducted from Renault and Alonso without significant impact on the outcome of the world championships, however if a similar incident were ever to happen again it may be best to leave the points alone (mind who's ever heard of the FIA ever being even-handed!?). Although there is an equally good argument to say everything should be stripped from the team and drivers.
The hearing and decisions should have drawn a line under this dark chapter in Formula One history, however leaving so many points of contention and so little closure, this nasty smell will linger around Formula One for some time to come.
|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|