A leaked transcript of evidence from Nelson Piquet Jr., accusing Renault of asking him to crash deliberately at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to let his teammate Fernando Alonso win, was circulating on the Web on Thursday.
AFP - Formula One was left reeling on Thursday after a leaked transcript of Brazilian Nelson Piquet's evidence in the latest 'race-fixing' controversy revealed that, according to him, he was asked by his Renault team to crash deliberately at last year's Singapore Grand Prix.
The sport, already struggling to recover from the black cloud left hanging over it following the 'spy-gate' affair of 2007 and this year's 'liar-gate' row at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, was stunned by Piquet's claims.
In effect, he said that Renault team chief Flavio Briatore and his engineering director Pat Symonds persuaded him to conspire to cheat by crashing to help his team-mate Spaniard Fernando Alonso win the race, which he did.
In his lengthy statement, that was circulating widely on many specialist motor racing websites late Thursday, Piquet said he agreed to crash, at a specified point of the track, to safeguard his career prospects.
He said he was given clear instructions of when and where to spin into the wall of the spectacular Singapore street track. The episode thrusts Formula One into the same kind of modern sporting infamy as rugby union, soccer and cricket following recent controversies over deliberate systems of cheating.
The transcript quoted Piquet saying: "I was asked by Mr. Flavio Briatore, who is both my manager and the Team Principal of the ING Renault F1 Team, and by Mr. Pat Symonds, the Technical Director of the Renault F1 Team, to deliberately crash my car in order to positively influence the performance of the ING Renault F1 Team at the event in question. I agreed to this proposal and caused my car to hit a wall and crash during lap thirteen/fourteen of the race.
He went on to add: "The proposal to deliberately cause an accident was made to me shortly before the race took place, when I was summoned by Mr. Briatore and Mr. Symonds in Mr. Briatore's office.
"Mr. Symonds, in the presence of Mr. Briatore, asked me if I would be willing to sacrifice my race for the team by "causing a safety car". Every F1 race driver knows that the safety car is deployed on a track when there is an accident, which leads to the track being blocked either by debris or a stationary car, and where it is difficult to recover a damaged car, as was the case here.
"At the time of this conversation I was in a very fragile and emotional state of mind. This state of mind was brought about by intense stress due to the fact that Mr. Briatore had refused to inform me of whether or not my driver's contract would be renewed for the next racing year (2009), as is customarily the case in the middle of the year (around July or August).
"Instead, Mr. Briatore repeatedly requested me to sign an "option", which meant that I was not allowed to negotiate with any other teams in the meantime. He would repeatedly put pressure on me to prolong the option I had signed, and would regularly summon me into his office to discuss these renewals, even on racing days - a moment which should be a moment of concentration and relaxation before the race.
"This stress was accentuated by the fact that during the Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore I had qualified sixteenth on the grid, so I was very insecure about my future at the Renault team. When I was asked to crash my car and cause a safety car incident in order to help the team, I accepted because I hoped that it could improve my position within the team at this critical time in the race season.
"At no point was I told by anyone that by agreeing to cause an incident, I would be guaranteed a renewal of my contract or any other advantage. However, in the context, I thought that it would be helpful in achieving this goal. I therefore agreed to cause the incident.
"After the meeting with Mr. Symonds and Mr. Briatore, Mr. Symonds took me aside to a quiet corner and, using a map, pointed me to the exact corner of the track where I should crash.
"This corner was selected because the specific location of the track did not have any cranes that would allow a damaged car to be swiftly lifted off the track, nor did it have any side entrances to the track, which would allow a Safety Marshall to quickly move the damaged car away from the track.
"Therefore, it was felt that a crash in this specific position would be nearly certain to cause an obstruction on the track which would thus necessitate the deployment of a safety car in order to allow the track to be cleared and to ensure the safe continuation of the race.
"Mr. Symonds also told me which exact lap to cause the incident upon, so that a strategy could deployed for my team-mate Mr. Fernando Alonso to refuel at the pit shortly before the deployment of the safety car, which he indeed did during lap twelve.
"The key to this strategy resided in the fact that the near-knowledge that the safety car would be deployed in lap thirteen/fourteen allowed the Team to start Mr. Alonso's car with an aggressive fuel strategy using a light car containing enough fuel to arrive at lap twelve, but not much more.
"This would allow Mr. Alonso to overtake as many (heavier) cars as possible, knowing that those cars would have difficulty catching up with him later in the race due to the later deployment of the safety car. This strategy was successful and Mr. Alonso won the 2008 Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore."
Date created : 2009-09-11