Renault decide against race-fixing stand as Briatore quits

Nelson Piquet Jr. during practice for the Singapore Grand Prix in September last year
Renault’s Formula One boss Flavio Briatore has quit his post after the team announced Wednesday that it would not dispute race-fixing allegations relating to the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

In a statement on its Web site, the French team announced that its executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, has also stepped down. Nelson Piquet Jr. claimed Briatore asked him to crash in order to maximize the chances of teammate Fernando Alonso winning the race. Last week Renault hit back against the allegations. “Managing Director Flavio Briatore personally wish[es] to state criminal proceedings against Nelson Piquet Junior and Nelson Piquet Senior [have commenced] in France concerning the making of false allegations,” a statement read. The statement added the three-times former world champion and his son had also attempted to “blackmail the team” into allowing Piquet Jr to continue to drive until the end of the 2009 season. Renault, who dismissed Piquet Jr as their driver in August, also said they had referred the matter to the authorities.

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The French car constructor now face being thrown out of Formula One if the allegations are proved by an investigation being conducted by the governing body of world motorsport, the FIA. The team will go before the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council in Paris on September 21 to hear the findings of the probe. Double world champion Alonso won the race — the first for Renault in two years — despite starting from 15th on the grid. Just two laps after Alonso came in early to take on more fuel, Piquet’s crash forced the deployment of the safety car and the subsequent pit stop of nearly all other drivers, an action that promoted Alonso to fifth from where he went onto to secure victory. Piquet attributed the crash to a simple error at the time. Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone recently warned “there is going to be a lot of trouble” if the allegations are found to be true. The FIA proved with the spygate saga only circumstantial evidence is required for them to impose strict penalties. On that occasion they fined McLaren $80 million for breaching the same article that is now now faced by Renault.