So here’s the deal. I left the country for a week and all hell broke loose in the world of Formula One. The major story, of course, was the “Crash-Gate” scandal and the fallout that is still happening right now. For those who don’t know…as I didn’t until a couple of days ago (and even then I had to try and decipher what was going on in French!) the Renault team has been basically slapped on the wrist for what happened in Singapore last season. Team director Flavio Briatore and director of engineering Pat Symonds were both dealt with much more harshly.
First off, here’s what went down. Both Briatore and Symonds met with then driver Nelson Piquet Jr. before the Singapore Grand Prix. They told him that to keep his race seat he needed to help the team out by crashing during the race so that Fernando Alonso could take the checkered flag and the win. They then set about outlining the exact corner and the precise moment in the race that would help Alonso out the most. And you know what? Piquet performed to perfection. He did as he was asked and crashed his car when and where he was told to do so. All of this was kept a huge secret until Jr. was fired from the team this season. He came back at Flavio for being a horrible team director, and he was right. Flavio has always seemed slimy to me and this really proves that he is exactly how he looks.
Then, last month, Piquet came out with this huge story that he had been told to crash during the race to get back at Flavio for firing him. A back and forth took place with both sides threatening legal action and finally the FIA felt the need to investigate and found the evidence that they needed in both testimonies and telemetry charts detailing the moments before and after the crash. But I think the most damning evidence is to simply watch a replay of when Alonso takes the win. The cameras make a quick cut to the pit wall where Flavio is ecstatic, while next to him Nelson Piquet Jr. wears a distinct look of disgust and disenfranchisement. It is easily findable on YouTube if you want to take a peek.
This past week, a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council took place in Paris and it sealed the fate of the three men in the middle of all this. The Flavinator has been effectively banned from Formula One for the rest of his existence, while Symonds has been banned for five years. Nelson Piquet Jr. has been given immunity for coming forward with all of the evidence and is now trying to get back into the sport. Whether or not he succeeds will be up to some really forgiving soul, although he admits that this will never be forgiven or forgotten and will hand over his head for the rest of his career. In fact, it is pretty slim that he will ever be given another shot based on the fact that he was always a mid-pack runner – although we do know he follows orders very well. The Renault team has also gotten off quite easily. They were handed a two year suspension that will see them kicked out of the sport forever if they repeat this action in the next two years. But of course they won’t do it again…or will they? No. They won’t. They were also made to pay the sum of the investigation and make an undisclosed contribution to the FIA’s safety program. Many are calling this a slap on the wrist, and indeed it is. They didn’t have to forfeit any races or even get points taken away this season. If you compare this to the fate that befell McLaren in 2007, it isn’t even comparable.
Besides that big story, the other one that is beginning to surface is that Kimi Raikkonen may be going back to McLaren next season. The Mirror in the UK is reporting that there are stirrings in the pits that a deal is set to be announced. Although, for that deal to happen, Raikkonen would need to be paid the money he is contractually obligated to by Ferrari – and that comes to something like $49 million. If that does happen, it would leave the vacant Ferrari seat wide open for a Fernando Alonso sized hole to fill it. I’m sure much more will come out in the following months, as it always does, but for now, the rumor mill is practically ablaze.
Also going on this weekend is another race. And guess what? It’s the Singapore Grand Prix! The night race will again be held on the streets in the Asian country and you can bet that a lot of the focus will be on what happened this past weekend because of what happened in the race a year ago.
In the next couple of weeks I will outline what I did in Europe (Monaco anyone?) and have a boatload of pictures of some sweet cars as well as some Grand Prix circuits that I visited.