If you’ve been following motor racing, you will most probably have heard of the latest Formula One scandal, nicknamed Crashgate. Over the 2008 F1 Singapore GP, the Renault team comprising of Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr, qualified in 15th and 16th place and would normally not have any hopes of winning the race. As it happened, Piquet Jr intentionally crashed his car in Lap 14. His purpose of bringing out the safety car worked, as Alonso, having refueled earlier on, went on to take the lead and became the unlikely winner of the 1st ever night race in Formula One history.
But now the truth is out and the fall out over this scandal begins. Alonso has denied any knowledge of this plot and has been cleared by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) of any wrongdoing. Renault has also been handed a 2 year suspended sentence that would see them banned if they are found guilty of breaking the rules in the next 2 years. But what of the 3 figures central to the scandal? Flavio Briatore, the colorful team principal of Renault was given a lifetime ban in participating in all forms of motor sports while Renault chief engineer Pat Symonds, was banned for 5 years. However, Nelson Piquet Jr., the driver at the centre of this scandal was not penalized as he was given immunity in exchange for providing evidence of the plot.
However, most motor sports fans are up in arms with the feeling that Renault got away easily. Speculation is of the FIA going as far as possible to allow them to stay in the sport, having already lost Honda this season and BMW already announcing their pull out at the end of this season. The penalties from Crashgate, sometimes described as the worst scandal in Formula One history, also pale in comparison to previous scandals. McLaren for example, was fined a whopping US$100 million and had all points in the constructors’ championship forfeited for spying and possessing Ferrari technical data.
A couple of Formula One drivers might also feel aggrieved at the ruling. Felipe Massa, who lost out on the championship to Lewis Hamilton by a single point, was leading the race before the deliberate crash and might have gone on to win both the championship and the race if he was not forced to make an unscheduled pitstop. Nico Rosberg, the German driver in the Williams team who eventually finished second, might feel that he deserves to be the rightful winner.
And what is the future of Nelson Piquet Jr.? Although many feel that he got off lightly, would any team hire someone who deliberately crashed his vehicle? Only time will tell.